Quietly, unobtrusively, the oldest Muslim organisation in the country, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind is warming up to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Without making any formal announcement about it or lending explicit support at the time of elections, the Jamiat has been happy to support the BJP, be it the recent ban on Popular Front of India or the Uttar Pradesh government's decision to start a survey of non-regular madrasas. Much of the support is hush-hush though.
When countrywide raids were conducted at the PFI premises and over a hundred leaders arrested, the Jamiat went into silent mode, much like, as a Jamiat official says on condition of anonymity, "Mohammed Shah Rangeela of the latter Mughal days". Even as the Jamaat-e-Islami asked for fairness and transparency in the action, the Jamiat washed its hands off the affair entirely with the spokesman limiting himself to saying, “We are neither with them nor against them. Let the law take its own course.”
Even more stark was the Jamiat support to the madrasa survey launched by the Yogi Adityanath government. In a case of a quick somersault, the Jamiat president Arshad Madani not only lent the survey support but also promised that from the next year, only those students who have completed matriculation from the CBSE will be admitted to Darul Uloom, Deoband. “So far the picture of the survey that has come out, there is nothing to fear or be apprehensive about,” Mr. Madani stated. His statement in favour of the survey came days after Jamiat had held a meeting in New Delhi where over 200 rectors of various madrasas in Uttar Pradesh participated. At the meeting, the organisation pledged “to safeguard madrasas at any cost” and dismissed the survey as smacking of “evil intention”.
The quick turnaround of Jamiat on the issue reminded one of the stand taken by its general secretary Mahmood Madani immediately after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament in December 2019. At that time, Mr. Mahmood Madani extended support to the Bill, reiterating the words of the Home Minister Amit Shah that the Bill had nothing to do with Indian Muslims, and they had no reason to worry. However, within a week of the Bill being passed by Parliament, the Shaheen Bagh protest started, accompanied with great agitations in Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. The community was outraged, and Mr. Mahmood Madani was quick to read the writing on the wall. He did a quick turnaround to join the intellectuals who raised their voice against the CAA. Among them, incidentally, were two of the intellectuals who met Mr. Mohan Bhagwat (RSS chief) recently.
Earlier, the president of Jamiat, Mr. Arshad Madani had come in for flak for meeting Mr. Bhagwat at the RSS office in New Delhi. The meeting, held against the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) row in Assam, bore fruit with Mr. Arshad Madani stating soon afterwards, “Those who are affected by the NRC include both Hindus and Muslims. The Jamiat stands by all those left out of the NRC, irrespective of their faith.”
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The new political tone of the Jamiat comes as a surprise, considering the body has been softly but consistently aligned with the Congress since Independence though in recent years in U.P. at least, it has never been too far from extending tacit support to the Samajwadi Party. A Jamiat member explains, "It is true the Jamiat was close to Congress, but where is the Congress today? It is an existential compromise. If a fish has to stay in water, it cannot fight the crocodile there."