A known critic of Narendra Modi, Syed Zafar Mahmood today presented a slide show, touching upon various aspects of problems being faced by Muslims and the 2002 riots, in front of the Gujarat Chief Minister and said he was happy that his views were taken in stride.
Mr Mahmood made the presentation at Young Indian Leaders Conclave where Mr Modi remained closeted for a day with 150 young participants at the event organised by Citizen of Accountable Governance. Out of the 150 participants, around 30 were from the minority community.
After the presentation, Mr Modi told Mr Mahmood, “It is very good you said all that and I’ll consider it”.
To a question on whether Mr Modi was reaching out to various sections of the society to get higher acceptance, Mr Mahmood told PTI, “Yes, you are very right. I think that was the very purpose of inviting me. And, my first impulse was ‘Sorry, I would not be able to come.’ But then I thought a lot about it.”
“… Better go and meet him. Tell him what are the perceptions of the Muslim community of India. What are the complaints of the Muslim community with the BJP? Why is the Muslim community heavy-hearted with BJP and Modi?” he said.
“And I’m very happy. My presentation was taken in stride. And very, very attentively, he (Modi) and the rest of the audience looked at it, heard it. And, I’m sure it has trickled down all of them. I’m sure it will have a good effect on the conscience of the country,” Mr Mahmood said.
In his presentation, Mr Mahmood highlighted the plight of the victims displaced by the 2002 riots, who are now residing in Dhorajinagar and Citizen Nagar on the outskirts of the city.
He said 200 families, rehabilitated with the help of local Muslim philanthropists, are residing at the foothill of a one-kilometre long and 50-feet-high heap of trash dumped there from all over the city.
Mr Mahmood, who was the Officer on Special Duty (OSD) on Sachar Committee, told Mr Modi that it would be appreciated if the latter pays a visit to Citizen Nagar and Dhorajinagar localities.
Besides raising issues like BJP’s view on Sachar Committee, anti-Muslim articles on BJP’s official website and creating a special cadre for Waqf board, Mr Mahmood said the central scholarship for minorities was not implemented in Gujarat even though it was adopted by BJP governments in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
In his reply to a question on the reaction of Mr Modi, who was recently elevated as the head of BJP’s election campaign committee, Mr Mahmood said, “I think the reaction was better than expected”.
“It is very good you said all that and I will consider it. We have come to know the points raised by you. I and my companions in the party will consider it,” Mr Mahmood quoted Mr Modi as saying.
Asked whether this was a new beginning, he said, “I’m pretty sure. Because, in my knowledge, there has never been an occasion where BJP and its stalwarts have been challenged by any representative of the Muslim community at the national level”.
Meanwhile, Zafar Sareshwala, a critic-turned-admirer of Mr Modi, said this was the first time the latter listened since he took over the reins of Gujarat.
“The issue is, for us, that he had to talk. But was there somebody to listen to us? The biggest thing was in pin drop silence, Modi listened to him (Syed Zafar Mahmood),” Mr Sareshwala told.
“When Modi came to speak, he said Zafar sahab, I acknowledge what you said. There was no opposition (from Modi). I think the way it was said (by Modi) and the resentment, it was not as if Modi was brought in. These are our genuine concerns,” he said.
“I have been in this field. I have fought with governments but I don’t remember somebody would have brought out so plainly like Mahmood and to the man (Modi) himself,” Mr Sareshwala said.