At Dariba Kala, an alley in Delhi’s old quarters, restaurateur Hafiz Ghulam is volunteering to deliver 100 boxes of frugal iftaar meals to Ramlila Ground, McDonald’s-style. Each contains a sandwich, one banana and two dates stacked unevenly.
Anti-corruption leader Anna Hazare’s movement may be overwhelming, but Muslims were few and far between in this uprising. “During his fast in April, Anna shared stage with Hindu fundamentalists, with people chanting Vande Mataram. This put us off,” says Maulana Umer Illyasi, head of the All-India Imams’ Organisation. That may now be changing.
Mufti Noorullah Yusuf Zai, the chief imam of Guna, Madhya Pradesh, is headed for Delhi’s ground zero. On board a Delhi-bound train are several fellow imams.
In Delhi’s Okhla, a Muslim suburb, an all-metal pickup is being decorated, with “Jai Hind” (Victory to India) scribbled all over. The organisers, a clutch of Muslim students, are avoiding, “Vande Mataram”, the signature slogan of the movement.
As the uprising spreads, Muslims are slowly shedding their aloofness. But they have found their own imagery and language to articulate support.
“Jai Hind is better,” says Mohd. Yusuf, a student of Jamia Millia Islamia, a minority university. Muslims shun uttering “Vande Mataram” since -- as a “prayer” said to one’s motherland — it is seen going against a key article of their faith: monotheism.
Muslim leaders are watching cautiously. “Opportunistic elements are trying to ride to power on an Anna wave like they did on the Jaya Prakash Narayan bandwagon in 1977,” Manzoor Alam of the Milli Council wrote in the website ‘twocircles.net’
But young Muslims don’t seem to share this cynicism. At 7 pm, as a mellifluous azaan wafts from a mosque abutting the Delhi Stock Exchange — just outside Ramlila Ground — Team Anna temporarily suspends the protest proceedings.
It’s time for the mass iftaar, a pointer to how Muslims are joining in. When the iftaar was inaugurated on Saturday, an 11-year-old girl in a white headscarf offered Anna to partake of her platter. Hazare refused with a smile. The time to end his fast had not yet come.