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UTTAR PRADESH

Cartoons: Spontaneous rage? Look at drama, well-scripted

Tuesday 21 February 2006, by SHARMA*Aman

Minister Qureshi says he will repeat it all over India

MEERUT, FEBRUARY 20 Inspecting a new stage erected outside his residence in Meerut’s Gola Kuan, Uttar Pradesh Minister for Haj and Minority Welfare, Haji Yakoob Qureshi, tells his aides he needs a loudspeaker too. ??I have a sore throat now. Every hour, a massive procession of people comes here to show their support. They say lakhs will fill up the jails if a criminal case is lodged against me. We want the Danish cartoonist’s head-let the Denmark PM give him death sentence, we will give Rs 51 crore to the PM,’’ Qureshi says.

He is sitting back and watching how his statement on the cartoonist plays out in UP politics. The Friday statement, which has received overwhelming support from his party colleagues, was not a spontaneous outburst, it was part of a well thought-out script. Qureshi had planned the rally and all roads led to the Faiz-e-Azam college grounds on February 17 after the Friday prayers got over. Carrying banners, black flags and scores of effigies, nearly five lakh people, in over 100 demonstrations, converged there.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (Meerut Range) R K Vishwakarma says the police’s Intelligence Wing had ??prior information of the massive rally.’’ The police say the demonstrators carried the flags and effigies first to the mosques and then to the college ground. ??They all knew of the rally-only the announcement was new for them,’’ says an officer. But Qureshi, the convener of the rally, had planned that too in advance. ??Large crowds of people came to my residence last Wednesday saying the Muslim community needs to do something to avenge the insult of Islam. Through consultations, it was decided to announce the reward plus weighing in gold the person who executes the cartoonist. Someone had to lead them, so I organised the rally,’’ Qureshi told The Indian Express. ??It was no rush of blood. I was only the voice of lakhs of Muslims who wanted this reward to happen. I am willing to resign from my seat but will not retract the statement. Why should anyone have an objection to the statement? Have I said something against any Indian? No one except the BJP leaders are complaining-all of Meerut, including the Hindus, is supporting me. Where have people been incited to spread violence? Anyone having an objection is anti-Islam,’’ Quershi says.

For the moment, he is keeping away from Lucknow. He was supposed to attend the Vidhan Parishad today as a question had been asked in the House on the money spent on Haj houses. But the House was told that Qureshi had sent a letter saying that he was not well and was suffering from high blood pressure. Qureshi, who was elected from Kharkhauda on a BSP ticket but switched sides after the formation of the SP-led coalition government, is enjoying all the attention. ??You can see the people converging here every hour. I ignite a new movement when I repeat the announcement to these people every hour,’’ Quershi says.

His Samajvadi Party, which is hoping that the volatile cocktail of the cartoon issue and the Iran vote will lead to a Muslim consolidation in its favour in UP, has officially made the token statements but the tone has been cautious. While Amar Singh has termed his statement as irresponsible, Chief Minister and party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav said he only agreed with ??Qureshi’s anger’’ and was not in the know of the proposed announcement.

Qureshi, whose family runs a chain of slaughter houses in western UP, knows he’s on a safe wicket. ??I am not lone, the people are with me. I don’t care for political support in this matter; the stage from which the statement was made was not a political one. I can sacrifice my ministership and even my life for Islam,’’ he says. He’s planned the next step: A massive rally on March 1 at Meerut’s Ram Lila grounds. ??After that, I will leave for a countrywide tour to publicise the reward announcement,’’ he says.

See online : The Indian Express

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