Religion and Politics: Lucknow Shias in a fix

By TCN Special Correspondent,

Lucknow: It is hard to differentiate between religion and politics. The thin line demarcating the two is often overlapped. A similar situation is being witnessed in Lucknow where Shia community is in a piquant situation as they are unable to guess the direction of wind.

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Lucknow is regarded as the epicenter of Shias in India. There are close to two lakh Shias residing in Lucknow. It is often referred as a barometer of developments in Iran going by the reaction of Shias in Lucknow.

Besides the good number of Shia community, there are several eminent Shia clerics and also huge Shia Waqf properties. The prominent clerics being Imam-e-Juma Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawwad Naqvi, Vice-President, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Dr Syed Kalbe Sadiq and President, All India Shia Personal Law Board (AISPLB) Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar. Asafi Imambara, Chota Imambara, Shahnajaf Imambara to name a few are prominent Shia religious places.

Presently Shia politics has reached its lowest ebb with dirty linen being washed in public by eminent cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad Naqvi and Chairman Shia Central Board of Waqfs Syed Waseem Rizvi.

The matter originated after Rizvi took over the reins of waqf board after conditions were created where the then chairman Kamaluddin Akbar, a relative of Kalbe Jawwad had to submit his resignation last year. The acrimony grew with Jawwad camp devising strategies to remove Waseem Rizvi from the post while the latter using all political combinations to cling to the post.

Waseem was in BSP but sensed the mood and joined SP few months before the assembly elections this year. After the elections, he developed good relations with SP top leadership and is presently continuing as chairman. Left with no choice, Jawwad faction raised the eternal issue—mismanagement and selling of waqf properties against Waseem.

However, even in their wildest dream they had not imagined that Waseem will retaliate in such a strong manner. Waseem who was regarded as a protege of Jawwad had graduated as an independent authority. The charges had hit hard. Jawwad who is also Mutawalli of Imambara Ghufran Maab which includes graveyard also was bombarded with charges of selling grave land at exorbitant rates. Waseem even produced people who levelled the charges and presented the receipt of payment ranging from Rs 60000 to Rs 75000. Not to sit back, Waseem issued notice to Jawwad for explaining the reasons and putting his stand before the board. The notice was too much for the Jawwad faction who enjoyed a good reputation among the community. While Jawwad faction was busy raising the issue of selling of waqf land under Waseem, they were bombarded with another charge. A hospital which has been constructed on Imambara Ghufran Maab land above the graves was publicised by Waseem leaving the Jawwad faction scurrying for cover.

With their back to wall Jawwad gave a call for a Shia Mahasammelan on May 6 at Asafi Imambara. Thousands turned up and Jawwad was emboldened as senior state cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav too reached the Mahasammelan.

Jawwad faction also raised other issues to make the developments as a community thing. Demands were made for making Shia MLA Shadab Fatima as minister and giving other posts to Shias.

Still Waseem shrugged it off as another ploy and remained adamant on seeking reply from Jawwad.

To make things more complicated Maulana Yasoob Abbas who heads his own faction of AISPLB jumped in the battle field openly alleging that Jawwad was never a sympathizer of Shia community and has organized Shia Mahasammelan for his own issues.

Politically too Shia clerics are now changing sides very swiftly. Waseem Rizvi has also already joined ruling SP. Kalbe Hussain, the son of Dr Kalbe Sadiq too has renewed his membership with SP while Maulana Yasoob Abbas too has met the CM Akhilesh Yadav probably staking claim for a MLC seat. Kalbe Jawwad himself has avoided joining any party. His close aide Shameel Shamsi, the chief of Hussaini Tigers committed the mistake and misread the writing on the wall. On February 18, a day before polling Shameel joined Congress after Digvijay met Jawwad at latter’s residence. He ignored the request of SP leader Shivpal who arrived at Jawwad’s residence on February 17. Election results have disturbed the equation of Jawwad camp as the rival camp is raising the issue of his closeness towards Congress on the eve of polling.

General Shia community still holds Jawwad in high esteem but with each passing day lines are drawn. Now for the Shia community in Lucknow it is either you are in their camp or mine. There is no middle path and those remaining aloof from the developments are also being lured.

The general perception among the community is that it is against mixing religion with politics. They favour great Shia political leaders for high power and learned clerics for their religions. But both of religion and politics do not look to remain apart in Lucknow.