The former President Abdul Kalam, a mufti from Madina, Officer on Special Duty with the Sachar Committee Zafar Mahmood and Chairman of HDFC Deepak Parekh are among the invitees to a “Young Indian Leaders Conclave” to be held in Gandhinagar on Saturday.
The meeting is being watched with a lot of interest not only because it is one of Narendra Modi’s governance initiatives but also because the organisers, Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), have reached out to and sought the participation of prominent Muslim intellectuals and leaders.
Zafar Sareshwala, a well-known Ahmedabad-based industrialist, who helped the organisers locate potential Muslim participants, told The Hindu : “The event is not a new feature but for the first time it is going to see sizeable Muslim participation thanks to Mr. Modi’s efforts towards bringing Muslims into the mainstream. The idea is to have a dialogue with Muslims.” Mr. Sareshwala is himself a critic-turned admirer of Mr. Modi.
The conclave will open with Mr. Kalam’s keynote address and later Mr. Modi will join him in an interactive `Q&A session. Mr. Mahmood, till now viewed as irreconcilably opposed to Mr. Modi, is scheduled to speak on the topic `Ek Bharat.’ When contacted by The Hindu , Mr. Mahmood said: “Please wait until I have made my speech tomorrow.”
The organisers invited three muftis — Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, one Islamic scholar from Hyderabad and one Mufti from Madina. The last two could not be reached on telephone. However, when The Hindu contacted Mufti Qasmi to confirm his participation, he was taken aback.
Mr. Qasmi, who has been a spokesperson Darul-Uloom, Deoband, said he had no idea Mr. Modi was going to preside over the meeting. Alleging that he was kept in the dark on the details of the meet, he said he was going to withdraw from it: “I had no idea Mr. Modi was going to be present, let alone being aware of an interactive session with him. Till now I have not been given the agenda of the programme an there is no way I’m going to confer legitimacy on a man under whose watch the 2002 violence happened.”
Another invitee, who turned down the offer to attend, told The Hindu on condition of anonymity: “If prominent Muslims attend the meet, it will not be to their benefit but to the benefit of Mr. Modi’s campaign managers who will project it as a major victory ahead of the 2014 general election. I do not want to be party to this.”
On the other hand, Mr. Sareshwala was full of optimism: “People had apprehension so I said, ‘come on. Mr. Modi wants to listen to youths including Muslim youths. Why not ask him questions, even tough questions, during the interactive?’” He added: “Till when will we talk about conspiracy theories about Modi? Why should not Muslims talk to Mr. Modi?”
All eyes will be on the meet to see who attends it and who drops out.