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In I-Day speech, Modi remembers freedom fighters of all religions, day after Owaisi challenge

AIMIM chief Owaisi had said at a public meeting Sunday that he hoped the names of Muslim freedom fighters would find mention in the prime minister's Independence Day address.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech remembered the contributions of freedom fighters and revolutionaries of all religions, including Ashfaqulla Khan and Begum Hazrat Mahal.

This comes a day after All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that he was unsure about whether the names of Ashfaqulla Khan and other Muslim freedom fighters would find mention in the PM’s speech marking 75 years of independence.

Speaking at a public meeting Sunday, Owaisi had said that Muslims made an equal contribution to the freedom struggle, but their names were never mentioned among those of freedom fighters. The Hyderabad MP had said that he hoped PM Modi would include in his speech the names of Ashfaqulla Khan and other Muslims who fought the British.

“The nation is grateful to Mangal Pandey, Tatya Tope, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil and our innumerable revolutionaries who shook the foundation of British rule,” Modi said Monday, while addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

He added, “Every Indian is filled with pride when they remember the strength of Indian women, be it Rani Laxmibai, Jhalkaribai, Chennamma, or Begum Hazrat Mahal.”

Ashfaqulla Khan, along with fellow freedom fighter Ram Prasad Bismil, had founded the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) with an aim to secure independence for India through armed revolution.

A poet with communist sympathies, Khan was among those arrested for the August 1925 armed robbery that took place on board the Kakori Express. He was sentenced to death in April 1927.

Apart from Ashfaqulla Khan, Modi also mentioned Begum Hazrat Mahal in his Independence Day address. The second wife of Wajid Ali Shah — the last nawab of Awadh — she is believed to have played a crucial role in the revolt of 1857 against the East India Company.

Also Read: Karnataka govt drops Nehru’s photo in its Independence Day ad paying tribute to freedom fighters

Muslim outreach 

Mention of Muslim freedom fighters and revolutionaries in the PM’s speech also came at a time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making efforts to reach out to Muslims and other minorities as advised by Modi at the BJP’s national executive in Hyderabad in July.

The PM’s remarks were viewed as a direction for party colleagues to seek the support of Pasmandas. Both the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have been trying to make inroads into underprivileged sections among non-Hindus, including Pasmandas or OBC Muslims.

In an interview to ThePrint last month, the RSS’s Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh (media and publicity chief) Sunil Ambekar had said that the RSS has been reaching out to all sections of society, irrespective of religion and caste, for years.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat too had, in a speech in June, said that there was no need to “escalate the conflict” between Hindus and Muslims.

Speaking in the aftermath of the row over claims of a ‘shivling’ being found in Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque, he had said: “There is no need to see a shivling in every mosque. They (the Muslims) have a different way of worship but they belong here. Their ancestors were Hindus. We have no opposition to anybody else’s way of worship.”

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: ‘Running out of khadi to stitch’: Meerut flagmaker’s legacy thrives despite ‘poly’ revolution


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