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Why Maulana Vastanvi is wrong

By M Hasan Jowher

The newly elected Rector of Darul Uloom, Deoband, Ghulam Muhammad Vastanvi, has offered to quit. His observations that created a storm amongst the Muslims leading to his resignation implied that:

• As eight years have passed since 2002, the victims of the Gujarat carnage should bury the hatchet and withdraw their cases, forgetting the deaths, rapes, arson their dear ones suffered.
• Gujarat is making unprecedented progress due to its chief minister, Narendra Modi
• Modi has changed and that Muslims are progressing in Gujarat
• And that if some Muslims are making money in Modi’s regime that is enough to wash all his sins and failures.
Gujarat is undoubtedly making rapid economic strides, what with rising employment, incomes, investments, and infrastructure. Hindutva votaries tend to credit all progress to Modi, undermining the famous Gujarati entrepreneurship that is primarily doing the trick. Gujarat has for long been amongst the most prosperous states of India, even during the Congress regime.

Children work in Naroda Patiya where 95 people were killed in 2002. [TCN 2010 photo]

Modi as CM provides effective governance and conducive environment for business. Perhaps he is also not personally corrupt in the financial sense. Several well known business and industry leaders flock to his Vibrant Gujarat conclaves committing huge investments. Let’s remember, though, that a number of ethical and conscientious business leaders continue to stay away from him. Vastanvi should have discriminated between business considerations and ethical dimensions involved in evaluating Modi.

Others with greater vision and better integrity – Chandrababu Naidu, SM Krishna, even Sushma Swaraj – have lost at the altar of electoral politics. NDA’s Nitish Kumar and Shiv Raj Singh are perhaps doing at least as well as Modi, in far more difficult states. Yet they are unable to deliver as much as Modi, hampered as they are by ‘democratic’ compulsions. Thanks to Modi’s direct connect with Gujarat’s Hindu voters, he can overrule MLAs, ministers and his own party, and bulldoze his way through bureaucracy like a dictator. And dictators deliver faster. But it is elementary knowledge that his support emerges fundamentally from his anti-Muslim image.

Lately Modi has cleverly crafted other constituencies usurping federal schemes, through his popular melas, and undoubtedly through good governance, recognizing that the path to India’s Prime Ministership demands pluralistic posturing. But are we supposed to ignore the foundation of his popularity, and all constitutional propriety? Should ‘success’ matter more than ‘means of success’?

If eight years have passed since the genocide, should we redouble vigour in securing justice or collude with the oppressor? Isn’t it a shame – and utter failure of our judicial system – that even today all the major culprits of the mayhem remain at large despite clinching evidence, including the Tehelka expose, establishing Modi’s direct connivance.

Vastanvi has deeply insulted all conscientious activists who are fighting for justice in Gujarat [the bulk of whom are Hindus], by implying that they do so because Modi has denied favours to them. If the converse is also true, then the clergyman has perhaps received some. He implies, too, that the Supreme Court should disband the SIT, all complaints against the marauders be withdrawn, fake encounter specialists like Vanzaras be set free. And all this even while nearly 300 Muslims languish under POTA for eight years for their alleged role in Sabarmati carnage. Condoning Modi may make business sense to the clergyman, but is certainly not justice – Islamic, under the UN conventions or the Indian constitution.

The revered man asserts that Modi has changed. Well, has he? Ask how many Muslims sit in his cabinet, chair his state corporations? He hasn’t even done the lip service of uttering a meek ‘sorry’ for his terrible failure as the CEO when Gujarat burnt. Ahmedabad’s Muslim areas like Juhapura, Jamalpur, Kalupur, Dariapur, Gomtipur etc remain eye sore in the shining mega city of Ahmedabad. State’s buses continue to bypass Juhapura for years and the famous BRTS gives it a slip.

Yes, some benefits are percolating down to Muslims through menial services, sub-contracting etc due to hectic economic activity. But, could this have been prevented, even if Modi had wanted to? Gujarat’s Muslims should be compared with its Hindus, not with Bengal’s Muslims. Aren’t they part of Modi’s ‘sadhe paanch crore’ Gujaratis?

Muslims have effectively become second grade citizens of the state. Tour the city’s glittering bazars and you won’t find a single sign board bearing remote Muslim identity. In the sprawling townships of Western Ahmedabad there is not a single Muslim colony, nor any other visible commercial or residential presence. Why? When the demolished mosques or dargahs couldn’t be rebuilt, can one even dream of building a mosque in the vast new city of over three million?

In his business pragmatism Vastanvi forgot the sensitivities of the numerous victims of the carnage whose wounds are yet to heal, some of whom are yet to receive financial compensation. He ought to have been more circumspect under his new eminence. Clearly his feet are not in the clay, nor does he know the mood of his own flock. How pained the hundreds of Zakia Jafaris and Bilkis Banus of Gujarat must feel at this utter insensitivity.

Traditionally the Hindutva brigade has condemned Darul Uloom. May we ask the BJP that hailed the ‘reverred Maulana’ from the ‘pristine Islamic university’ whether it also welcomes its various fatwas?

If a nation-wide poll were to find India’s most hated politician, Narendra Modi it will be. Equally, he will win as the most loved Chief Minister of Gujarat, as the most popular Hindu leader of India, and perhaps also as the best CM to do business with. That, may we submit, is not the best test for the citizens of the Indian state. Nor for righteous and conscientious persons. Doing business with the Chief Minister is one thing but supporting Modi is another. This senseless episode has, however, unfortunately converted a quintessentially constitutional battle for justice and rule of law to a Hindu-Muslim controversy.

The writer is the President of SPRAT (www.sprat.in), a Gujarat-based NGO. He can be reached at [email protected].