‘We have not come from Arabia. Our ancestors are Indians and our vansh (lineage) is Indian too. We are not outsiders in Hindustan. We all are one and we should strive to strengthen Bharat and bharatiyata (Indian-ness).’
‘I requested the PM to end the vote bank politics being practiced by political parties in India in the name of religion. I told him that unlike other people and political parties he should not use Muslims for votes.’
Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief imam of the All India Imam Organisation, who led a delegation of 30 Muslims to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 2, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com how the meeting came about and what was discussed during the 75-minute convivial meet.
The delegation comprising of Muslims belonging to different sects and sub-sects (Sunnis, Shias, Barelvis, Deobandis) and intellectuals were assured by Modi that he would not tolerate anybody spreading communal hatred in India.
“We had a very fruitful dialogue with the prime minister. He told us, ‘Main aapko yakeen dilata hu ki Hindustan main agar kisi tarah ki bhi aisi baat ho… aapke liye raat ko 12 baje bhi mera darwaza khula rahega’ (Let me assure you that my doors will remain open for you even at midnight hour to meet you),” Ilyasi said emphasising the solidity of this assurance from India’s prime minister.
“Narendra Modi assured us that he won’t tolerate any communal riots in the country, he doesn’t believe in politics of division and we absolutely believe our prime minister,” he said.
This was the second such official meeting between Narendra Modi and members of the Muslim society after he was sworn in as India’s prime minister in May 2014.
The delegation told Modi that they should strive to end vote bank politics and should not tolerate any attempts by political parties to divide the country in the name of religion.
“We told him a very fundamental thing. He speaks his ‘mann ki baat’ and we are here to do ‘dil ki baat’. Aur ab ‘mann ki baat’ and ‘dil ki baat’ ek ho gayi.' (Now, this is a coming together of our thinking). When ‘mann’ and ‘dil’ will assimilate with each other, all confusions between these two will vanish. It will bring us closer to each other,” he said.
Ilyasi said the delegation approached Modi for a partnership; one that will benefit national interest. “If we have to make India strong, first we will have to strengthen bharatiyata.”
Ilyasi said, as per protocol, he had sent a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office requesting a meeting with Modi just five days before the meet happened on Tuesday. The delegation was surprised and impressed how quickly the PM made it happen.
When asked if the recent Ballabhgarh riots in Haryana or the discrimination faced by Zeshan Ali Shaikh, a Mumbai graduate, who was not given a job because he happened to be a Muslim, came up for discussion with the PM, Ilyasi said, “We did not go there to criticise him. We didn’t go there to discuss these things. He is the PM of India and he knows what is happening in Hindustan.”
Modi assured the delegation that no such thing (attempts to spoil the communal atmosphere and peace) will be tolerated by him. “He said, ‘I am the prime minister of India and of all the 125 crore citizens of India’.”
In response, the delegation told Modi: “Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modiji, we have not come from Arabia. Our ancestors were also Indians and our vansh (lineage) is also Indian. We have not come from outside. We are not outsiders in Hindustan. We all are one and we should strive to strengthen Bharat and bharatiyata (Indian-ness).
Ilyasi said it was for the first time that a prime minister of India met a Muslim delegation with such bonhomie and warmth. “He received each one of us personally and spoke to each one of us wholeheartedly.”
“He made tea for us and came to see us off after the meeting; I think he is the first prime minister to treat a delegation with such warmth and respect,” Ilyasi said.
During the 75 minute meeting with the prime minister, the delegation told Modi that they welcome United Nations’ declaration of International Yoga Day (June 21) and credited him for the initiative. “We told him that we should not link yoga to a particular religion. We should link yoga to our bharatiyata. He welcomed our observation.”
Ilyasi said that they pledged their wholehearted support for India’s bid for permanent membership of United Nations’ Security Council. He said he has been receiving congratulatory messages from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Pakistan for meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
When asked if just one meeting could bring about a radical change between Hindus and Muslims in India, Ilyasi said, they have just made a beginning to create a peaceful atmosphere in India between Hindus and Muslims with this meeting. They have plans to organise a programme at Vigyan Bhawan in the next 45 days to further strengthen this relationship.
Ilyasi, however, regretted one thing. He said it would have been better still had this meeting taken place about six months ago. “The reason I am saying this is because from the past many months our country’s composite Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb (an all-inclusive composite Indian culture), the atmosphere of sarvdharma sambhav (all religions being equal) was under threat. Now these tensions will vanish after this meeting. It will lead to a conducive climate (that will help ease misunderstanding between Hindus and Muslims).
“The spreading of communal hatred by some elements in India doesn’t harm Modi or me personally. It harms the idea of India. It harms India,” Ilyasi said.
Image: Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief imam of the All India Imam Organisation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the meeting.