Debating India

PDF and Its’ Discontents

Thursday 7 December 2006, by ABBAS*Rizvi Syed Haider

The formation of Peoples Democratic Front under adhoc chairman Maulana Kalbe Jawad and convenor Nehaluddin-the president of All India Muslim Forum (AIMF) on May 15, 2006 at the residence of Saif Abbas has gone into rough weather even before it could take-off.

Maulana Kalbe Jawad is the Imam-e-Juma at Asifi Mosque and a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). Saif Abbas leads prayers inside Chota Imambara-built by the third king of Avadh-Muhammad Ali Shah and it be known that AIMF came into existence shortly after the demolition of Babri Masjid by the joint effort of Nehaluddin and MK Sherwani who is right now engaged as Dean faculty of Law in University of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Saif Abbas is also a cousin of Kalbe Jawad.

The desire of Muslim masses to carry Muslim leaders on their shoulders to UP Assembly House, which has 403 seats, were belied, betrayed and destroyed on May 15. Why and what happened is certainly not a very bright story. Well, it should be known that the efforts to unite all the Muslim political parties under one umbrella was first undertaken by Parcham Party Chairman Saleem Peerzada and Awami Front was formed in 2004. Peerzada is known for his sharp speeches and had to go to jail for six times during the Aligarh Muslim University Minority character campaign in 1970’s. He left India for Dubai, and thereafter, left his six-figured salary to return back and launch Parcham Party. His efforts to forge Awami Front, however, fell flat as the constituents were found flirting with different political parties before the start of national general elections of 2004. There are about 140 seats in UP which have a Muslim vote presence of over 1 lakh and that around 60 seats have Muslim presence of more than 25%. UP has 403 assembly seats-the biggest in the nation.

The outcome of 2004 saw an exit of BJP led National Democratic Alliance and a Congress led United Progressive Alliance started in office. After one year in official it was again felt that UPA too was in the same groove when it came to Muslim issues. Never for once UPA utter a word to dismiss the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat-a pass-time when Congress was in opposition before 2004, the Terrorist And Disruptive Activities Act (TADA) and Prevention Of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) Muslim victims remain the same, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, instead, gave Narendra Modi the ‘Best Chief Minister Award’….then came the betrayal on the latest AMU minority character row. Congress promised to bring a bill on it in parliament and accordingly chose to forget. The UPA government stand on ‘Prophets Cartoons’ controversy by not calling Danish foreign office in Delhi to register India’s position, a virtual dead silence of Centre over dismissing the Modi government despite Justice UC Banerjee concluding in his report that Muslims did not burn the Sabarmati Express on Feb 27, 2002, at Godhra, Gujarat and in fact, Muslims help douse the fire (started from within the train) from their community well! The event; changed everything as the Hindus killed thousands of Muslims and hundreds have been thrown into jail under POTA! The UPA government was even due to welcome Danish PM to Delhi which it has later postponed. PM Manmohan Singh let his heart renderings for the blast convict Sarabjit Singh in Pakistan but did not care for the hundreds of innocent Muslims languishing under the dreaded POTA in Gujarat! Is PM only those who are Sikhs! Or does he represents all?

Amid all the historical and recent betrayals of both Congress at Centre and Samajwadi Party CM Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP the Muslims felt a growing restlessness for their own representatives within the secular ambit. So with Awami Front already cast into dustbin who would take a plunge? Hence, Mehboob Ahmed, a septuagenarian, an Ex. President of Muslim Majlis and UP President of Majils-e-Mushawrat collected every ounce of his energy and went again to Saleem Peerzada to restart and regroup the threads again. Peerzada offered his support as a constituent but expressed unwillingness to lead owing to his experience. Mehboob Ahmed is based is Allahabad, UP

Thence, the efforts to join the shreds again started and its first meeting, on the call of Mehboob Ahmed, was held at Gulmarg Hotel, Lucknow on Aug 6, 2005. The second meet on Aug 20, 2005, the third being on Sep 6, 2005 and it was decided that a POTA Convention would be held on Sep 24, 2005 in Lucknow. The fifth meeting was held on Jan 11, 2006 and on Feb 26, 2006 a public convention was held in Mansoor Park, Allahabad under the banner of Ittehad-e-Millat. Asad-ud-Din Owasi-MP from Hyderabad was also present. A resolution passed on Feb 26, 2006 said that all the six parties would jointly fight the elections. During the seventh meeting held at AIMF UP President. Arshad Azmi’s residence on April 08, 2006 it got decided that a meeting to further work out modalities would again be held at Arshad’s place on May 13, 2006. Meanwhile, on a dharna organised by Parcham Party in the wake of recent riot in Aligarh on May 8, 2006 the scheduled meeting was postponed for May 15, 2006 as Nehaluddin cited his engagement for some viva. It may also be known that during this nine-month exercise around eight small-level meetings were also held and in one of which Maulana Khadim Husain died while in a meeting. He was UP Mushawrat Vice President.

