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Modi govt reaches out to minorities

Ajit Doval with the members of All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council delegation

As part of the Prime Minister’s outreach to the minorities two crucial meetings were separately held with delegations of Christian and Muslim representatives on Tuesday.

The PM himself chaired a meeting with Catholic prelates to get a first-hand knowledge of their problems while Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi held another meeting with a delegation of 20 religious leaders associated with the All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC).

Significantly, the Sufi council delegation had met the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Monday to discuss the current threats posed to peace and harmony in the country by radical forces. The developments are a sequel to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s address at Aligarh Muslim University recently, emphasizing on inclusivity, and exhorting Muslims to play a major role to build a “new India” which is “self-reliant”.

After the meeting with the PM, Cardinal George Alanchery, the Malankara Syrian Church's Archbishop, Cardinal Baselious Mar Cleemus and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mumbai's Cardinal Archbishop Oswald Gracias said at a media briefing that the discussion was encouraging and that they were given a patient hearing.

Cardinal Cleemus said the heads had apprised PM Modi about the discrepancies in the distribution of scholarships for minority students emphasizing that Christian students were getting only 20 per cent of the minority scholarship amount, while another minority community was garnering the rest. On the basis of the proportion in the population, they felt the community should get at least 41 per cent of the allocation.

The controversy about ‘love jihad’ too figured during the talks. Contrary to the position adopted by a section, the delegation conveyed to the Prime Minister its concern over several Christian girls getting converted to Islam after marrying Muslim youths. They went on to cite the case of three Christian girls, who converted after marriage, and have gone to IS territory in Afghanistan and Syria. The community was deeply worried over this trend.

Meanwhile, in tandem with the PM’s meet with Cardinals, a delegation of 20 religious leaders associated with the All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC) called on Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi the same day. Describing the meeting as “positive”, the Minister, said, they discussed “various issues related to the Waqf, Haj, dargahs."

Naqvi said, "the delegation had expressed confidence in the Modi Government's resolve for inclusive development of all the deprived sections of society." He added, “the Modi Government is dedicated to the empowerment and respect for all sections of society.

Socio-economic-educational development of all sections of society has been ensured without any discrimination. At the same time Waqf properties from Kashmir to Kanyakumari will be protected to allow them to fund the construction of schools, colleges, hospitals, social harmony forums, ITI, Skill Development Centres, etc. so that they can be properly utilised in the social, economic and educational progress of society."

The AISSC Chairman Syed Naseeruddin Chishti, said, “the AlSSC insisted on using Waqf properties for fair means and making Waqf laws more effective so that dargahs and Waqf properties can be kept out of disputes."

A letter too was handed over to the Minister specifying their demands, said the Chairman. "This letter says that there is a need for some amendment in the Waqf Act and whenever a committee is formed to amend it, Sajjadanashins of the dargahs should be given due representation in it and what positions in the Sajjadanashins they hold shall be clearly specified."

The delegation under the leadership of Hazrath Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, Ajmer Sharif, described almost all the dargahs in India as national integration centres and highlighted the pivotal role played by them in promotion of peace and integration throughout the world, especially in India. Airing similar sentiments, the NSA appreciated the important role played by the Muslims in nation building, the concurred with them on the vital role played by the dargahs.

The Dewan highlighted that the radical forces were gaining strength because of the negligence of Sajjada Nasheens and Sufi culture while Syed Naseeruddin Chisti, suggested creation of an All India Dargah Board and appointing a Minister of State for Dargah Affairs.

The group unanimously took the stand to fight together those people and organisations trying to destroy the spirit of unity and integrity of the nation, symbolized by the Tricolour.

(With inputs from IANS)