Warning against the use of religion to divide people for electoral gains, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday made a forceful plea for curbing this "dangerous practice" which is used by politicians frequently.
Recalling the sage advice of the late Maulana Syed Asad Madani, a prominent Muslim leader associated with the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, who asked people to refrain from encouraging religious hatred and enmity, Singh said this "tolerant and open-minded approach" was linked to the country's prosperity.
"Through the Sachar Committee report and the Ministry of Minority Affairs, we want to address the issues which Maulana Madani had raised during his lifetime. The themes he discussed and the measures the government has been taking now are based on equality, justice and fair play," the PM stated.
He was speaking at an international seminar on the life and contributions of Maulana Madani where he released a book containing the parliamentary speeches of the leader who was a Rajya Sabha member. Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly of Pakistan Maulana Fazalur Rahman and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury were present among the large gathering of Islamic clerics
Describing the Maulana as an ardent nationalist, humanist and a great advocate of secularism, Singh said in doing so he remained at the forefront of the movement against religious fundamentalism, bigotry and terrorism.
He also recalled that the Jamiat leader wanted a full discussion on the Gopal Singh's report to understand the real social and economic condition of Muslims in India. The Maulana had also raised the demand for a separate ministry for removing the backwardness of Muslims, he said.
Fazalur Rahman told the gathering that while he was credited for having made a beginning towards starting the process of restoring Indo-Pak ties, it was actually Maulana Madani who took the first initiative in this direction.
He wanted to lead a delegation of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind and other Indian Muslims leaders to Pakistan for starting a people-to-people dialogue for improving relations between the nations. He was unable to do this as conditions in Pakistan were not conducive for such a visit at that point of time and he himself came to India for the purpose, Rahman recalled.
The small beginnings made at that time have finally led to a situation today when matters have significantly improved between India and Pak and the nations must strive further to bring peace and stability in the region, he asserted.