The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind is set for a high-powered annual conclave on November 3 in Deoband with several key Congress heavyweights on board.
After roping in home minister P Chidambaram and IT minister Sachin Pilot, apart from renewable energy minister Farooq Abdullah, efforts are on to get Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmihan Singh to visit Deoband.
The leaders will address half a million clerics converging on Islamic seminary Darul Uloom, the seat of the influential Deobandi sect of Muslims in UP’s Deoband.
Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind— that opposed the two-nation theory and led Muslims in the freedom struggle — is an influential organisation of Muslim clerics owing allegiance to Darul Uloom.
The move is being viewed as politically significant, as the Congress seeks to strengthen its hold in Uttar Pradesh.
Nearly 10,000 clerics affiliated to Madrassa Rabaita Hind or Indian Association of Madrassas are set to discuss the Centre’s proposal for a central madrasa board at the meet.
Darul Uloom had been resisting the board, saying it would end the autonomy of over 1,000 Islamic schools it runs.
Darul is now amenable to discussing it after Jamiat leader Mahmood Madani pushed for open discussions. “We should discuss the issue rather than shy away from it,” he told HT.
A large section of clerics, especially the Barelvi sect of Muslims, has now favoured the board. “We should try the board out. Let it be set up. If it curbs autonomy of our institutions, we can always opt out,” Yaseen Akhtar Misbahi, chief of the Darul Qalam, the frontal organisation of the Barelvi sect, said.
The Barelvi sect was founded in UP’s Bareilly by cleric Ahmed Raza Khan Bareilvi. Though also a Sunni sect like Deobandis, Deoband commands greater influence in political matters.
In a deft political move, Madani, a Rashtriya Lok Dal MP, has got on board key UPA ministers to allay Muslim fears on the issue and initiate a dialogue, a signal of his tilt towards the Congress. Madani however denied this, saying: “Such issues concern the interests of the community. It is not about politics.”