Interview by Kashif-ul-Huda, transcribed by Manzar Bilal, TwoCircles.net,
Maulana Tahir Madani is the director of Madrasa Jamiatul Falah of Azamgarh. He is the National General Secretary of Rashtriya Ulama Council, a political party active in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
TCN: What were the circumstances that led to the formation of the Ulama Council?
A: It was September 2008 when Batla House encounter was carried out in Delhi in which two boys of Azamgarh were killed. Then the story of targeting Azamgarh and its residents started which created fear and moment became difficult for Azamgarh youths to continue their education in college and universities.
In these circumstances, Ulama of the district sat together in October 2008 and form a platform. They decided to agitate and to raise voice strongly against the injustice and cruelty of police and security agencies against Azamgarh residents. They also resolved to make all efforts to re-establish the confidence in the residents of Azamgarh especially the youths. This is how the Ulama Council came into existence.
We started with a massive protest rally in Azamgarh. Later, we traveled from Azamgarh to Delhi and protested at Jnatar Mantar demanding a judicial inquiry into Batla House encounter. We also met the Home Minister and put the demand of enquiry into the encounter before him. Then the 2009 parliamentary elections came. Thanks to these efforts, the situation had changed in Azamgarh, the confidence of people was re-built, the arrest of the Azamgarh youths was stopped and people came on one platform. Then we felt that our problems and issues cannot be solved until we have a strong political leadership. Therefore, we decided to develop Ulama Council as political party and got it registered as a political party. In 2009 Lok Sabha elections, we fielded our candidates in some places.
TCN: How did you come to know about the Batla House encounter?
A: When Batla House encounter took place it was month of Ramadhan and I was out of country but got the news through news channels there. I came back to India few days before Eid. On Juma-tul-Wida (Last Friday prayer of Ramadan) I was in Delhi and attended the agitation at Jantar Mantar organized by some Muslim organizations against the encounter. By then it was clear that the encounter was fake and the police story was totally baseless.
The residents of Azamgarh wore black arms-band on the day of Eid and protested against the whole drama.
After Eid prayer, I went to different villages to meet people. At one place, a person told me “Maulana, it is happening everyday; one is picked up from here and another from there. Give call to people to gather on any day and then ask the Police to do what they want.” It reflected the feeling of the Muslims of Azamgarh. From the same place, I phoned Maulana Amir Rashadi because he was active on this issue. I proposed him that Ulama should sit together to counter the situation.
TCN: Why did you feel that it is Ulama’s responsibility?
A: I felt that Ulama have influence on the community and the society even today. If they come forward and give a call for something, people will follow them because they have trust upon them. Therefore, we met in Azamgarh and contacted different people then a meeting was held at Jamiat-ur-Rashad which was attended by several Ulama representing different Madarsas of the district. At that very meeting, a platform named Ulama Council was formed.
TCN: What kinds of issues were discussed as to what should be done?
A: Firstly, we discussed the whole situation. It was agreed upon that there is well-planned conspiracy to target educated Muslim youths of Azamgarh to stop their progress in the educational field. We realized that if this is not challenged now, it will have dangerous consequences leading to educational deprivement of our youths.
There were many proposals and ideas but finally, it was decided to form a platform to fight and agitate against the injustice and cruelty.
TCN: So at that time, there was no concept of a political platform?
A: Yes, there was not such concept at that time. We formed Ulama Council just as a community and social platform.
TCN: Who were the people you called to the meeting?
A: We tried to make sure the representation of all big madarsas of the district. So, I was there from Jamia-tul-Falah, Malana Amir Rashadi from Jamia-tur-Rashad, Maulana Umer Aslam and Maulana Abul Faiz from Jami-tul-Islah, Mufti Abdulllah from Baitul Uloom, Late Maulana Abu Sufyan from Jamia Sharqia. We also invited Ulama from Mubarakpur madarsas. Besides, we invited Ulama from madarsas of all Muslim groups including Shia and Barelwis and imams of several mosques in town. So, there were a sizable number of people at the meeting.
Maulan Tahir Madani is the Nazim of Jamiatul Falah of Azamgarh. [TCN Photo]
TCN: What was decided as the next course of action?
A: At that time situation was so bad that if someone was arrested in connection with terror link, no one was ready to talk about him even if people knew that the arrested one is innocent. So, we took decision to organize a big public rally to clear that such incidents were carried out according to a pre-planned conspiracy and to demand that there should be a high-level-probe into such incidents otherwise common people will continue to be harassed. Such rally was needed also to build the confidence among the local population.
However, when we announced that we were going to organize a rally in Mehta Park in Azamgarh, a large number of people attended it and the program was very successful. At the rally, we declared that we are against the terrorism but we feel that to target innocent youths in the name of terrorism is worst form of terrorism. If government is honest, it should order CBI enquiry or judicial enquiry by a Supreme Court judge. The boys (Atif & Sajid) who were killed in Batla House encounter were innocent and their killings was part of a conspiracy.
The rally built confidence in the Azamgarh residents and then a series of such programs at different places started. People realized that there are others who are speaking out on their behalf.
TCN: Then you organized a massive protest rally in Delhi.
A: Acually, Ulama Council was formed in October 2008 and in Dec. 2008, Talha Amir , son of Maulana Amir Rashadi, was arrested form train in Nagpur while he was on the way to Hyderabad. The purpose behind the arrest was to stop the people’s movement because when son of the movement’s leader is picked up, he would come under pressure.
