Maulana Gulam Mohammad Vastanvi is mired in controversy thanks to his pro-Modi remarks. There has been so much outrage amongst his own 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 move on from Modi 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 , Dr. Zafrul Islam Khan feels that this entire controversy is a result of a war between two internal faction of the Darul Uloom. In this interview with rediff.com, Dr Khan says that the Maulana had not give 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 internal factions in 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 functions fear that if an outsider takes over Darul Uloom and stays there for long, they will be sidelined. In his Times of India statement, Maulana Vastanvi did not give a “clean chit” to Modi as claimed by his detractors. Instead, the TOI report clearly said that he did not give clean chit to Modi but some reckless Urdu newspapers reported that he gave clean chit to Modi.
Was there anything wrong in what he said?
No. What he said was only that today’s 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 him 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. Urdu media by and large has not played up on this controversy. The only exception are two Urdu newspapers published from Delhi which are notorious for publishing “paid news,” so much so that one of them, Sahafat, yesterday (26 January) devoted its whole front page to sensational news with shrieking headlines which was mostly concocted and baseless. The agitation inside Darul Uloom Deoband is limited to around 2-3 dozen students and perhaps to two teachers while a majority supports Maulana Vastanvi inside the institution and outside it in the town of Deoband as well as across India as 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. His institution at Akalkuwa in Maharashtra is larger than Darul Uloom and has, beside a reputed madrasa, colleges of engineering and medicine etc which are on the placement list of big companies like Tata. 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 Muslims to vent their anger against him?
The issue of democracy is precisely what is at stake here. Maulana Vastanvi has been duly elected by the highest body of Darul Uloom, viz. Majlis-e Shoora (Consultative Council). He secured eight votes while other contenders received only four (Maulana Arshad Madni) and two (Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi) votes respectively. In this situation, he should be allowed to function and show his performance which Majlis-e Shoora alone could evaluate in a year or two. Forcing such a person with impeccable track record because of a handful of noisy protesters working for factions which refuse to come out openly, is anti-democratic.
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 forget or forgive the 2002 pogroms. 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 BJP.
What is your thinking on the plight of Muslims in Gujarat today? Is it really bad or is this just media hype?
There is no doubt that Muslims in Gujarat are still living under fear. The pogrom victims are yet to get justice. Hundreds of Muslim youths arrested on trumped up charges are still languishing in Modi’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, on the Narendra Modi issue? Is the Muslim community ready for that?
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.
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. Yesterday (26 January) many students demonstrated in Darul Uloom demanding he stays as their rector.
He 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 which are notorious for paid news.
He 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 entrepreneur skills, have stood again on their feet even without government help.
About the Gujarat riots he says that the guilty should be punished, but Muslims need to move ahead. What do you make of that statement?
Muslims share Maulana Vostanvi’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.