The 22nd general body meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) ended with an ultimatum to the UPA government to amend some provisions of the RTE Act which will deny minorities their right to establish and run religious and educational institutions.
Speakers, first at different sessions at the Haj House and later at a huge public meeting at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, asserted that the board will force the government to amend the Right to Education Act (RTE), scrap the direct taxes code bill and bring changes in the wakf amendment bill 2010.
‘‘Taxing places of worship was tantamount to interference in the religious affairs of all communities. The Bill will affect not just mosques and dargahs, but places of worship of all religions and this is unacceptable,” said Abdur Rahim Qureishi, assistant general secretary of AIMPLB. “The Right To Education Act dilutes the provisions given in Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution that permits minorities to set up and run their institutions. Though we welcome the Supreme Court’s validation of the act that exempts unaided private institutions from reserving 25% seats for the economically weak, there are several loopholes in the act that deprives minorities from imparting education to their children,” added Abdul Rahim Qureshi.
With 400 delegates from across the country participating in discussions on the mechanism to fight lacunae in different Acts like RTE, direct tax code bill, Wakf Amendment Act 2010, the three-day convention was held in Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Center (MMERC), Mumbai. It culminated in a public meeting at Azad Maidan on April 22. Senior members of the board, including its president Maulana Rabey Hassan Nadvi, were clear that the government, through different Acts and bills, was trying to “interfere in Muslim laws”. One of the board members, Masoom Moradabadi, suggested that the board must work for reforms in Muslim society to prevent killing of daughters like, innocent Afreen of Bangalore.
The Right to Education Act (RTE) is an alarm call for the existence of madrasas and private schools. Similarly, the Direct Taxes Code is a bid by the government to impose tax on masjids, temples, churches and gurdawaras, and charitable trusts or organizations which are working for any religious community.
In the first session, two detailed speeches were delivered. Maulana Shahid Moyeen Qasmi gave a speech on “Suicide: A futile attempt and its remedies” in the light of Quran and Hadith and Maulana Mudassir Ahmad Qasmi spoke out on, “Proposed divorce bill in Maharashtra and Muslims” in detail. Maulana said, “If this bill is passed, adherents of every religion will get affected and Indian culture and eastern civilization will be immobilized. As far as Muslims are concerned, it is totally unacceptable for them as it is against the Qur’an and Sunnah”.
The second session, ‘Protect Constitutional Rights Movement’ was initiated by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). The key participants comprised leading ulama and intellectuals of the city such as Mufti Azizur Rahman Fatehpuri, Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi, Maulana Syed Athar Ali, Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi and Maulana Abdul Bar Al-Ansari.
The resolution passed said that “It is our constitutional right to live in the country with full freedom of religion, and the Acts like RTE is just a conspiracy to shut down our madrasas. The new Waqf Bill is an inauspicious effort to grab our Waqf property. And to deprive women of inheritance in farm lands and to give half property to divorced women is against Islamic laws and Direct Taxes Code is illogical and anti-religion.”
Muslim leaders were unequivocal that all these bills are totally unacceptable and any sort of bill which affects the fundamental rights of freedom of religion would be rejected by all means.
Many Muslims are apprehensive about the current approach of the AIMPLB. After the post Babri Masjid demotion riots, AIMPLB had then declared publicly that they will shift their strategy from mass mobilization to legal avenues, so that political parties do not get an opportunity to use the agitation of AIMPLB to polarize the masses. Now the question arises, why another shift in strategy. There are legal avenues still open for the AIMPLB. General elections are due in 2014, political parties will exploit the mass movement of AIMPLB to raise the bogey of Muslim appeasement and vitiate the communal harmony across India.
The office bearers of AIMPLB should discuss every possible consequence of launching a mass movement when general elections are just two years away. There are advantages of building up public pressure, but not at the cost of thousands of innocent lives which are lost when communal atmosphere is polarized by vested interests.