Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the Lucknow-based Muslim seminary Nadvatul Ulama was actually intended to reach out to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a powerful body often said to be the first stop for political parties seeking to court the country’s largest minority.
Gandhi met the seminary’s patriarch Rabe Hasan Nadvi, who heads not just the personal law board — that interprets Shariah law —but is also a key governing member of the influential Darul Uloom Deoband, the seat of Sunni Islam in India.
The board has called a rally on December 17 to flag off key concerns. According to sources, the senior cleric raised two key demands. One was to exempt madrassas from the Right to Education Act. The other demand could be tricky: modifying the finance ministry’s proposed Direct Tax Code.
The new tax regime proposes to only partially exempt religious institutions from the tax net. Madrassas will not be liable to pay taxes only for money actually spent. Their stockpile of unused cash would be taxed.
Rabe’s first plea seems to have already moved the Congress. A team led by party general secretary Digvijaya Singh took the plea to PM on Monday.
The board is said to be against making an issue of the alleged “harassment of Muslims” by security agencies, an indication that it doesn’t want to make it tough for Congress in UP.