Lucknow, March 23: Strident anti-Muslim remarks by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia during his four-day Uttar Pradesh tour have set alarm bells clanging in the Mayavati government.
Based on police reports that Togadia’s visit to communally sensitive eastern Uttar Pradesh could aggravate the situation, the chief minister today banned his entry into Gorakhpur. But an unfazed VHP international general secretary continued to embarrass Mayavati from Lucknow, demanding a ban on leading Islamic educational institutions like Deoband.
“It is not a coincidence that Maulana Azhar Masood, a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, and Maulana Hussain Umarji, the prime accused in the Godhra massacre, were the products of Deoband. Why have Deoband leaders not condemned these terrorists and issued fatwa to launch jihad against them'” he asked.
Deoband — a premier institution of Islamic learning in the Saharanpur district — and madarsas run by it were Togadia’s principal targets at the controversial Trishul Diksha function in Hardoi also.
The Trishul Diksha programme, with Bajrang Dal activists displaying the trident in a symbolic gesture of belligerence, has evoked little enthusiasm in Uttar Pradesh so far. But the tone and tenor of Togadia’s campaign unnerved Mayavati’s Muslim supporters, who prompted her to stop the VHP leader from going to Gorakhpur to preside over another Trishul Diksha ceremony on Sunday.
Gorakhpur district officials said the decision was taken in view of the prevailing tension in the city, where curfew was clamped on Wednesday following communal clashes that left three persons dead. BSP sources, however, claimed that it was a warning to Togadia.
“Mayavati not only wants to distance herself from the rabble-rousers of the Hindutva brigade but also give them a clear message that any attempt to fish in troubled waters would be sternly dealt with,” said a Muslim minister of her Cabinet.
By banning Togadia’s entry in Gorakhpur, Mayavati may have managed to mollify her Muslim supporters, but rival parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Congress have accused her of inaction in the face of his inflammatory speeches. “The government should ban Trishul Diksha programmes and arrest Togadia under the anti-terror law,” demanded Samajwadi state general secretary Shiv Pal Singh Yadav.
The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have also joined the protest and accused the chief minister of giving tacit support to the VHP and other RSS associates.
“Such provocative statements are bound to inflame communal frenzy and the RSS seems to be working to a plan,” said NCP general secretary Ramesh Dixit. “Non-Muslim youths in RSS training camps are being brain-washed these days to create hatred against madarsas,” he added.
Togadia’s remarks against the Deoband school and its madarsas have evoked strong protest from Muslim intellectuals and clerics. “Darul Uloom, Deoband’s 150 years history is an open book. This institution never indulged in any act of treason against the country and the nation; rather, it gave birth to men of character who lit the torch of learning throughout the world,” said Mufti Mohammad Salman Mansoorpuri.
There was nothing in the syllabus being taught in Darul Uloom, Deoband, and other Islamic madarsas that preaches hatred or intolerance or incites against followers of other religions,” he insisted.
Professor Nisar Ahmed of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema — an affiliate of the Deoband school — decried attempts to link madarsas with militancy as motivated and mischievous. “How can you blame a university for the criminal act of one student'” he asked, pointing out that the Deoband school had played a key role in India’s freedom movement.