Flamboyant rector impressed younger-generation Deobandis

Which way will the Majlis-e-Shura tilt on Wednesday when it meets to decide the fate of Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, Vice-Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband? With Mr. Vastanvi's opponents reported to have closed ranks against him, nobody here has the answer to this all-important question.

However, highly-placed sources at the Islamic seminary said, Mr. Vastanvi himself would not offer to resign. Instead he would defend himself before the Shura and explain why he thought he was not guilty of the two main charges levelled against him — that he praised Narendra Modi and presented a memento containing the image of a Hindu deity at a public function. Presentation over, he would abide by the Shura's decision

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Darul Uloom, Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, told The Hindu that Mr. Vastanvi would be given full opportunity to explain his stand. “If the Shura points to specific indiscretions, he will be allowed to counter them, and also say why, in his opinion, he has done no wrong.”

It would be within Mr. Vastanvi's rights to show that he had neither violated the Darul Uloom's bylaws nor brought its name to disrepute.

“Ultimately, the Shura's decision will prevail,” Maulana Madrasi said.

And yet, whatever may be the decision taken on Wednesday, it is apparent that the flamboyant rector has made quite an impression on the younger-generation Deobandis, who want him to helm the Darul Uloom and provide it with vision and direction.

The overwhelming feeling here is that the Darul Uloom has been prevented by partisan politics from growing out of its backward, orthodox image, and the time has come for it to transform into a progressive institution imparting modern, scientific education.

Perhaps that is why not many people here believe that Mr. Vastanvi actually batted for Mr. Modi, preferring to see the quoted statements as a controversy manufactured by his opponents to evict him from the Darul Uloom.

The slogan-shouting and violence witnessed after Mr. Vastanvi's appointment are seen as the work of a handful of powerful students affiliated to the rival group.

Deoband resident Badr Kazmi went so far as to say that the Shura must understand the mood of the people: “If the Shura decides against Mr. Vastanvi, the message that will go out will be that Indian Muslims are backward and want to remain hostage to power politics. The repercussions of this will be felt not just in Deoband but across India too.”

But obviously, it is the not the popular mood — whether in Deoband or outside — that will count with the Shura when it hears out Mr. Vastanvi. Following the cascading controversy over his alleged pro- Modi remarks, Mr. Vastanvi initially announced his resignation.

However, later he said he would leave the decision to the Shura. Mr. Vastanvi was appointed Vice-Chancellor in January 2011. He received eight votes, while his nearest rival, Arshad Madani of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, received four. Mr. Madrasi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, got two votes.