By M Reyaz, TwoCircles.net,
New Delhi: “I knew why I was called, but I still decided to go as I felt that no Muslim leader has ever directly challenged Narednra Modi or any BJP leaders publicly,” said Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, President of Zakat Foundation of India when asked about his participation in the “Young Indian Leaders Conclave” in Gandhinagar.
The Youth Conclave was organized by the Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) that had invited about 30 leaders from the minority community. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendara Modi was also present in the conclave. Zafar Sareshwala, a well-known Ahmedabad-based businessman, who has emerged as the Muslim face of Modi is believed to be instrumental in inviting Muslim leaders.
Dr Zafar Mahmood spoke to TCN from the Ahmadabad Airport after the conclave and defended his participation in the programme saying that if like him, Muslim leaderships speak up to their (BJP leaders) faces; they will be forced to look within.
File photo of Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood (TCN Archive)
Asked if he does not think that his participation, like that of some other Muslim leaders, would help Narendra Modi, seen as hardcore Hindutva mascot, reach out to Muslims, Dr. Mahmood said that his attendance in the programme should be judged by what he spoke. He added that when he got the invitation he wrote mails to many of his colleagues in the civil society and media and decided to come for the programme after consultations.
A retired civil servant, Dr. Mahmood, was also Officer on Special Duty with the Sachar Committee. He spoke on the subject “Ek Bharat.” He said that the Bharatiya Janta party “needs to introspect” if it wants to increase it tally in the Lok Sabha.
Speaking at the programme, Dr Mahmood also referred to some of the articles posted on the website of the saffron party and pointed out the flaws in the “BJP philosophy.” He said that these articles are “full of hate and provocations against Muslims,” that calls for “national effort...to break Islamic exclusivism and enshrined the assimilative Hindutva.”
He also took a dig at the main opposition party for “too much emphasis on uniform civil code.” Referring to the Sachar Committee, of which he was Officer on Special Duty, as well as the Ranganath Misra Commission, he urged the BJP to “introduce a resolution in the Parliament for creation of Indian Waqf services,” and seek amendments in the 1950 Presidential order to make ‘Scheduled Caste’ definition “religion neutral.”
Dr. Mahmood also questioned the Gujarat government’s non-implementation of central scholarships for minorities, although the BJP governments in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have implemented it. He wanted to know if the government is taking any action, now that the Gujarat High court and the Supreme Court have directed the state to implement it and demanded an action taken report (ATR) on the state government’s website.
He also urged the Gujarat CM to visit Dhorajinagar and Citizen Nagar colonies in Ahmedabad, where over 200 families of 2002 riot victims were rehabilitated, but no government amenities have reached them so far.
Asked what the response of the Gujarat Chief Minister was, Dr Mahmood said, “What answer could he give. I was talking about facts that naturally he could not refute. He, however, did say that issues raised ‘need to be looked into’.”
Earlier Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam delivered the keynote address where he highlighted the qualities of a leader.