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PM Modi’s Muslim friend says ‘communal monster’ will come back to haunt BJP

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Businessman Zafar Sareshwala says Muslims aren’t responding to provocation & will focus on education.

New Delhi: A prominent Muslim businessman and educationist known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has warned that a section of the BJP is fanning communal sentiments and “creating a monster” and this would come back to haunt it.

“If people see that lynching is acceptable, they will not stop at Muslims…they will not see whether someone is a Hindu, old, a man or woman,” said Zafar Sareshwala, former vice-chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.

File image of Zafar Sareshwala | Facebook

“If you, say, don’t want us to slaughter buffalo, we (Muslims) will stop doing it…We won’t die of hunger if we don’t eat ghosht (meat),” he said. “But what will happen to your own beef exports then? Six out of ten in the trade are Hindus. What will happen to them?” he said in a telephone interview to ThePrint from Mumbai.

Also read: In judiciary-executive tussle, it’s now up to people to fight mob lynching

Asked if the BJP leadership, including the prime minister, emboldens communal elements by making provocative statements during elections, the former vice-chancellor said, “I don’t believe anything politicians say in election rallies…If they say they love Muslims in an election rally, will we buy it? Then why do we so readily buy the provocative statements?” he asked.

There are elements in the BJP that want to provoke the Muslim community, he said, adding that his only message to his community is that they will lose the plot if they get provoked.

‘Muslims not responding to concerted efforts to provoke them’  

Sareshwala, who has been a rare outspoken Muslim supporter of the Prime Minister since 2003, when Modi was Gujarat chief minister, said Muslims are deliberately not responding to the concerted attempts to provoke them.

“There is a silent churning within the community…We are like Arjuna in the Mahabharata… You bring in uniform civil code, you build the Ram mandir, we won’t get bogged down or react. Our only focus is education,” Sareshwala, a Gujarati businessman, said.

“I tell people from my community, ‘don’t run after parties that don’t give you tickets. Work hard and get selected in competitive exams like the UPSC instead’…That is in our hands,” said Sareshwala, who argued that Muslims must have a share in power. “We do this for 15-20 years, they (political parties) will come running to offer us tickets.”

In 2015, Sareshwala started a countrywide campaign, Taleem ki Taqat (Power of Education), among university-going sections of the Muslim community. “The idea was that our community should understand that education is key; everything else will follow,” he said.

‘BJP’s top leadership not communal’

On engaging with the BJP, Sareshwala said that the party’s top leadership was not communal but added that he was “worried” about the communal disharmony in the country. “I meet several of the ministers and they are all worried about what is happening.”

“It is important to keep the engagement on… Look at what the RSS is saying about Muslims today,” he said, explaining that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s message of inclusiveness is the result of engagement and not provocation.

Also read: Deoras to Bhagwat: The evolution of RSS view on Muslims over the last 70 years

“Now, you cannot expect the RSS to start abusing Hegdewar and Golwalkar, but they are saying what they are saying now,” he said, referring to Bhagwat’s speeches at a three-day conclave in the national capital last week.

At the event, Bhagwat said, “Hindu Rashtra does not mean it has no place for Muslims. The day it is said that Muslims are unwanted here, the concept of Hindutva will cease to exist”.

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  1. Zafar Sareshwala’s “focus on education” is praiseworthy, but I do not think he has the license to speak on behalf of the entire Muslim community when he says,

    “…There is a silent churning within the community…We are like Arjuna in the Mahabharata… You bring in uniform civil code, you build the Ram mandir, we won’t get bogged down or react…”

    The problem for Zafar S. is that he has so closely identified himself with Mr Modi in the past that an average Muslim would look on him as a mole of the BJP. The above quoted text might be the thinking among his business community, but I doubt if an average Muslim would endorse it. In fact he might boo him angrily.

    On one point I would personally disagree with Zafar S. when he claims that the top BJP leadership is not communal. If they weren’t, then what was the need for “silently” endorsing the lynchings? Have they furthered their goal of establishing Hindutva by doing so, or shot themselves in the foot? If there is ONE factor that has brought together the entire opposition and nonviolence loving Hindus who constitute the majority, it is this — lynching of the poor, helpless humans, Muslims and Dalits. If the leaders weren’t communal, would the footsoldiers have the courage to do these?

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