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08 July 2013

At Modi's Youth Conclave, Muslims treated as mere fools

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By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Many in Gujarat and elsewhere in India still accuse Chief Minister Narendra Modi over the 2002 massacre of up to 2,000 people – almost all of them Muslim – in a wave of violence that swept the state. Several of Modi’s ministers have been convicted for orchestrating the clashes. While Modi has himself been never been charged, many firmly believe that what he did was sheerly insufficient to stop the slaughter being the executive head of the state under whose tutelage the pogrom took place. As expected, Modi has continued to deny the claims saying that he was not directly responsible for the mayhem.

Though Modi’s Hindu nationalist stance has won him popularity in Gujarat, it is not likely to translate well in a national election, where moderate Hindus, Muslims, and urban middle classes are more concerned with employment, development and tackling corruption, and all hold significant sway. Gujarat’s economic performance is therefore seen as his key asset.

“There is 600 year of history here. Whatever is happening [economically] here today is not to do with one man,” said Father Cedric Prakash, a Catholic priest and human rights activist who has condemned Mr Modi for the 2002 violence. “That’s appropriating history,” he says.

Muslims continue to be in a perplexing situation in Gujarat as never before. Though Modi's victory in Gujarat assembly polls is also partly being attributed to Muslims veering towards BJP accepting Modi as their leader, the fact remains that Muslims are a terrorized lot and seem to have voted for BJP fearing retribution from the Hindutva brigade. Modi's PR managers are making extensive efforts to get each religious community, particularly Muslims, on board so that Narendra Modi's prime ministerial ambitions may be realized.

Recently, Modi organized a Youth Conclave, in which Modi's Muslim pointman Zafar Sareshwala tried to bring a large number of Muslims to the conclave. Some religious scholars from Deoband were also invited, but they ultimately backed off and thought it fit not to give Modi's efforts to emerge as an inclusive national leader a semblance of moral acceptibilty.

"Certainly Muslims must interact politically with all political parties, including the BJP and even the RSS. But once a leader, such as Modi or Advani or Thakeray is involved in mass killings or sustained hate campaigns against Muslims, we have to totally ostracise him. He has to become an untouchable for us. This hurts his party wherever Muslim electoral strength is substantial, as in Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Modi is reaching out to Muslims, not because he has taken a sudden liking for us.This is what our so-called leaders like Vastanvi and now Zafar Mehmood have not understood or just deliberately trying to sell Muslim community as a commodity for their vested interests. Rather his obsession for becoming PM is hurt by the Muslim veto. We must use this political card to provide the Muslims of India, what they crave the most: an absence of communal riots and a security for our women and our youth," said prominent Baroda-based Civil Rights Activist J.S.Bandukwala.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi participated in an interactive session with the youth of the country in a conclave in Gandhinagar recently where the issue of involving youth in governance was debated. The conclave had 150 participants, including 30 Muslims, and provided Modi an opportunity to reach out to the Muslim youth.

For the first time, President of Delhi-based Muslim NGO Zakat Foundation of India, Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, attended an event which was presided over by the Gujarat Chief Minister.

Mahmood was armed with a presentation highlighting the plight of those Muslims who were displaced by the 2002 riots, and are now residing in Dhorajinagar and Citizen Nagar on the outskirts of the city. "Wasn't it time for the Gujarat Chief Minister to visit these colonies which were set up by Muslim philanthropist and not government?" he pointed out.

Quoting from the Muslim holy book Quran, Mahmood remarked that God enjoins justice and compassion pointing out that one should say sorry, even though in his/her view it may not be a requirement of justice. Interestingly, Modi listened patiently. "Dr Mehmood did raise some points. You should listen to everybody's point of view as it is thought provoking," he said.

After delivering his power point presentation Mahmood seemingly looked happy thinking that his views were taken in stride. "Very, very attentively, he (Modi) and the rest of the audience looked at it, heard it. And, I'm sure it has trickled down to all of them. I'm sure it will have a good effect on the conscience of the country," he said.

But the way in which Modi took the presentation made by Dr.Syed Zafar Mahmood in a very casual approach saying "Yes I will look into the issue. I will consult my colleagues", belied that Modi has in fact heeded all that has been pointed out to him. It seemed as though Muslims, including Mahmood, present at the conclave were viewed as mere fools by Modi and his Hindutva brigade.

After all whom Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood was trying to make understand through his power point presentation? Doesn't he know that Modi had presided over the ghastly progrom against Muslims ever witnessed in recent memories? Modi's body gesture on most occasions, particularly where Muslims are concerned, have shown that he has no remorse for the mayhem against Muslims which took place right under his nose and his chief ministership. Remeber how Modi accepted all kinds of headgears presented by Hindu organizations, but when a 'hired' Muslim Mullah tried to present a Muslim cap Modi simply refused to accept it even as a symbolic gesture. By supporting or recognizing Modi as their leader, Muslims like Zafar Mahmood, Maulana Gulam Vastanvi and others, have not become a saleable commodity themselves but also trying to barter the community's interests for their vested interests knowing fully well that they are going to be the ultimate beneficiaries in this entire Modi-driven gameplan, and not the Muslims as such. After all, people like Zafar Mahmood and Vastanvi are veritable incognitos amongst Muslims and don't have even a bit of following. Such people are out to mislead leaders like Modi through false perception and sending a wrong message to Muslims.

All Sadbhavna Yatras and other similar programmes are all varnishing efforts — they are not repair work.’ as the style of Hindu poster boy will not change towards Gujarati Muslims and those in the entire nation.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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