Then we called a meeting where it was decided that the movement would not be stopped even one or several sons are picked up. Maulana also showed courage and the next plan of agitation was finalized. At that meeting it was decided to organize a massive rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on January 29, 2009.
Usually, when a rally is organized people go to attend the rally but without ticket and harass other passengers but Ulama Council booked a special train for the people to travel to Delhi and we went there and demonstrated. s
TCN: What were you trying to achieve from the rally?
A: Through the rally we wanted to send the message to the people that whatever is being done to target Muslims in the name of terrorism is a part of conspiracy to create tension between Muslims and Hindu. We wanted that to be exposed and also that other people should know that those are being targeted are innocent. They are arrested and spend several years in the jail then years later came out clean but by then their careers are ruined and lives destroyed. Our message was highlighted through media and people started seeing thing from this angle too. It was a big success of the movement.
TCN: Why did you think that it was necessary to enter in the field of politics?
A: When we started working, we realized that it is decided at political level as to who should be targeted and against whom action should be taken. We thought that it should have a political response. If we have representation Parliament and assemblies and our voice will reach there then they will realize our weight and power. Therefore, we decided to take part in the Lok Sabha elections.
We got an overwhelming response even though the party was just a few months old at that time and we managed to field only a few candidates. On Azamgarh Centre seat, our candidate got around 70 thousand votes, In Lalganj seat we got around 85 thousand votes and we also got good votes in Jaunpur constituency. So, when few-months old party got such success, it was discussed even in the media that Ulama Council is going to emerge a big platform in the future.
TCN: So do you see Ulama Council as a political group or a social movement?
A: See, Ulama Council is a multi-goal movement. From very beginning, we decided to work on five fronts.
Unity: We decided to work for the unity among the Muslims irrespective of their groups and sections. We called on all the groups and conveyed them that we should come to one common platform for the interest of the community.
Education: As hurdles were being put in the way of our youths from getting education. We sent them message they should speed up their steps in the field of education.
Social reform: We decided to work to remove the evils of the society.
Service of the humanity: We decided to serve the humanity irrespective of their religions, castes and creeds.
Politics: Muslims have trusted several parties in the past including Congress, SP, BSP and other secular groups and hoped that their problems and issues will be solved. But the Sachar Committees report has shown that Muslims are lagging behind at social, educational, financial and political levels and all other fields of life.
We concluded that no one is going to solve our problems until we have our own political leadership. Therefore, it was needed to develop and strengthen our political leadership. Individually, there are many people who became MP, MLA and MLC and solve their personal issues. If there will be a strong political leadership, it would take decision keeping the interest of the community in mind. In short, Ulama Council is a multi-goal party and working at all levels to develop the community and serve the nation at large.
With boards like theese Rashtriya Ulama Council (RUC)is trying to expand its base. [TCN Photo]
TCN: What is your political vision? Where do you see Ulama Council in next five/ten years?
A: We have one-point agenda that is to establish justice for all. We believe that with exception of few who have power and captured every thing, most of people either Muslims or Hindu all are victims of injustice. After visiting different areas, we realized that people of all religions and castes are looking for a party which can do justice with all and bring development to all.
After 62 years of the independence, people are still deprived of basic facility of the life. In the light of our experience of the last three years and as we see people are joining us in good number, we are hopeful that if we work with sincerity and honesty, we will be successful.
In last local body election, we contested on 65 seats out of total 74. We fielded 45 non-Muslims candidates. We made it clear that we are not bothered that which community candidates are from because they will work according to the policy of party. In that election, we won 8 seats. When the election for the post of president of Zila Panchayat was held, our 8 votes became decisive. All the candidates for the post approached us including SP and BSP candidates. We said that we will not sell our votes rather we will support on the basis of our principles. Though, people tried hard to snatch them from us but except one all remained with us. Later, we supported BSP candidate on the basis of principles. It was for the first time that seven candidates supported anyone without taking any money. “Ulama nahi bhagwan hain, Bharat ki pahchan hain” (Not scholars but gods, they are pride of India) was the slogan which was chanted after the BSP candidate won.
TCN: What will be your role in coming UP elections?
A: Ulama Council will play a vital role in coming UP elections. We are in very strong position in Azamgarh and Jaunpur districts. Our network is also working at the grass-root level in various districts of Bundelkhand region. Besides, we also have units in Lucknow, Kanpur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Varanasi, and Chandoli districts.
Ulama Council will field candidates at all seats of Azamgarh and Jaunpur. We will also field candidates in other places where we are in strong position and find good candidates. We are also in talk with different parties to form an alliance.
TCN: Which parties you are in talk with?
A: For example, we are in talk with Peace Party, Qaumi Ekta Dal and others. We said that we will not join hand with SP, BSP, Congress and BJP because we stood against these parties so if we join hand with them, it will be against our principle. We can go with other parties.
TCN: But you have supported the BSP candidate in the Zila Panchayat election?
A: See, one is pre-poll alliance and another is post-poll. We can support any party after poll on the basis of principle and policy but will not enter into alliance with those parties.
TCN: How confidant are you that your party will win any seat?
A: I hope Ulama Council will win the seats and our alliance which is under process will be a powerful alliance. We told the parties that you can contest on more seats than us but the front will be headed by the Ulama Council. We told them clearly that we do not have trust upon you because you may sell the front and we are not going to let it happen. I hope the front will take part in the election as a strong and decisive group and will win the seats. I also hope that the next government of UP will not be formed without our support, inshallah.