‘If you treat minorities as second-class citizens, the country cannot go forward’ (interview)


Julio Rebeiro has a distinguished career behind him, as a top policeman in Mumbai, Punjab and Gujarat. After retirement, he was posted as India’s ambassador to Romania. He has continued to be in public life and has never hesitated before speaking his mind.

Lately, Rebeiro has expressed his dismay at the rise in intolerance and the growing attacks on minorities. He recently said that India was in danger of becoming a ‘Hindu rashtra‘. The man who dealt with criminals and terrorists speaks to The Wire about his fears around what is going on in the country.

Siddharth Bhatia (SB): Hello and welcome to The Wire, I am Sidharth Bhatia. We have a very special guest for you today, Mr Julio Rebeiro, the well-known policeman, civil servant, ambassador and now, more and more, a speaker on public issues.

Mr Rebeiro, you’ve been intervening a lot in very, very important issues and concerns of late and only recently you wrote a very scathing article where you talked about the insecurity that the minorities are feeling. You’ve used strong phrases like ‘Hindu rashtra‘, ‘second-class citizens’, and in fact at one place you’ve talk about how fascist forces operate. This must really mean that you have some very, very strong concerns about what is going on.

Julio Rebeiro (JR): Well, I always thought that we are living in a different world from the time I was born here in Bombay and I grew up here. But I interacted with numerous people – in the beginning of course mainly relatives and friends, from the community – but after ) joined service, I mean now most of my friends are not Christian. But I felt like there was no difference between us.

SB: All these years.

JR: All these years, I never felt the difference and particularly in service. Nobody ever treated me differently, nor did I treat anyone differently. We were all part of the same Indian society and we were working for the nation. And then suddenly we get this little bit of an entry of a communal aspect and that’s what really worries us, worries the community. It’s a small community as you know, and it doesn’t have any particular political clout or anything like that, but it is very prominent in the health sector, in the education sector in particular…

SB: Definitely.

JR: …the social service sector, working for the poor. I mean these are sectors where you address poverty to some extent, to the extent you can, individuals and groups can. That is what we have been, the Christian, what we call missionaries, the priests and the nuns, they have been attempting to do. Very often they are suspected of trying to convert people. That is the main problem I think which the Hindutva…

SB: One of the main problems.

JR: …the Hindutva forces have with the Christians. But personally I have not seen that happening. I studied in St Xaviers school, all my eight years of schooling were in that school and there were of course a number of christian boys but mainly there were Hindus and even many Muslims and Parsis, there were many Parsis. And I don’t think anyone got converted and there was no attempt, as far as I could see, of anyone trying to convert somebody.

SB: So this you’re talking about a certain kind of old India that you were used to…

JR: That is what I grew up in.

SB: …where you grew up, where you were in a police force which was extremely secular and mixed and subsequently also after your retirement you must have seen. What has changed? How did it change?

JR: Well, We didn’t see this change right, we had a BJP government of Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee…

SB: In the 90s.

The Wire for more

(Thanks to Robin Khundkar)

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