January 10: Darul Uloom Deoband gets its first Gujarati vice-chancellor in Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, a cleric who holds an MBA from Maharashtra and has been feted for introducing modern education at a madrassa in Akkalkuwa in Nandurbar.
January 19: The Times of India says New Deoband chief lauds Modi's Gujarat and quotes him as saying that "all communities" are prospering in Narendra Modi's Gujarat and that there is "no discrimination against the minorities in the state as far as development was concerned" :
"The issue is almost eight years old now and we should move forward," Vastanvi told TOI on Tuesday. "Rioting anywhere — in Gujarat or in any other part of the world — is bad for humanity and it should never happen. Gujarat riots were a blemish for India and all culprits should be punished."
Vastanvi said "there are not as many problems in Gujarat as has been projected." Asked about justice for the Gujarat riot victims, he said the riots had worsened "because the police did not act due to political pressure during those days".
But he differed with what many activists working among the riot victims or the UPA government at the Centre claim about continuing discrimination against Muslims in Gujarat. He said, "As far as relief work riot is concerned, it has been carried out very well by government and people of Gujarat."
The Deoband chief has obviously been impressed by the economic progress of Gujarat. He said, "Development has undoubtedly taken place in Gujarat and we hope it will continue. I ask Muslims to study well. The government is ready to offer jobs (to them), but for that, they need good education."
Predictably, the remarks have received saturation coverage, largely because, as Sadanand Dhume reminds us in the WSJ, while talking about the Gujarat model of development:
Nine years after Hindu-Muslim riots killed more than 1,000 people, three-quarters of them Muslim, the violence continues to cast a shadow over how Indians talk about Gujarat. Mr. Modi's critics accuse him of either abetting or failing to control the bloodletting in 2002. His supporters say he is a scapegoat for events largely beyond his control.
To be sure, this larger national conversation, at its heart about morality in public life, will not disappear any time soon.
The Telegraph quotes some prominent Muslim voices:
Maulana Khalid Rasheed, the Nani imam of Lucknow’s Aishbagh Idgah mosque, said: “The statements are highly irresponsible. Modi sponsored one of the most horrific genocides in India for which the US refuses to give him a visa. Secular Hindus are still fighting for justice to the victims. The Deoband Maulana is otherwise a good person. But he has undermined the institution’s prestige.”
Kamal Farooqi, a former minorities commission chairman and a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said: “His (Wastanavi’s) job is to issue religious edicts and not give a clean chit to a person no secular Hindu in India will appreciate.”
The Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, said he would explore the possibility of “confronting” him with other clerics if he did not apologise quickly.
The only person to back Wastanavi is Zafar-ul Islam, the editor of an English daily Milli Gazette and former head of the Muslim Musharawat.
“The Modi of 2002 and the Modi of today are different. We don’t expect him to apologise for 2002. Don’t forget that Modi appointed a Muslim police chief which is a big thing for us. He has started a number of schemes in which Muslims have been made stakeholders. He has not uttered a single derogatory word against Muslims. So there’s no reason to react against Wastanavi,” Islam said
Others like Farzana Versey are equally dismissive of Vastanvi's remarks:
Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, has given his stamp of approval to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Shocked? Don’t be. They both essentially perpetuate the same schema of religion as the subterranean text. Both have worked wonderfully at brainwashing people – one with the carrot of ‘Gujarati pride’, the other with the stick of fatwas that make faith into some watertight compartment.
Ummid.com has some more reactoions:
Maulana Syed Mohammad Wali Rehmani, head of Khankahe Rehmania, Munger and Vice President of All India Majlise Mushawerat: "Narendra Modi's hands are stained with the blood of hundreds of Muslims. Moreover, he never showed any remorse for his failure as Chief Minister during the Gujarat riots. Maulana Vastanvi's comments that appeared in today's newspaper are far from reality and lack credibility. At the time when evidences after evidences are coming out to prove the involvement of Hindu right wing organizations in terrorism, one should think twice before opening the mouth".
Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, Deoband alumnus and Director of Markazul Maarif, Mumbai: "What Maulana Vastanvi has reportedly said about Narendra Modi and the present situation in Gujarat is absolutely rubbish and far from reality. He is from Gujarat and might be needing 'support from the government' to run his institutions in the state. He is free to do that in his personal capacity. But as the VC of Darul Uloom, his responsibilities are much more. He should refrain from issuing such absurd statements."
Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi, Gen Secretary of All India Milli Council, Mumbai: "Darul Uloom Deoband is an Islamic and religious seminary and it has never involved itself in politics. Maulana Vastanvi's statements are uncalled for and by issuing such statement, he has degraded his post."
Naved Hamid, National Integration Council (NC) member: "Of late, every businessman and those who have 'resources' and 'money' are coming out in support of Narendra Modi. They are doing so perhaps to safeguard their interests. If Narendra Modi is providing equal opportunities to every one, Why he is not interested in minority development schemes for minorities in Gujarat? Why instead of pushing the justice to those who suffered during the riots and killed in dubious encounters, his government is taking all efforts to bail out the culprits?"
Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette: "One may disagree with what Maulana Vastanvi said about Narendra Modi and Gujarat. But I think the situation has improved for the minorities in Gujarat and Maulana Vastanvi's observation is appropriate and good for the community in the present scenario"
TwoCircles.net has a follow-up to the TOI story in which, despite hostile reactions, the Maulana has remained consistent in his plea for moderation:
“Muslims are doing businesses here. They are getting education. There has been no violence in the last eight years. They are living peacefully in Gujarat. Now tell me my son, what should I say? Should I say Muslims are oppressed here, they are facing atrocities. If I say so, Modi will ask me where are the oppressed Muslims, and then how many such Muslims will stand behind me?
“Why should I create a controversy by saying everything is wrong in the state and nothing is good for Muslims?” he asked.
On the Gujarat riots also he reiterated his views: The riots happened eight years ago. It was wrong. It brought bad repute to the state and the country. “But what should we do now? Should we sit and weep or should we move ahead? But it does not mean the guilty should not be punished. Those involved in the riots should be punished and justice should reach the victims,” said Maulana Vastanvi who has been elected rector of Deoband after the death of Maulana Marghoobur Rahman last month.
However, on the issue of relief to riot victims, the Maulana said his complete views were not published by the paper. “As far as relief work riot is concerned, it has been carried out very well by government and people of Gujarat,” the TOI had quoted him as saying.
When TCN asked him how he can say so when several hundreds of riot victims are still reported to be living in relief camps, the Maulana said this was not his complete view. “I had also said that the victims should be rehabilitated. Houses should be built for those whose homes were looted, put on fire and destroyed,” he said.
According to the Maulana, he had also demanded release of innocent Muslim youths who have been put behind bars in terror cases but this also did not get space. There are hundreds of Muslims languishing in Gujarat jails in terror cases.