The six parties are Momin Conference under Naim-ul-lah Ansari, Indian National League under Muhammad Sulieman, Parcham Party under Saleem Peerzada, AIMF under Nehal-ud-Din, National Loktantrik Party under Arshad Khan and the second group of NLP under Masood Ahmed and Muslim Majlis under Khalid Sabir.

It would be certainly necessary here to recount that Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari, in the meantime, too called for a representative Conference of Indian Muslims in Jama Masjid on the same lines on March 18, 2006, and thereafter, convened another meeting on May 9, 2006. This meeting was represented by 23 members from UP and six from Delhi. Those representing UP were Muhammad Sulieman, Mushtaq Ahmed Qasmi, Dr. Masood Ahmed, Javed Iqbal, Haji Muhammad Yameen, Nehaluddin, Salahuddin Khan, Naimullah Ansari, Muhammad Ismail Siddiqui, Saleem Peerzada, Dr. M. Shahid, Khalid Sabir, Hafiz-ur-Rehman, Zia-ul-Islam, Mehboob Ahmed, HR Hashmi, Wasi Siddiqui (Adv.), Prof. Tahir Beg, Khan Atif Khan, Shakeel Beg, Farhat Usmani, Zafar Iqbal and Abdul Shahid. Those who made from Delhi were Imam Ahmed Bukhari, Rahat Mehmood, Javed Habib, Anis Jamai (journalist), ZK Faizan and Nawab-ud-Din Naqshbandi.

The meeting was adjourned for June 10th, 2006 with the motive that all parties would come after a consensus from their executive bodies. Ahmed Bukhari declared that he would not take any post in the conglomerate despite many of those present on May 9, 2006 pressing him for the same. Therefore, it was found that the efforts of Mehboob had found new resonators. It was agreed by all that the meeting of May 15, 2006 in Lucknow would be for deciding broad sketches but no announcement would be made in Lucknow as that would be done formally on June 10, 2006. Maulana Kalbe Jawad was not present in Delhi on May 9, 2006.

Therefore, the focus got shifted to Lucknow as all the six party members converged on the call of Mehboob Ahmed. The presence of Imam Bukhari was also solicited but since he could not get a confirmed reservation he decided to fly to Lucknow by 5 pm. The meeting found the representatives of Joint Ulema Council, formed after the historic ‘Anti Danish Cartoon’ rally on Feb 19, 2006 as Shah Fazhir Rehman Waizi-the Imam of Tile Wali Masjid and Maulana Jehangir Alam Qasmi were present. Atif Khan of Khaqsar Al Hindi was present along with Maulana Umar Firangimahli and UP Jamat-i-Islami President Muhammad Ahmed.

The meeting was organised at Saif Abbas’s residence after the change in venue as previously decided for Nehaluddin’s residence. It formally started at 11:30 am and with a strict no to anyone from outside. At 2:00 pm yours truly came to know that press personnel were covering the show. A visit to the place was made, and later, it was found that Nehaluddin very abruptly asked the press to move out of the hall. MG correspondent was the only one to leave the place at 2: 30 pm. It was also discovered that some roadside stickers who are always glued to Kalbe Jawad were sitting inside too.

However, the eyewitness scene is worth elaborating. Mehboob Ahmed was speaking until he was asked to keep his mouth shut and he just picked up his bag and started walking out of the hall. Nehaluddin sprang from his place to request him to sit back. Mehboob had proposed that a presidium should be made consisting of all the six-presidents and a general-body of Ulemas representing all sects be made the patron of it. Mehboob was stopped to speak by Nehaluddin himself.

Muhammad Sulieman, spoke at length, and he had made it a condition that Muslim Majlis would be involved minus Khalid Sabir. Khalid was not present at the site. Sulieman made veiled reference to Ahmed Bukhari for his involvement to the support of NDA in 2004. He was followed by Saleem Peerzada who made it clear that he was not in the know of things at all. He said that a press-conference at 4:00 pm was not in the agenda served to him. He said that since all of the six-constituents were agreed upon that the formal announcement would be made on June 10, 2006 so what sentiment has called for a press conference.

