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Mushawarat Splits
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

The All-India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat formally split on 8 July. After the election of Syed Shahabuddin as president a section of the Mushawarat headed by the outgoing president Maulana Salim Qasimi accompanied with several former office-bearers had opposed his election and questioned the whole process of the election. On 8 July this faction, headed by Maulana Qasimi, formally split the Majlis and chose its office-bearers. Maulana Salim Qasimi, rector of the Darul Uloom Waqf (Deoband), has been elected president of this group. The worst thing for the community is that there are no signs in sight to believe that these two factions are going to unite in the near future. Syed Shahabuddin’s press conference and statement issued two days later confirmed the attitude of the other group.

The two groups, one headed by the outgoing president, and the other headed by the newly elected president Syed Shahabuddin, are on a collision course. No one is ready to listen to the other’s arguments. The camp headed by the outgoing president has alleged that the Jama'at-e-Islami has hijacked Mushawarat.

It is an irony that the forum that came into existence as a common platform of different Muslim organizations and schools of thought is on the brink of collapse. The AIMMM was formed at a meting held on 7-8 August 1964 at Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow, with the sole objective of bringing together the leaders of different schools of thought, organizations and institutions, in order to strive for the solutions of different problems the community was facing in the country. 

It also aimed to create communal harmony in the country. Several prominent leaders came together forgetting their differences in order to bring the community together. Prominent among those who played a decisive role to set up this platform were Maulana Muhammad Muslim, Dr Syed Mahmood, Mufti Ateequr Rahman Usmani, Maulana Abul Lais Islahi, Maulana Syed Asad Madani, Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadawi.

The AIMMM has the representation of more than a dozen organizations and institutions that include Jama'at-e-Islami Hind, Indian Union Muslim League, Milli Jamiatul Ulama Hind, All India Muslim Majlis, All India Shia Conference, All India Bohra Jama'at, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Imarat-e Sharia Bihar & Orissa, Hamdard Education Foundation, Madaris-e Islami Council etc.

The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat was formed after the infamous Jabalpur riots to protect Muslims in the length and breadth of the country. It did a splendid job in raising different important issues and served its purpose well. It captured everyone’s attention as a forum representing Indian Muslims. When there was a campaign to brand Muslims in several parts of the country as ‘infiltrators’ it did a great deal of work in protecting innocent Muslims and fought their case with great devotion. It also helped in rehabilitating Muslims after riots in several parts of the country. Its efforts for the Babri Masjid cannot be neglected. The community and media came to accept it as the main Muslim body representing the second majority community of the country. 

The Mushawarat inherited Muslim organizations’ tendency to lose steam after some time. But this is the first occasion in 34 year-long history of the Mushawarat when the rift has become so open and decisive. The leaders of both the factions are claiming that they are the ‘true’ Majlis and their elections alone are fair and conducted as per the constitution of the Mushawarat. Maulana Shafi Munis, general secretary in the outgoing Majlis and now vice president of the Shahbuddin faction told The Milli Gazette that their elections were absolutely according to the traditions of the Mushawarat and there was no irregularity. He added that everyone was informed on time and so there was no irregularity in the election process of the AIMMM. He denied the allegations that the Jama'at-e-Islami Hind is trying to hijack the Mushawarat. ‘We have always tried to rejuvenate it at every possible occasions.’ he said. He added that as per law Ahmad Rasheed Shervani was nominated the returning officer to oversee the election process and everything was done as per law.

Speaking to The Milli Gazette Ahmad Rasheed Shervani said that everything was done as per the rules of Mushawarat. ‘We did not violate anything,’ he asserted. Shervani added that Syed Shahabuddin and Maulana Shafi Munis had asked him to conduct the elections of the Mushawarat. ‘I was not ready to accept it but due to their insistence I accepted this responsibility,’ he said. Asked why the results were announced before time, he said that they were announced on time. He added that nothing was violated. (Some reliable sources claim that the results were actually not announced but leaked out.) 

Shervani added that the allegations that Shahubuddin’s election as resident is void, does not hold any ground as out of eight nominations, seven nominations were in his favour. So his election could never be called illegal or void. He said that the people who are now opposing the elections, themselves participated in the election process. He disclosed that Syed Ahmad Hashmi (now vice president in the Qasimi faction) who is now opposing the election of Shahabuddin had himself nominated Shahabuddin for the president’s post! He also said that Ahmad Ali Qasimi (general secretary in the Qasimi faction) received nomination papers and informed him about it, but as he failed to make it to any post he is opposing the new elections. 

Asked about the functioning of the outgoing president of the Mushawarat, Shervani said that when Maulana Qasimi was elected president of the AIMMM in the last elections, he was in the US. He refused to come to India. After much persuasion he returned but was not ready to accept the post. He accepted the post at last, but rarely showed any interest in its functioning. He rarely attended meetings of the AIMMM and whenever we sent cheques for his signatures, he returned the cheques without signing them. Shervani questioned why such a person who rarely showed any interest in the workings of the forum is now active in nullifying a lawfully elected president and other office bearers of the forum.

Maulana Fuzail Qasimi of the Markazi Jamiatul Ulama is also opposing the election of Shahabuddin and others. He said that the elections were not conducted fairly. Talking to the Milli Gazette the Maulana said that the general secretary has no right to hold elections without the approval of the governing body. Without the approval of the president and the governing council, the general secretary nominated Rashid Shervani its returning officer. What merit he has to be appointed as returning officer, Maulana questioned. His only merit is that he is anti-ulama, he added. Maulana Fuzail told us that the last date of nomination was 3 June, but most people received the nomination papers after the date had expired. Why on earth the general secretary and the returning officer were in such a great hurry? They ensured that the nomination papers reach their people on time, but did not care about other people. He claimed that we have held the Jama'at-e-Islami in great esteem. But they have ensured that our assessment was wrong. He questioned: who will ratify the new office bearers of the Shahbuddin faction, sitting members or the new occupants themselves? He added that we would have accepted the election of Shahabuddin on 18 June as the elections were due to be held on that day. But they made undue haste to ensure the election of people of their choice.

Both the groups are insisting that they are the true Mushawarat. With the election of the Maulana Salim Qasimi as the president of the breakaway group all the hopes of reuniting Mushawarat have died down. The participation of 62 members out of 82 representatives of the Mushawarat in the meeting of 8 July has strengthened the Qasimi group’s claim that they are the real Mushawarat. But the claim of the Shahabuddin faction to attract a number of prominent people cannot be overlooked.

Whatever the final outcome, this episode has further served to strengthen a perception that the Muslim leadership in this country can go to any length for the sake of slightest personal benefit. The war to possess a dead elephant cannot be seen as an effort to rejuvenate it. It is a personal war of a group with vested interests against the other with similar malady.

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