A Pakistani cleric travelled to a restricted stretch of the international border in Rajasthan, the state government has clarified, a visit that opposition parties said was aimed at garnering political mileage for chief minister Vasundhara Raje even though it was a threat to national security.
Peer Syed Taj Hussain Shah Jilani visited the Barmer district between Feb 26 and Mar 6 and spoke at four public rallies, where he exhorted thousands of local Muslims to support chief minister Vasundhara Raje in all her endeavours.
Jilani hails from Sangra in Pakistan and was in India on a visitor’s visa. Jilani got special permission from the Central government to travel to border areas because he wanted to visit the families of some relatives who were either sick or dead.
HT has photographs of Jilani’s meetings in Barmer. In one of them he had thanked Raje for helping him get a visa.­
The government’s statement came on June 17 in a reply to BSP legislator Manoj Kumar who had raised the issue in state assembly last month. The home department’s reply was quiet on whether Jilani held meetings or not, only saying that he did not have any permission to hold any public rally. His visa allowed him to travel to Jaipur and some specific villages, including Derasar, Gardiya and Sehlau.
The Opposition Congress said the meetings by Jilani not only violated the Foreigners’ Act but also pointed to the government’s cavalier attitude towards national security.
The Foreigners (protected areas) Act, 1958, classifies the international border in the state as a protected area and says a foreign national was not to be normally allowed to visit a protected/restricted area until it is established to the satisfaction of the government that there are extraordinary reasons to justify such visits.
Earlier, former minority affairs minister Amin Khan and Congress state president Sachin Pilot had opposed Jilani’s visit, saying the trip violated his visa norms and his presence in Barmer was a “matter of national security”.
Congress district vice president Yagyadutt Joshi said the state government had ignored norms to ensure political mileage out of Jilani’s visit. Such exceptions are never made for other people living in the border areas, Joshi said.