Saleem Peerzada, endorsed for the name of Kalbe Jawad, as was done by all six-parties, that Kalbe Jawad be made to lead but that the declaration should come from Ahmed Bukhari. He said that a Shiite Kalbe Jawad leading from the front and upheld by a Sunnite Ahmed Bukhari would send a signal for the whole nation and that would be the biggest beginning for any Muslim political awakening since 1947. But, it was found that Nehaluddin was whispering in Saif Abbas’s ears and Saif, thence, gave the impression that Ahmed Bukhari was deliberately avoiding his landing. Saleem Peerzada, also said that the meeting is inconclusive as a personality of the stature of Zafaryab Jilani (of Babri Masjid action Committee) was not present and that the Sajjanashin of Mehrare Shareef-who are the Peers of even Aala Hazrat Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi have also not been talked to. He took a principled stand that if a press conference would get going then he would write a not of descent on it.

At this juncture there was a lunch break and Saleem Peerzada, in order to confirm Saif Abbas’s statement called Ahmed Bukhari. He learnt that Bukhari had left his place and was at Escorts Hospital to pick up Rahat Mehmood on his way to airport. Saleem Peerzada informed Kalbe Jawad about it and this created a flutter as Nehaluddin in a tearing hurry herded Kalbe Jawad and some others to the press club, Lucknow.

Some participants were deliberately left behind while the declaration for a PDF under Kalbe Jawad was made! Those who were left at the venue were Saleem Peerzada, Atif Khan, Jehangir Qasmi, Fazlur-Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Mehboob Ahmed. Most of them were not even knowing that their comrades had already left for the statement and were waiting for the second post-lunch session to begin.

The second session was evaded only because Peerzada would have made the information about Bukhari’s arrival become known. He called again to Bukhari to inform that things had already been worked out in Lucknow and this made Bukhari to freeze and he dropped his journey.

Kalbe Jawad, happily became the PDF chairman, in contravention, to his commitment to Joint Ulema Council, of which he is a member, that none of its members would take any political post. Nehaluddin, made the best use of piggyback ride on Kalbe Jawad and made him a scapegoat and soon declared that Ahmed Bukhari is welcome to lead PDF but that this train would not stop for anyone.

Nehauddin, the next morning flew to Delhi to seek audience with Bukhari which the latter refused. By this time the damage had been done. Bukhari, however, did not let the opportunity go and came to Lucknow on May 17, 2006 and held closed-door talks with Kalbe Jawad and Fazlur Rehman at the VIP Guest House. Bukhari insisted that the new front would come on June 10, 2006 and that Nehaluddin and Sulieman should be first expelled and Kalbe Jawad should also come down. Kalbe Jawad said that he would let Bukhari know his answer by May 20, 2006. Kalbe Jawad, instead organised a PDF meet at his residence on May 20, 2006 and it was resolved that the meeting of June 10, 2006 would be boycotted. PDF is now planning to organise its first rally on May 22, 2006 in Padrauna followed by a conference in early June.

PDF now is made of INL, AIMF and NLP, MC as active members. All are yet to open a political account in their names. After ten years both Arshad Khan and Masood Ahmed of NLP got divided and do not see eye to eye. INL has virtually no presence in UP despite being a national party. MC is even hardly known in UP and AIMF is still to make any beginning.

Nehaluddin has emerged as a chief architect of PDF. AIMF, however, under him, is a strange combination as it may be known that he went to Zanzibar University about six years to earn a living after launching AIMF and now his lieutenant MK Sherwani is there. AIMF has a presence in Lucknow, as professed by themselves, but that has to be put into proper perspective now. During the 2004 general elections AIMF candidate against PM AB Vajpayee got 4000 votes, alright, but one independent candidate Aftab Qureshi, in a run-up to mayoral post in 1995 had died during the campaign and he ended up getting more than 5000 votes even after he had died!

The exercise of formation of any front in UP is not new. Muslim National Front was made in 1980 after the fall of Janta Party of 1977. It was formed under President Zulfiqar-ul-Lah an Ex. MP from Muslim Majlis and who was a former Central Minister for State for Finance. Then, Milli Jamhoori Muhaz came into existence in 1995 under Indian Union Muslim League MP GM Banatwala, Muslim Majlis and All India Ittehadul Muslimeen and nothing worthwhile was achieved.

PDF, however, was the opportunity after the POTA victimisation, Sep 11 fallout, Gujarat massacre and Danish cartoon controversy and its formation, by virtue of a division and conflict has killed the longings of Muslim aspirations in UP. It is true that all the six-parties can hardly vouch for any alternative right now but a consolidated show might have turned the fortunes in Muslim favour.

A tailpiece may be worth it. Sometime before the start of a race some sprinters in anxiety and exasperation make a start even before the trigger. They are then made to assemble again by the referee and run as per rules. Now all eyes are turned for the outcome of June 10, 2006.

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