The two-day India visit by Islamic hardliner and Pakistan's Jamiat-ul-Islami chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is believed to be aimed at reinforcing the anti-Vastanvi forces at the Darul-Uloom Deoband seminary in Uttar Pradesh, where the recently appointed vice chancellor Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi had drawn much flak for praising Narendra Modi's governance in Gujarat.
Ostensibly, Rehman was in Deoband and New Delhi earlier this week to broker peace between the two warring factions of Indian Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind led by rival Madnis -- uncle Arshad Madni and nephew Mahmood.
However, informed sources at Deoband suspect that the Pakistani cleric's 'real intent behind bringing the Madnis together was to strengthen the anti-Vastanvi lobby.'
Vastanvi's fate is to be decided at a meeting of Deoband's 'Majlis-e-Shoora', the highest decision making body of the institution on February 23.
Considering that Mahmood Madni was responsible for mobilising support for Vastanvi against whom Arshad was known to have fuelled all the trouble, unity between the duo was aimed at weakening the seminary chief's case.
The proximity between Pakistani cleric Rehman and Arshad Madni was always an open secret. And even during his 17- hour long stay in Deoband, the two were seen together every minute.
Sources in Deoband claimed that Rehman's visit was planned by Arshad, who was clearly worried about his hold over Deoband.
Rehman was therefore called to convince Mahmood to sink his differences with his uncle Arshad in the larger interest of maintaining the undisputed hold of the undivided Madni power over the seminary.
"Who does not know that the Madnis whose family has called the shots at the seminary for decades, were responsible for appointment of the previous vice chancellor Maulana Maghrubur Rehman who passed away last year," a senior faculty member told rediff.com over telephone from Deoband.
Yet another young lecturer, who had hailed the appointment of a computer savvy and MBA qualified Vastanvi as the new vice chancellor felt, "Members of the Arshad Madni lobby were busy impressing upon all north Indians at the seminary that they must not allow Vastanvi to continue as he was the first non-north Indian to head the Deoband seminary."
He went on to add, "Evidently, the whole idea was to prevent any progressive Muslim to take over the reins of this historic institution; and that was the reason that a Pakistani Islamic hardliner had come down all the way."
The last time Rehman flew down to Deoband in similar circumstances was in March 2007, when he succeeded in bridging the divide between the Madnis.
Image: Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi