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L'Affaire Deoband

Pakistan's Jamiat-ul-Islami chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman's mysterious visit to India is said to be to ensure that nobody in Deoband deviates from the policy of opposing Mr Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat

L'Affaire Deoband

The Lucknow correspondent of Rediff.com has reported as follows on February 17, 2011: 

" The two-day India visit by Islamic hardliner and Pakistan's Jamiat-ul-Islami chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is believed to be aimed at reinforcing the anti-Vastanvi forces at the Darul-Uloom Deoband seminary in Uttar Pradesh , where the recently appointed vice chancellor Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi had drawn much flak for praising Narendra Modi's governance in Gujarat.

"Ostensibly, Rehman was in Deoband and New Delhi earlier this week to broker peace between the two warring factions of Indian Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind led by rival Madnis -- uncle Arshad Madni and nephew Mahmood.

"However, informed sources at Deoband suspect that the Pakistani cleric's 'real intent behind bringing the Madnis together was to strengthen the anti-Vastanvi lobby.'

"Vastanvi's fate is to be decided at a meeting of Deoband's 'Majlis-e-Shoora', the highest decision making body of the institution on February 23.

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In this connection, a reference to my article, The Maulana's Intriguing Visit, of  July 23,2003, when the Maulana had come on a visit to India would be useful. The Maulana continues to be close to the Pakistan People's Party. He has toned down his pro-bin Laden and anti-US rhetoric. His party is a member of the ruling coalition in Islamabad though there were recent reports of its having quit the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani due to differences over portfolios. It is not a member of the new Cabinet formed by Mr.Gilani on February 11.

The Maulana, who has now come to India, is a sobered man compared to the Maulana of July 2003. Thus, one cannot find fault with the decision of the government of India to issue a visa to him. Even the government of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had issued him a visa. So did the government of Narasimha Rao.

Recently, Mr Gilani has been quoted in the Pakistani media as having talked of a religious solution to the crisis relating to the arrest and prosecution of Raymond Davis, a member of the staff of the US Consulate-General in Lahore, who allegedly shot to death two Pakistanis who were mysteriously following him on a motor-byke on January 27. A religious solution apparently meant Davis apologising to the families of the deceased and paying them a compensation in return for which the families would pardon him and tell the court they do not want him to be prosecuted. Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been in Pakistasn to find a way out.

One would have expected the Maulana to play an important role in this. Instead of staying on in Pakistan during Mr John Kerry's visit he has come away to India, reportedly to lend a helping hand in sorting out the differences in Deoband and to ensure that nobody in Deoband deviates from the policy of opposing Shri Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat. This would show that L'Affaire Deoband has greater importance in his eyes than L'Affaire Davis. 

B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

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