It has been five days since the Central Government announced a five-year ban on the Islamic organisation Popular Front of India (PFI). While many Muslim organisations and political parties heavily condemned the ban, interestingly, there has been a stoic silence from Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, one of India’s oldest Muslim organisations.
This is not the first time that the Jamiat has remained a mute spectator to atrocities against the minority community. According to an article in The Hindu their exists a soft proximity against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central Government has been observed.
The ‘wedding’ no one saw it coming
According to an article from the Hindustan Times, the Narendra Modi-led government consulted major Muslim organizations before taking the PFI move. On September 17, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met major Muslim organisations, including those representing Deobandi, Barelvi and Sufi sects of Islam, on September 17 to ensure they were on board.
In the meeting, the Muslim outfits were clear that the PFI was supporting radical sentiments and actions. They wanted the organisation to be banned. It was only after the meeting did the raids occur.
On September 21 the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat shocked many when he met Muslim intellectuals (some of them were against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in 2019) and discussed recent controversies, including the Gyanvapi mosque row. They discussed ways to strengthen religious inclusivity in the country. He then went on to visit a mosque and a madrasa, a move that no one anticipated.
No one can deny there is an anti-Muslim wave looming in the country. Recent electoral data suggests that Muslims may tilt the balance in the Lok Sabha elections due in 2024 if their vote is not divided. Therefore, there is an urgent need to confuse and try to divide the Muslim voter.
Hence, Bhagwant’s visits can be termed as an olive branch to the Muslim community, particularly the middle-class.
Jamiat’s impassive silence on every anti-Muslim decision
When the nationwide PFI raids and arrests were being conducted by central agencies – National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED) – along with the state police, the Jamiat released a statement stating, “We are neither with them nor against them. Let the law take its own course.”
Soon after the five-year ban was announced, Jamiat’s president Maulana Shahabuddin Razvi Barelvi released a video statement on September 28 favouring the government. He also asked Indian Muslims to stay away from PFI.
“PFI has always worked against Islam’s principles and encouraged terror organisations. We welcome the decision to ban PFI by the Indian Government. Decision the right step to curb terrorism,” he said.
While the Jamiat’s decision to steer clear of PFI is understandable, the lack of any stance on a myriad of Muslim issues has brought up if at all, the organisation cares about Muslim rights.
Last month the Uttar Pradesh government began conducting a survey of private madrassas across the state seeking information, including their source of funding.
The decision was opposed by many but what came as a surprise was the subtle support of Jamiat who told PTI, “Nobody has any objection if the government wants to conduct a survey of private madrassas but care should be taken so that it doesn’t interfere in their internal matters.”
However, this statement came days after Jamiat held a meeting in New Delhi where various heads of madrasas participated regarding the UP government’s decision. In the meeting, the Jamiat described the survey as “evil intention”. But then they did a U-turn, stunning everyone.
Similarly, in December 2019, when the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed by the Parliament, the Jamiat initially extended its full support assuring Indian Muslims ‘not to worry’.
However, as the matter went out of hand with several organisations including students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, politicians, and intellectuals heavily opposing the bill, Jamiat again made a U-turn and supported all those who were against the Bill.
Turn with the tide
Ever since independence, the Jamiat has always supported the Indian National Congress. However, its recent proximity to the right-wing nationalist BJP party is an interesting observation. The Hindu spoke to a Jamiat member who said on condition of anonymity, “It is true the Jamiat was close to Congress, but where is the Congress today? It is an existential compromise. If a fish has to stay in water, it cannot fight the crocodile there.”