In a significant development, the Deoband school of Islamic thought on Sunday formally declared the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India. This was the first time that the leading Islamic seminary of north India endorsed what was the official stand of the Indian government.
Sponsored by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the assembly was convened essentially to discuss the Kashmir issue and the problems the state is facing.
Apart from clerics drawn from different parts of Uttar Pradesh, the participants at the meet also included those from Uttarakhand, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
Prominent Jamiat leader Mahmood Madani sought to make it loud and clear to the audience that the Kashmir issue could not be addressed without taking the Indian Muslims on board.
Darul Uloom's and Jamiat's stand is being viewed as a key strategy to send out a firm message to Pakistan and rest of the world that Kashmir's unrest should not be exploited to fuel separatist tendencies.
A resolution passed at the meet, stated, "The long pending demands of the Kashmiri people need to be addressed within the framework of the Constitution of India."
Addressing the meet, senior journalist M J Akbar said, "If it is about getting a fair deal and justice to Kashmiris, we are one hundred per cent with Kashmir. If it is about separation, we are one thousand per cent against it."
Darul-uloom Deoband's involvement on the Kashmir issue for the first time is seen as an attempt to build bridges between Kashmir and Muslims across the rest of the country.