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BJP eyes Muslim locality for water plant
By Obaid Nasir, Lucknow

The BJP govt. of Uttar Pradesh, particularly its Urban Development Minister Lalji Tandon who is known as the right hand man of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his constituency Lucknow, did a great service to the Muslim community by uniting Shias and Sunnis by his mischievous decision to construct a sewage treatment plant in the Muslim-dominated locality of Sajjad Bagh in Daulatganj ward of old Lucknow.

Young Shia ‘alim Maulana Kalbe Jawwad championing the cause of the hapless Muslims of the locality whose houses were to be pulled down for the construction of the proposed plant raised his voice against this plot. Soon he was joined by Maulana Fazlur Rahman Waizi, Imam of the historical Teele Wali Masjid as well as All India Muslim Forum president Mr. Nehaluddin and its general secretary Prof. MK Shervani

This huge project costing Rs 276 crores is to be financed by the central government and is aimed at cleaning the Gomti water and making it potable as about 3 million-strong population of this city depends upon river Gomti for its drinking water. The project is good and in public interest but the site is objectionable as thousands of Muslim families will be displaced and the poisonous gas of the plant will always be a health hazard for the the densely populated locality already living in sub-human conditions due to their very low income.

The entire Muslim population of the state capital was up in arms against the mischievous decision of the government. Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, Maulana Waizi, Mr. Nehaluddin and Mr. Shervani addressed highly successful public meetings in the mixed Muslim locality of Husainabad and Akbari Gate. The third meeting held in purely Sunni-dominated locality of Maulviganj was attended by more than 20,000 people and pledged not to allow the construction of the plant, come what may. The gathering was continuously raising the slogans of Allaho Akbar and Ya Ali.

Maulana Kalbe Jawwad warned the district administration not to take any decision in haste and wait for the reply of the fax message he has sent to the prime minister. The PMO, however, acted swiftly and asked the administration to postpone the construction work. Lalji Tandon was summoned to Manali by the Prime Minister to discuss the issue, even though the BJP gave an impression that he has been summoned to discuss the Rajya Sabha seat vacated by Chief Minister Rajnath Singh.

Speaking to MG Maulana Kalbe Jawwad said ‘We are not opposed to the plant but the way it is going to be constructed, particularly its site. It could have been set up somewhere else. But Tandon, who himself belongs to old Lucknow, is deliberately doing all this in order to appease his voters as he knows very well that he is never going to get Muslim votes there. That is why he is zeroing on a Muslim locality. Can he construct the plant in New Hyderabad locality? Is he not aware of the poisonous gas that will emanate once the plant is operative?’

Muslims quote many incidens to buttress their claim that they are discriminated against and this becomes more marked whenever elections are round the corner. ‘The BJP cracks its whip on the minorities whenever elections are in the offing. Recently anti-encroachment drive was carried out in Muslim localities of Thakurganj and Khadra where shops and houses belonging to majority community were not touched. The plant is part of the same gameplan. Does Tandon consider this city as his fiefdom?’ asks Nehaluddin, president of AIMF.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman Waizi said that in Delhi the Supreme Court has ordered removing diesel buses to save the public from the poisonous fumes emanated by buses and here in Lucknow the BJP wants to convert the Muslim locality into a poisonous gas chamber. This will not be tolerated and we will bring this fight to its logical end. The BJP has provided us a historical opportunity where Imams of Teele Wali Masjid (he himself) and of Asifi Masjid (Maulana Kalbe Jawwad) have joined hands to solve the problems of the community. (Both the historical mosques face each other).

The most important aspect of this fight is that the political parties were kept at bay. Though Maulana Waizi's sympathy with Samajvadi Party is well known but when one prominent leader reached the meeting place he was politely refused the chance to address the meeting.

The matter was, however, raised in the upper house (Legislative Council) by former minister and SP's state vice president Mr. Bhagavti Singh. Leader of the opposition (SP), Ahmad Hasan, and leader of the house, Lalji Tandon, entered into a verbal duel on the issue. Both the leaders were so excited while putting forward their points that one of the members suggested to the chair to summon a doctor so that the blood pressure of both the leaders could be kept normal to avoid any sad eventuality.

In his reply Lalji Tandon observed that the plant was ‘necessary’ to provide potable water to Lucknowites as the polluted water of Gomti was a threat to health and the government was determined to instal this plant to save their lives. He said that Sajjadbagh was agricultural land and the houses constructed on it were illegal, but even then the government was ready to provide them compensation and alternative site for accommodation. He said that only ten houses were being affected and there is no mosque, temple, graveyard or Imambara on the land. This was disputed by Mr. Ahmad Hasan and other members belonging to the opposition.
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