June 29: Muslim community leaders have begun discussing the possibility of engaging with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and other religious and social groups feel a need to apprise the Prime Minister of the community’s concerns and hope to make a “new beginning” with him.
Privately, many personal law board members say they have drawn comfort from Modi’s insistence that he is the Prime Minister of all 125 crore Indians and from his statements on inclusive growth. They feel the community should not remain a “prisoner to the past”.
Some prominent community leaders, who do not wish to be identified at the moment, told The Telegraph they were informally in touch with the Prime Minister’s Office.
Both Modi and the Muslim leaders are said to be looking for an appropriate time and forum for a formal meeting.
So far, relations between Modi and the Muslim community have remained strained though the BJP feels it did win some minority votes this general election from Uttar Pradesh (particularly Lucknow), Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and some other states.
Zafar Sareshwala, an Ahmedabad-based businessman, has been a notable Modi supporter claiming “the Gujarat model” is an inclusive one.
Most personal law board members lack Sareshwala’s optimism but feel that the Prime Minister’s attention needs to be drawn to the community’s problems.
The “wish list” is long. Apart from a general demand for security, jobs and equal opportunities, the community leaders want better management of wakf boards and properties.
Under UPA rule, there had been a demand for an all-India wakf service on the ground that not many senior IAS officers were available to head the state wakf boards.
The Central Wakf Act states that only senior IAS officers can be appointed as chief executive officers of state wakf boards. The demand for an all-India wakf service has found support in the Sachar Committee report and in the joint parliamentary committee on wakfs.
Some community leaders want a 1950 presidential order amended to make the Scheduled Caste status religion-neutral. Under existing rules, a Dalit loses his Scheduled Caste status and forfeits all the attendant benefits once he converts to Islam or Christianity.
Personal law board members also want the Modi government to consider villages and urban wards — rather than districts or blocks — as the units for the planning of development schemes. They say central development schemes for Muslim-concentration districts have not reached the targeted beneficiaries.
Some personal law board members also want the Centre’s help in speeding up social reforms. They want to set up a fund and a trust to help destitute Muslim women divorcees.