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'Maulana Vastanvi is caught in a turf war'

Last updated on: January 28, 2011 09:58 IST

'Maulana Vastanvi is caught in a turf war'

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Maulana Gulam Mohammad Vastanvi is mired in controversy thanks to his remarks on Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's 'development agenda.'

There has been so much outrage among the Muslim community that he was forced to resign as the vice chancellor of Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband. This reaction clearly shows that the Muslims in India are still not prepared to forgive and forget Modi's actions and anything good said against the Gujarat chief minister is still viewed as a crime.

Editor of the Milli Gazette and former president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat Zafrul Islam Khan tells rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa that this entire controversy is the result of a war between two factions of the Darul Uloom.

Khan says that the Maulana had not given a clean chit to Modi, but also goes on to add that no Muslim can ever forget what Modi did in 2002.

What do you make out of the entire Vastanvi controversy ?

It is a war between two factions of the Darul-Uloom. They have joined hands to oust an outsider. The Modi comment, grossly misquoted, offered them a convenient ploy to achieve this aim. They would have waited for some other ruse to achieve their aim. The two factions fear that if an outsider takes over the Darul Uloom and stays put, they will be sidelined.

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Image: The Madrassa at Deoband

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'The majority supports Vastanvi'

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In his statement in the Times of India, Maulana Vastanvi did not give a 'clean chit' to Modi as claimed by his detractors. Some reckless Urdu newspapers reported that he gave clean chit to Modi.

Was there anything wrong in what Vastanvi said?

No! What he (Vastanvi) said was only that now Modi is focusing on development and that the fruits of development are reaching all who live in Gujarat, which of course includes Muslims. He did not condone the 2002 riots and did not call for the withdrawal of cases or their dilution.

There continues to be anger among the Muslim community despite Vastanvi saying he was misquoted and also his decision to resign. Why is that?

The anger is limited to a section of the community, which is under the influence of the two factions I referred to earlier. The Urdu media by and large has not played up on this controversy. The only exceptions are two Urdu newspapers published from Delhi, which are notorious for publishing 'paid news'.

The agitation inside Darul Uloom Deoband is limited to around 2-3 dozen students and perhaps to two teachers. A majority supports Maulana Vastanvi inside the institution and outside it -- in the town of Deoband as well as across India. He has a very clean and unblemished image of a cleric, who is open to modern education and has already achieved a lot single-handedly.


Image: Muslim men perform special prayers outside a mosque
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli/Reuters
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'We cannot forget the 2002 pogrom'

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His institution at Akalkuwa in Maharashtra is larger than the Darul Uloom and has a reputed madrassa, colleges of engineering and medicine, which are on the placement list of big companies. He also runs dozens of institutions across India.

A person is permitted to speak his mind in a democracy. Is it fair on part of the rest of the community to vent their anger at him?

The issue of democracy is precisely what is at stake here. Maulana Vastanvi has been duly elected by the highest body of the Darul Uloom--Majlis-e Shoora (consultative council). He secured eight votes while other contenders, Maulana Arshad Madni got only four and Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi got two votes respectively.

In this situation, Vastanvi should be allowed to function and show his performance, which the Majlis-e Shoora alone could evaluate in a year or two. Forcing such a person with an impeccable track record because of a handful of noisy protesters working for factions which refuse to come out openly, is against democracy.

Do you think that there is a section of the Muslim community which wants to change its opinion about Modi, but are not being allowed to do so?

The Muslim community cannot forgive or forget the 2002 pogrom. Modi is sheltering the culprits and trying to frustrate justice. Justice must be done to the victims of 2002 riots but at the same time Muslims inside Guarat and outside are not blind to the fact that Modi is trying to change, is concentrating on development and is also trying to project a secular image and giving some space to Muslims in his administration and even inside the Bharatiya Janata Party.


Image: A survivor of the 2002 riots in Gujarat rifles through what is left of his shop on July 7, 2002
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
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'Many Gujarati Muslims want to open new page'

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What are your thoughts on the plight of Muslims in Gujarat today?

There is no doubt that Muslims in Gujarat are still living in fear. The victims of the pogrom are yet to get justice. Hundreds of Muslim youths arrested on trumped up charges are still languishing in Gujarat's jails. Proper compensation is yet to be paid to the victims.

Something like 30,000 riot victims are still languishing in refugee camps across Gujarat, unable to go back to their villages and lands. Modi even returned central government funds claiming that there was no need for them.

But at the same time, Modi and his party in Gujarat are trying to change their image and Gujarat Muslims are feeling the change but it is still not sufficient.

Is it time to move on from the Modi issue? Is the Muslim community ready for this?

The changes in Gujarat are not enough for us to move on and the Muslim community at least outside Gujarat are not ready to move on, though many Gujarati Muslims for obvious reasons want to open a new page without forgetting 2002 or forgiving its perpetrators led by Modi.


Image: Narendra Modi

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The is no anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat today

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The Deoband students appear to want Vastanvi to stay on. What are your thoughts about that?

My information is that the vast majority of both students and teachers want Maulana Vastanvi to stay on. Many students demonstrated in Darul Uloom on Wednesday, demanding that he stay on as rector.

He (Vastanvi) has been branded as RSS. Don't you feel that the issue was pushed too far?

This branding was not done by Muslim leaders or masses in general. This irresponsible talk is limited to a few Urdu newspapers.

Vastanvi says that he has stated the fact. There is no violence in Gujarat and the Muslims are doing business over there. What was wrong in that?

What he says is about Gujarat 2011. It is a fact that there is no anti-Muslim violence in Guajarat today because the BJP has learnt a lesson and paid heavily for its earlier crime. It is also a fact that Gujarati Muslims, known for their business and entrepreneurial skills, have stood again on their feet even without government help.

About the Gujarat riots, Vastanvi says that the guilty should be punished, but Muslims need to move ahead. What do you make of that statement?

Muslims share Maulana Vastanvi's demand that the guilty in 2002 riots should be punished. There is no difference of opinion among the vast Muslim community on this matter. The only exception may be the few paid by the RSS in the rag tag 'Muslim Rashtriya Manch' put together by terror-tainted Indresh Kumar.


Image: Darul Uloom Deoband
Photographs: vijay pandey9/Flickr
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