Is centenary celebration of Reshmi Rumal Movement to help Congress regain its foothold among Muslims?

TCN Special Correspondent

Ahmadabad: Jamiatul Ulema Hind(JUH) last week organized a grand function here as the launch of its eight month long programme to commemorate the 100 years of the Reshmi Rumaal Movement of Sheikhul Hind Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan of Deoband. The movement planned by Sheikhul Hind was an armed revolution to liberate India from the British rule.

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Sheikhul Hind not only mobilized Muslims for the purpose but also took Hindus along and when he established the first Independent Government of India in exile in Kabul, he appointed Mathura’s Raja Mahendra Pratap as its prime minister, Maulvi Barkatullah Bhopali as interior minister and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi as its foreign minister. As its activistss circulated messages written on silken kerchiefs to avoid being caught by British agents, it was called Reshmi Rumaal movement.

Feeling that it was not possible to defeat the powerful Britishers without support from outside, he deputed Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi to mobilize the independent tribes of the Frontier areas and Maulvi Barkatullah to seek support of Afghans for the purpose while he himself went to Hijaz(now Saudi Arabia) to seek support of the Turkish governor of Hijaz for armed struggle against the Britishers. He also tried to seek support of Russia and Japan. His purpose was to provoke internal revolt within India and mount an attack from outside to defeat the Britishers.

Gujarat Governor Dr. Kamla Beniwal speaking at the Reshmi Rumal Centennary Celebration meeting.

Though Sheikhul Hind had secured a letter of support from Turkish governor Kamal Pasha for the purpose, the political situation in Hijaz changed while he was still in Makkah. Arabs revolted against the Turkish Khilafat as a part of the British conspiracy and Sheikhul Hind’s plan got leaked. He and his sympathizers, including Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani, who taught at the Masjid-e-Nabwi , were arrested by Sharif Hussain of Makkha and handed over to the British. They were imprisoned at Malta, an island in Southern Europe, near Sicily.

However, they were released after three years as charges of treason against the British India could not be proved and allowed to return to India. Both Sheikhul Hind and Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani, given the title of Sheikhul Islam for his in-depth knowledge of Islam, continued their activity for liberation of the country from the British yoke and supported Indian National Congress’ efforts in this regard while maintaining their independent identity. Despite suggestions from various Muslim groups and leaders like Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar that JUH should extend support to Congress only after some written agreement about what would be the status of the Muslims in independent India and the guarantee for their rights after the British left the country, Maulana Hussain Madani did not consider it politically relevant at the moment to secure any guarantee from the Congress. His first and foremost aim was to see the end of the British rule in India. This is in brief the political history of the Reshmi Rumaal movement whose leaders later on joined the JUH and other political parties.

But let us come to the main question. The question is what has now provoked JUH secretary general Mahmood Madani, the grandson of Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani, to commemorate 100 years of the movement and his announcement to hold at least 100 seminars on the issue throughout the length and breadth of India till the end of November this year. In the seminar at Ahmadabad, he accused the successive governments at the centre of ignoring the contributions of the Muslim freedom fighters.

Describing it as “injustice’’, he declared that he would fight this injustice as JUH had fought in the past for the rights of Muslims. JUH had also flown journalists from Mumbai representing prominent multi-edition Urdu newspapers to cover the event.

A view of the audience

Mahmood Madani brought up in a political atmosphere in his family at Deoband, like Delhi Jama Masjid’s Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, is certainly not a naïve man. His organization had also flown people from as far as Delhi to deliver a few minute’s speeches at the function.

Besides, Ulemas and madrasa students from all over Gujarat had also been brought to the venue in special vehicles. And what was most surprising was that the function was allowed inside the Moti Hall of Shah Jahani Palace, now converted into Sardar Patel Museum. The place was never before rented out to any Muslim organization. The palace was built by Shah Jahan when he was governor of the state during the reign of his father and the then Emperor Jahangir. Insiders say that it was given to JUH at the insistence of the central senior Congress leaders . Union Minister of State for Mines(Independent charge) Dinsha Patel from Gujarat is the chief trustee of the Sardar Patel Museum.

If Mahmood Madani is really serious about the issue, he could have decided to use the huge money to be spent on seminars for preparing literature on prominent Muslim freedom fighters. He could have hired Muslim historians from different institutions in Aligarh, Delhi and other places and taken their services to produce authentic literature on the issue and get them published in different languages to educate at least Muslims about their ancestors’ contributions to freedom movement. At present, there is serious dearth of literature on the issue in India. It is really painful that it has evaded the mind of JUH leadership because, perhaps, constructive works requires more energy but little or no political gain at all.

His present movement seems to be similar to his `mulk and millat bachao tehreek’ (Movement to Save the Nation and the Society) of his father Maulana Asad Madani in 1979 when former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was arrested. His father was rewarded Rajya Sabha membership after Indira Gandhi came to power again. If the sources within JUH are to be believed, the present movement of Mahmood Madani is intended in the same direction and money worth crores of rupees, including `zakat’, contributed by Muslims would be spent to promote political interests of Mahmood Madani .

With Muslims in UP and Bihar having dumped Congress and shifted to regional parties, Congress has lost its one of the main vote banks. Congress does not have any credible Muslim leadership to mobilize the community in its favour now. As the religious leadership among Muslims is still believed to have some degree of influence over the community and potential to mobilize them politically, Congress leaders are reportedly trying to use Mahmood Madani for 2014 general elections in exchange for Rajya Sabha seat.

So, Mahmood Madani is being first allowed to complain about the central government not highlighting the contributions of Muslim heroes of freedom movement with a view to further improving his image among the Muslims and then agree to his so-called demand on the eve of
general elections to satisfy the emotions of Muslims for political gains. Whether the strategy would gain political dividends to the Congress collapsing under the weight of its own misdeeds like its blunders in the Babri Masjid issue and paying only lip service to the core Muslim demands, cannot be stated with confidence, what is certain is that Muslims can no longer be misled by such tactics owing to the growth of a strong educated middle class among them.

It is the emergence of a new class of Muslims that has thrown the Congress as well as the local regional parties also when they failed to satisfy their aspirations. It is this development that has rendered even Jama Masjid Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari and others of ilk totally irrelevant in today’s political arena
The aspirations of the educated young generations of Muslims are not different from their counterparts in the other communities in India. They want their just share in national cake like jobs and business etc and stop harassment of Muslim youths by fabricating false criminal cases against them by cops sympathetic to the saffron cause. But the Congress and its leadership has either not understood the changing Muslim mind or is not willing to offer them what is due to them. They seem to be interested in their political exploitation only as they did in the last decades by raising emotional issues and not taking any concrete step t meet their genuine demands. But those days are over and Congress must understand this if it wants the support of the community again. Bukharis and Madanis would not be able to help the Congress any longer if the party leadership fails to read the writing on the wall.