Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fw: [nrindians] Deoband at the crossroads

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Deoband at the crossroads
July 29, 2011 11:08:03 PM

M Burhanuddin Qasmi

Was Maulana Vastanvi's removal only for his alleged pro-Modi remarks? Saturday Special presents evidence that there was more to it than meets the eye

Darul Uloom Deoband is much more than a mere madarsa. It is a pile of history, a movement, an ideology itself; and mother of thousands of madarsas in the Indian sub-continent. Deoband is India's pride, a heritage; and it is nobody's monopoly. The power battle between Maulana Syed Arshad Madni and Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi should not shake Deoband.

Maulana Mohammad Qasim Nanautavi (1832-1879), the founder of Darul Uloom (house of knowledge) at Deoband, later on outlined the purpose of establishing the institution in the following words: "The English have perpetrated boundless acts of tyranny against the Muslims for their fault, if at all it was a fault, of the uprising in 1857 and their relentless endeavour for the independence of this country thereafter. They have left no stone unturned to plunder and obliterate the Islamic arts and sciences, Muslim culture and civilisation. Endowments of Muslim educational institutions have been confiscated and as a result state funded schools have been virtually closed. It is therefore necessary to adopt other methods instead of relying upon the old system of endowments."

Deoband believes in inclusive nationhood, promotes patriotism and seeks equal justice. However, it is orthodox in following Islam in letter and spirit. After 1915, when Mohandas Gandhi returned from South Africa and with the help of the moderate group led by Ghokhale became president of the Indian National Congress, he formed an alliance with the Khilafat Movement and Deoband scholars-led Jamiatul Ansar - which later reformed as Jamiat Ulama-e Hind in 1919 to avoid a ban by the British Raj in 1913.

Since then, the Deoband scholars have had a strong political bonding with the Congress and it continued as late as 1990s — before the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. During the pre-Independence era, when most 'modern' educated Muslims were trapped into the idea of nationhood based on religion — as articulated by Jinnah — Deoband scholars posed strong opposition. They unequivocally quoted from Islamic scriptures to prove that nationhood had nothing to do with religion. Rather, it has as its basis the idea one's birthplace and the sense of homeliness. They proclaimed Hindus and Muslim are one nation (qaum) and debated vigorously for composite nationalism, thus rejecting Jinnah's two-nation theory.

The first political comments in January by the nascent vice-chancellor or mohtamim of Darul Uloom, the 'liberal' Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, favouring Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would be a hard nut to digest for Deoband and her alumni; let alone giving a clean-cheat to Mr Modi or praising him. This author has also opposed his "statement" at that stage itself and it was printed in national newspapers. The basis of our opposition was that his statement angered Muslims across the globe. Moreover, in post-independent India, Deoband had shaped itself into an apolitical educational institute. The newly-appointed VC's amateurish media gimmick was quite uncalled for and caused unease in academic circles.

By July 23, our apprehensions got vindicated when the 'reformist' Maulana Vastanvi lost his battle in the face of some strong lobbying by Maulana Syed Arshad Madni and his supporters. Freedom of expression is a basic right in India — everybody knows it, but even iconic figures like Vastanvi should not have lost sight of the relationship between that right and responsibility. Maulana Vastanvi may have his personal likes and dislikes. But when he speaks as the Mohtamim of Darul Uloom Deoband, it mattered for many in India and abroad.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that there is more to Maulana Vastanvi's un-ceremonial removal from office than what meets the eye. His hurried dismissal was mired in a conspiracy by a certain interested class in Deoband and Delhi as the inflammatory coverage by certain Delhi-based Urdu newspapers following his appointment as Mohtamim of Darul Uloom bears out. Since the Congress top brass have almost unchecked intimacy with Vastanvi's arch rival, Maulana Arshad Madni, the long-handedness of the Congress cannot be overlooked. It, obviously, would be in the interest of the ruling party to keep Darul Uloom as her usual support bastion by ousting a person who could challenge absolute hegemony at any point of time — not to forget poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.

It is noteworthy that Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi was elected by the high-level committee (Majlish-e Shoora) as VC of Darul Uloom on January 10, 2011 by a majority, even though voting was not common trends in the previous occasions in the history of the institute. Out of 18 members, 14 were present, Vastanvi secured eight votes while four favoured Maulana Arshad Madni and two voted for Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi. Till that day, Maulana Vastanvi and Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, Lok Sabha member and president of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), were on top of the Arshad Madni fraction of Jamiat Ulama-e Hind.

Vastanvi's alleged Modi remark erupted just after his return from Deoband to Gujarat within days of his election. He was forced to call for an emergency meet of the Shoora committee on February 23. By then Maulana Ajmal was unconstitutionally sacked as president of the Assam State Jamiat by Maulana Arshad Madni — even though the State was election bound. Obviously it was an outburst against voting against the diktat. On February 23, the Shoora appointed a three-member sub-committee with Mufti Ismail of Malegaon as coordinator. Its term of reference was to investigate his alleged pro-Modi views with the context and submit a comprehensive report in the next Shoora meet.

To everyone's surprise, the next day Maulana Arshad Madni appeared before the media and mocked the Shoora decision. He announced: "He (Vastanvi) has got to go whether or not the three-member committee's findings favour him." He further emphasised, "he has (already) gone" and that the formation of a fact-finding committee was only a formality. Isn't this evidence enough that the decision on Vastanvi was taken by an extra judicial party and that too before the matter was put up for trial? The three-member probe committee had found nothing conclusive against Vastanvi. It is no secret that two of the three members, including the coordinator, stood with Vastanvi till the last day.

To say the least, no one is a saint in this mucky battle. Mufti Abul Qasim Banarasi, the new vice-chancellor appointed on July 23, is a good choice. He has a good academic and non-controversial carrier to his merit. Let us hope for a better and peaceful educational campus under his leadership. The nation's heritage, Deoband, must stand tall against all odds.

-- The writer is is editor of Eastern Crescent

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