He is one of the most controversial clerics of recent times. Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi created a furore within days after he took over as the vice chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband, Asia's largest seminary on January 10.
His remarks on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi triggered a storm followed by a demand for not only an apology but also his resignation. There was violence on campus, misinterpreted statements in the media, speculations and counter speculations. But, Vastanvi survived it all. Today, he continues to be the top man at Darul Uloom with the Majlis-e-Shura, the governing council rejecting his resignation.
Seated in the Darul Uloom guesthouse, he is surrounded by his well-wishers and supporters, who record every word of what he speaks on their cell phones with reverence. Vastanvi himself looks relaxed and is in all smiles as he speaks briefly with rediff.com's Sahim Salim.
So many days of anticipation and speculation. The verdict is finally out. How do you feel?
I feel great. I was ready to offer my resignation, but the shura did not accept it. I am in all praise for the shura at the moment. Now, it is upto the investigating committee to file a report, after which the shura will take a final decision.
When you offered your resignation, what was the immediate response of the shura members? Was the decision not to accept your resignation unanimous?
Yes. When I offered my resignation, they all said unanimously that they would not accept my resignation at the moment. They told me they would form a committee and then take a decision based on its report. But yes, the decision was unanimous. And if the committee does find me guilty, I am ready to resign from the post.
With the new caretaker VC being appointed, have you lost any of your powers at Darul Uloom?
Absolutely not. I am the vice chancellor of Darul Uloom as of now. My duties, responsibilities and powers will remain the same. There is no change in that. Yes, a caretaker VC has been appointed, who will be the acting VC in my absence, which is nothing new. Acting VCs have been appointed in the past as well.
What kind of reforms are you planning to introduce in the Darul Uloom?
I am planning to introduce more innovation in computer courses at the institute. I have several other plans as well.
After answering a few questions the maulana said he needed to leave and headed to his office in the Darul Uloom. His supporters followed.