Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray lauded Diwan Zainul Abedin Ali Khan of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti dargah in Ajmer for showing courage in opposing the visit by Pakistan Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf to the shrine Saturday.
"With his patriotic fervour and love of the country, the diwan has shown that he is a real "jewel" of the country and should be conferred the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour," Thackeray said in an editorial in party newspaper Saamana here Monday.
Hailing Diwan Khan for his "bold, noble and humane" step, Thackeray said that he (the Diwan) must have rightly felt that conducting religious ceremonies for the Pakistani leader would be tantamount to insulting the memory of the Indian soldiers who were brutalised by Pakistani army recently.
"In sharp contrast, India's external affairs minister spared no efforts in giving a red carpet welcome to Ashraf, and even threw a royal banquet in his honour," Thackeray said.
He said that after Ashraf's departure, people cleaned the roads from where the Pakistani prime minister had travelled in Ajmer, and Muslims joined wholeheartedly in the clean-up.
The Sena chief said that the diwan's move comes as an "eye-opener" and "trend-setter" to the government as well as radical Muslims in the country.
Thackeray sarcastically said that if Pakistan confers its highest civilian honour, Nishaan-E-Pakistan on Indians who praise them, India could reciprocate the gesture.
"Then, why not honour the diwan with Bharat Ratna after he went against the tide and adopted a tough stance against the Pakistani leader? This would serve as an inspiration to and instill courage even among the ordinary Indian Muslims," Thackeray declared.
As the diwan of the 800-year old Sufi shrine in Ajmer boycotted Ashraf's private visit, priests at the dargah declined a donation from the visiting leader.
However, Ashraf, his wife Nusrat and a 20-member team accompanying the couple were offered basic courtesies, and offered the traditional headgear. The offering of a velvet "chadar" and floral tributes at the mausoleum by Ashraf were also accepted.