New Delhi: Members of various sects, educationists and socio-political leaders from the Muslim community attended a group meeting organised by the Ministry of Minority Affairs on the Supreme Court's Ayodhya verdict expected before November 17.
The meeting is seen as part of efforts by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the BJP to reach out to the Muslim community and send out a message of peace and harmony.
The Muslim community members, who attended the meeting at the residence of Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, received an invite that did not clarify a specific agenda. Those in attendance included members of the Shia and Sunni sects, the Deobandi and the Sufis.
The 75-member delegation interacted with Naqvi, RSS 'Sah Sarkaryavah' Krishna Gopal, Akhil Bhartiya 'Sah Sampark' Pramukh Ramlal and former Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain. The RSS leaders urged them to keep all channels of communication open with them.
The discussion in the two-hour meeting centred around strengthening the fabric of social harmony, brotherhood and unity in the country, and not making provocative statements in the run-up to the highly anticipated verdict and the situation after it.
Both the Muslim and RSS leaders present at the meeting emphasised that "unity in diversity" is their cultural commitment — it is the collective responsibility of all sections of the society to protect this strength of unity.
Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor on Monday had issued a statement to his students and teaching faculty on showing respect for the Ayodhya verdict. "I was called for the group meeting and I think its important that all communication channels remain open," he said on Tuesday. "Dialogue is important for democracy. Ahead of the verdict, I issued a statement to my students on showing respect and maturity. I repeated the same thing here."
"A historic dialogue was held today in which Muslim intellectuals and clerics participated. At the meeting, it was stressed that all efforts should be made to strengthen the unity and brotherhood in the country under all circumstances," Naqvi told reporters after the meeting.
"Kahin par bhi jeet ka junooni jashn aur haar ka hahakaari hungama nahin hona chahiye, usse bachna chahiye (Nowhere, the verdict should be excessively celebrated as a victory, nor there should be a brouhaha over the defeat. We should completely avoid this)," he said.
Naqvi later took to Twitter to describe the meeting as "very constructive and fruitful".
"Intellectuals, religious leaders, academicians from Muslim community expressed commitment to strengthen fabric of social harmony, brotherhood, unity under any circumstances and defeat forces who want to disturb harmony and peace," he said.
Meeting of prominent people from religious, social, educational fields of Muslim community was organized at my residence in New Delhi in which all prominent people & intellectuals emphasized on strengthening the fabric of social harmony, brotherhood and unity in the country. pic.twitter.com/JeVFMEzs0o— Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (@naqvimukhtar) November 5, 2019
Shahnawaz Hussain said it was unanimously agreed at the meeting that the Supreme Court verdict will be acceptable to all.
"This verdict will strengthen the country. A message of unity has gone out with today's meeting. This dialogue (between the RSS leaders and Muslims) that has started will not stop and meetings between the Sangh representatives and the Muslim community will continue in future as well," he said.
Akhtarul Wasey, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, said, "The group meeting had people from all orientations. It was a mixed gathering of educationists, social political leaders, Deobandis, Sufis and Shias. There is no harm in holding discussions as we are all committed to the spirit of Hindustan. In a democracy, dialogue is very important."
Wasey said that Muslims who attended the meeting have committed to respecting the apex court's verdict. "Our commitment is not to any political party but the Constitution and Hindustan," he added.
Asserting that inclusivity has been India's tradition, Krishna Gopal was quoted as saying at the meeting that in the entire history of the RSS, none of its chiefs have ever uttered a single word against the Muslim community.
RSS leader Ramlal was quoted as saying that despite different religions, the mindset should be "nation first". The entire community should not be blamed for the act of a single person belonging to a particular community, he said, adding, "A statement from a person should not been seen as a statement of an entire organisation."
Others who attended were Lucknow-based cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind General Secretary Maulana Mahmood Madani, former MP and editor of 'Nai Duniya' Shahid Siddiqui, Anjuman Ajmer Sharif President Syyed Moinuddin Chishti, Justice (retired) Zakiullah, filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, and Maulana Athar Dehlavi. Dehlavi is the chairman of the Anjuman Minhaje Rasool, an Islamic organisation working for peace and communal harmony.
Jawad told reporters after the meeting it was decided that appeals should be made that the verdict should be respected by all. "Those who win should not get overexcited and the same goes for those who end up on the losing side. It should not be seen as victory or defeat," he said.
It was also suggested that another meeting should take place, which should include other Hindu groups such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, he said.
Filmmaker and artist Muzaffar Ali said, "Today the economics of the country is so bad, if things go wrong and the people enter into any kind of communal disturbance, the economy will be very badly shattered."
"It is a very good initiative, dialogue is very important," he said, hailing Naqvi's initiative.
The Supreme Court is expected to give its ruling in the emotive and politically-sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case before November 17 as Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is heading the Constitution bench in the matter, demits office that day.
(With inputs from PTI)