Anti-corruption leader Anna Hazare sent his closest aides — Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal — to reach out to some prominent Muslims for support, but the two emissaries only faced a barrage of pointed questions from a “circumspect” community.
Late on Monday night, Bedi slipped out of the protest venue to reach Delhi’s Jama Masjid. She pressed Shahi Imam (chief cleric) Syed Ahmed Bukhari to address the crowds at Ramlila ground, which he declined.
Bukhari demanded that Hazare seek the arrest of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for his alleged role in the 2002 riots and put that as a condition before the government if he wanted Muslims’ support.
Earlier, Bedi, along with Kejriwal, met top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. The Jamaat's leaders said they viewed Hazare’s methods to install a powerful graft-busting agency as “undermining the Constitution”.
All-India Imams’ Organisation chief Umer Illyasi too slammed the movement, while influential seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, in a separate statement, called upon Muslims to “preserve India’s democratic institutions and Parliament”.
A majority of Muslims are watching the ongoing protest cautiously from the sidelines. Many bitterly recall a similar uprising in the late ’70s — led by socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan — which was widely supported by Muslims.
However, the Nayaran-led movement is seen serving as a springboard for the rise of many present-day Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, who are blamed for demolition of the 16th-century Babri mosque.
Muslims leaders have also cited open support by RSS to the Hazare movement as a reason to dissociate themselves.
In talks stretching post-midnight, Bedi sought to dispel the notion that the anti-corruption movement was being run by the “machinations of RSS”, Bukhari told HT. Bedi could not be reached for comments.
One of Bukhari's aides, Anis Jamaee, asked Bedi: “Why did Hazare not condemn the Gujarat riots? We have never heard him talk about communalism. This affects the country's unity.”