Muslim clerics at Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s huge conclave in Deoband on Tuesday moved as many as 24 resolutions but experts say they typically sidestepped reforms.
As Rajya Sabha member and Jamiat leader Mahmood Madni warms up to the Congress, the Jamiat’s support to UPA policies have been partial and qualified. The Jamiat dismissed the Centre’s plan for a central madrassa board but instead asked for more minority schools with non-religious curriculum.
With regional parties like Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal on the slide, the Jamiat is seen as a natural electoral option for the Congress.
When the Jamiat split into two factions, there was a feeling that the one led by Madni was moving away from the Congress.
“As Madni’s stature grows, there seems to be a concerted effort to wean it back. Therefore, Chidambaram (home minister) and I-T minister Sachin Pilot made it to the conclave,” Arshad Alam, assistant professor at the Centre of Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia.
Madni is now eyeing bigger roles, possibly a back-channel dialogue with Naxalites to get them to the talks table. And he has the seal of the influential Darul Uloom seminary.
The clergy could well have their next posterboy in Madni, who got Chidambaram to Deoband, but experts doubt if Jamiat’s social priorities were correct.
“Raising symbolic, non-substantive issues is the hallmark of not only the Muslim clergy, but also Muslim political leadership. There is no larger debate on how these will materially benefit Muslims,” Alam said.
The Jamiat has again demanded Muslim reservation, implementation of the Sachar panel recommendations in full, tabling of the Liberhan Commission report and also opposed the women’s reservation bill, apart from calling for freeing Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan from foreign occupation.
“Not surprising,” said DU historian Mahesh Rangarajan. “The Deobandis have played a key role in freedom movement but they did so from a conservative platform,” he added. “Their commitment to a unified national polity cannot be questioned. But their social agenda is questionable. Unfortunately, the home minister has given them more credence by going to Deoband.”