“State government move aimed at causing sectarian discord among Muslims…”
Taking a cue from the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, the ruling Congress in Rajasthan has initiated steps to sideline the Muslim groups it believes subscribe to hardline ideologies, making it clear that it would not entertain “noisy demands” for justice in a series of communal incidents from the individuals whose own credentials are doubtful.
In a hard-hitting message to the Muslim community, the State recently appointed persons subscribing to the Barelvi school of thought, largely representing the adherents of Sufi ideology among Sunni Muslims to the institutions serving the minority communities. Muslims owing allegiance to Darul Uloom Deoband have been completely ignored when it comes to appointments.
Political observers here perceive it as calculated strategy in the wake of an atmosphere building up all over the country against the “Wahabi extremism,” said to be supported by the Deoband seminary and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.
The newly floated All-India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, claiming to represent 80 per cent of the country's Sunni Muslims, has of late emerged as a favourite group of the Union government. Board general secretary Maulana Mohammed Ashraf Kachochavi has claimed in a series of meetings held in northern States since September that Deobandis and Wahabis have captured Muslim institutions and called for “rescuing” Islam and Muslims from their clutches.
In the appointments made to the Madrasa Board, Urdu Akademi and Rajasthan Public Service Commission, the Congress-led Government has preferred the Barelvi faction to others. Waqf Board Chairman Liaqat Ali appointed earlier is attached to a dargah in Jhunjhunu district, while new State Minorities Commission chairman M. Mahir Azad is also considered inclined towards the Sufi doctrine.
New Madrasa Board chairman Maulana Fazl-e-Haq is a known Barelvi leader attached to the Madrasa Ishaqiya of Jodhpur and a disciple of octogenarian Chaman Quadri of Bundi. Urdu Akademi chairman Habib-ur-Rehman Niyazi belongs to the prominent Barelvi family of Meerji Ka Bagh here.
Indian Police Service officer Habib Khan, appointed a member of the State Public Service Commission, is also a self-confessed Barelvi. The ruling party has held out a signal through the long-overdue appointments that it would maintain a safe distance from elements causing resentment in the Muslim population over the communal incidents during its rule and radicalising the youths.
Critical of Gehlot
The Rajasthan Muslim Forum, spearheading a campaign for the past two years seeking justice for the community as a representative body of all Muslim groups, comprises activists and scholars belonging to the Deoband faction.
The forum has especially been critical of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and demanded his removal in the aftermath of the September 14 police firing on a mosque in Gopalgarh, in which 10 persons were killed.
Forum convenor Qari Moinuddin told The Hindu on Saturday that the ruling Congress' move was aimed at causing “sectarian discord” among Muslims in order to escape from its own responsibility for over 30 incidents of communal violence witnessed during the past three years.
Sikar-based social activist Ashfaq Kayamkhani pointed out that the differences between Deobandis and Barelvis were not very sharp and that most Muslims in the State follow a mix of beliefs from the two schools.
“Dangerous game plan”
Irada Society president Mohammed Hasan said the ruling party was resorting to a “dangerous game plan” by trying to pit one section of the community against the other.
Prof. Hasan, also a member of the State Government's Rajiv Gandhi Social Security Mission, said the nominations made to various bodies could not be a substitute for justice in the instances of violence against minorities.
The State should not ignore “hostile external environment” rampant in policies, programmes and prejudices militating against Muslims, he added.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind national secretary M. Salim Engineer said even a simple fact that majority of Madrasas in the State follow the Deoband curriculum was overlooked while making appointment to the Madrasa Board.
The cross-section of Muslim leaders feel that the ruling Congress wants to cover up the presence of communal elements in its rank and file by fomenting a non-existent Deobandi-Barelvi divide in the community. The State Government, they affirm, should instead pay attention to the protection of lives and properties of all minorities.