Modi called 2002 violence a blot on his term: Zafar Sareshwala

By Rafat Quadri,

Zafar Sareshwala, Ahmedabad based businessman known for his proximity to Narendra Modi and also the most visible, vocal and a prominent Muslim supporter of Gujarat chief minister.

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Undoubtedly, Zafar is Modi’s most trusted Muslim friend who can walk in his office anytime where he is always welcome. And if, not for nothing, Zafar has provided him most needed succour, at a time, when Modi has virtually alienated himself from the largest minority community.

Excerpts from an interview with Zafar Sareshwala who has all good things to say about Modi; “Future leader of India.“

Zafar Sareshwala

Q- Tell us about your journey .How and why you came close to Modi who you had initially opposed and how you changed your stand; so much so that now, unlike other rights groups, you don’t hold him responsible for 2002 riots? .

A: During those horrible days in 2002 I was living in UK with my family. We were the only Muslim registered stock broking company and our terminal was closed due to which just within one day we suffered a huge loss of Rs 3.5 crore. Our bank guarantees were cancelled for nine months, we were totally shattered, bankrupt. Turmoil and pain that was there was just unspeakable.

Q: what did you do?

A: I and my family did our best. I was appalled hearing and reading about all this. I organised protest against Modi and Advani in London. I tried to collect funds personally with a ‘begging bowl’ to Muslims to help my poor brethrens in India, who suffered loss of life and property.

Meanwhile, I learnt that Modi was back in power, elected as the Chief Minister. It was in that heat of the moment that I started seeking guidance as to what should be done for our (Muslims) to improve their lot, how to restore peace

Q: Where did you get your answers?

A-No, it was not that easy. I sought the answers from the Holy Quran and Hadith and from the real scholars of Islam. I learnt that our own Prophet suffered hugely, miscreants did every possible torture him and his followers, there were wars and battles, pacts and agreements, Islamic history was my point of reference and I started searching and re-searching it. I started getting answers in our own Islamic history.

There was magnanimity and forgiveness. There was humility and patience. There was grace and softness in words and action of our Prophet…there was no revenge, no blind attacks, no haste to react. There was always a dialogue and communication flow initiated and entertained by our Prophet.

So it occurred to me why not have a dialogue with one who is going to rule for next five years at least, who was elected democratically by the people of my own state. So, I decided to have a dialogue with Modi who was to visit London to invite Fortune 500 companies to invest in Gujarat.

Back in Ahmedabad, there was chaos…nearly 2000 families were directly affected. To our utter shock we found that some of the affluent Muslim families were unperturbed. Not only that there were weddings taking place in this very city just within a few months’ time with all frills and frenzy, lavish food. There was hardly any concern for the victims, survivors and witnesses…from within the community.

I knew it was a very bad situation for Muslims. We needed to be cared and justice to be meted out to us. But, without entering into a dialogue nothing would materialize. Therefore, I decided to consult two leading Muslim scholars- Maulana Isa Mansuri and Maulana Yakub Qasmi – who lived in UK.

I asked them that if it was correct to meet Modi. They both clearly said “BILKUL, BILKUL and BILKUL” meaning certainly you should.

When I left them I had decided that ‘Come What May, I will meet Modi’. Suddenly my ‘hero image` became ‘zero’ I received 1100 hate mails. But, I was determined that even if 100 crore of Muslims are against me I would engage Modi in a dialogue for justice and welfare of my community…for all those who have survived but were not yet comfortable and feeling fearless.

Our friend Mahesh Bhatt, noted film director and crusader of justice, was with us .So, I had even phoned him to consult to meet Modi to have a dialogue. He agreed but told us that I should have courage to tell him with an ‘eye to eye’ contact “there can’t be peace without justice”.

Q: Who facilitated your meeting with Modi?

A-We knew that Rajat Sharma of ‘India TV’ was close to Modi. We requested him and thus the meeting was arranged with Modi on his visit to London in 2003 (on August 17 at St. James Court). At that time Rajat had told us that we would be heavily criticised but after10 years your community would bless you. I was successful in convincing Maulana Mansuri to accompany us with his conviction and support that he lent me earlier.

Q: How did the meeting go?

A: I was pleasantly surprised when Modi himself had come to receive us at the lift. He made us comfortable and made me sit next to him on a ‘jhoola’ (swing). He was ready to listen to us. He told us we had all rights to ask whatever we wanted to. He remained soft and positive; did not refute charges that we made, nor did he retort them.

Our meeting lasted for two and half hours. We asked him uncomfortable questions that IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt or Teesta Setalvad have raised, questions relating right from February 27 till that day.

We told him that we wanted peace, and that it can’t be achieved without justice. During our conversation we found he was respectful and did not dodge any question. He assured us that justice will be done. He said “ye mere kaal ka kalank hai, ise mujhe hi dhona hai” (I will have to handle it, it is the blot of my period).

Q: Coming to present political scenario, how do you see Modi’s prospects in the forthcoming elections?

A: Very comfortably Modi will win with 130 plus seats. Gujarat is bound to emerge as a decisive and iconic state which will lead the nation’s voters to show how a state is run and how Centre can be run efficiently. Gujarat will provide a new narrative altogether to the nation, as to how elections are fought.

Q: What is your take on Muslims in Gujarat? How are they going to behave politically?

A: Look, for all these years Congress has treated them like a door mat, to wipe and throw. They were in an illusion of being safeguarded and cared of. But, today Muslims of Gujarat are different. Today, after the justice being meted out to them, with the judiciary taking their own actions, they are very much with Modi in his journey of development and progress for the state.

Today, Muslims are clear in their minds that they are not going to elect a member in their area and state who doesn’t talk of ‘appeasing Muslims’ but who is there for progress and development of the state .

Q-When you told all that to Modi, did you find him apologetic, sorry for 2002 riots?

A: Look, mere words of sorry and apologizing are not the end of it. I did tell him that whatever happened right from Godhra train carnage to the subsequent killings, it was heinous and since he is the Chief Minister the buck stops at the Chief Minister. He immediately accepted it saying “ye mere kaal ka kalank hai, ise mujhe hi dhona hai” (This is a blot on my term I have to clean it up). What else could one ask for? Whereas, the legal course of action is on its way Some NGOs like Teesta and Mukul Sinha etc did very good start. Judiciary has done fine job. Things are moving in right direction, I believe.

Q: You said Muslims are well off and happy in Gujarat, how can you say that?

A: Look at the economic and educational situation of Muslims in Gujarat today. Much more though needs to be done by Muslims from within the community and also from the Government yet things are brighter. Today, in Ahmedabad, you go to any mall, recreation club and hotels you find Muslims freely moving out and enjoying life. There is no fear as such to them, for last ten years there have not been any riots. There is a general prosperity feeling among Muslim community in Gujarat. Muslims have purchased good number of cars that we sell, this is something new, Muslims are living in good posh houses today. These could be some important denominators.

Rafat Quadri is the editor of First English Fortnightly Newspaper of Gujarat and the news portal