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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Whither Milli Council 
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Mohtasib tasbeeh ke daane par yehi ginta raha
kisne pi, kisne na pi, kis kis ke aage jaam tha 
(The high priest just counted on the rosary beads 
Who drank, who did not, and who had the cuppa before him). 

This is how the national annual convention of All India Milli Council (AIMC) held at Dehradun during May 28-29 could be summarised.

The ‘Town Hall’ of Dehradun witnessed an assembly of about 150 members out of a total of 251 members of the general council of AIMC, in addition to around 350 “special invitees” from all over the country. The reason: to make some self-praising noises as the organisation claims to have “achieved” the grand task of stalling National Democratic Alliance from retaining power at the Centre, disregarding the role played by other Muslim and secular forces in the country.

Accolades over the “successful transfer” of Muslim votes in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were received with three cheers and the gathering was told how the Muslim front in AP was helped by AIMC and, how Abdul Raheem Quraishi, Maulana Aqil Husami and Maulana Sulaiman Sikandar had appealed in favour of the Congress and had made rounds of the entire state canvassing for the support of the Congress-led front and in some constituencies to Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen.

Citing the nearly 100 per cent success rate, representatives from AP issued a certificate of satisfaction for the response they received from Muslims masses. The first session was presided over by Ibrahim Sulaiman Saith.

After, the first session, there was a surprise too as Suryakant Dhasmana, president of Nationalist Congress Party (Pawar) in Uttranchal gave a small ‘at home’ on May 28. This was joined by Uttranchal Chief Minister Narayan Dutt Tiwari. Suryakant Dhasmana had also addressed the audience and confessed to have lost his elections in a single night as Milli Council had issued an appeal in favour of his opposite candidate. Dhasmana claimed that he was on the verge of victory but lost after the issuance of AIMC appeal! 

Why did AIMC chose the distant hills where there is virtually no media presence? Did AIMC want to skip media glare? Why was there no full-fledged press conference after the two-sessions. These are questions which still need an answer. However, All India Muslims Front (AIMF) president MK Sherwani is unmoved by AIMC cuddling in the hills. He says that "these people are nothing but a great band of monopolists who are members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), AIMC, Deeni Talimi Council etc etc and like actors on stage don different mascots to deal with different issues from different platforms. They are a strange interchangeable flock mastering the art of Man tura haji bagoyam/ Tu mura haji bago (I call you Haji and in return you too call me Haji)", he said. 

Those who put up their presence from Lucknow were Maulana Sajjad Nomani, Zunnoon Nomani, Zafaryab Jilani and Mohammad Aslam. Kanpur co-ordinates were Dr. Naim Hamid and Mohammad Sulaiman. Abdul Khaliq from Faizabad, Qamar Alam Advocate from Etah, Naseem Advocate from Muradabad, Zafar Ali Khan from Aligarh, Gulzar Qasmi from Meerut and Yaseen Ali Usmani from Badaun.

After the two sessions a public-meeting was held in Dhaki, Usmanpura, 27 kms away from Dehradun. It was presided by Maulana Nizamuddin and was attended by about 25,000 people including around 1500 women as well. The function continued until 2 am on May 29, 2004.

Yaseen Ali Usmani took the occasion to enthuse confidence amongst Muslims on the ‘no-leadership’ issue. He said this was just to an RSS ploy to inferioritise Muslims that they lack a leadership of their own and that they are educationally backward. He asked, do Hindus have a single leader? He referred to the presence of the respected Muslim personalities and asked if they were not leaders then where and who were the leaders? Usmani ridiculed the myth of educational backwardness amongst Muslims by claiming that within 15 days our madrassas get filled but in government schools we are discriminated against and this discrimination is what has led to educational backwardness amongst Muslims.

Maulana Sajjad Nomani emphasied on the greater need of strengthening of people with secular bonds and while Rashid Masud, Samajwadi MP from Saharanpur, demanded that secularism be defined in clear terms because there are countless of examples of secularists aligning with communal forces and vice-versa before the elections. Rashid Masud asked AIMC to come up with an objective policy on this issue.

The accountability session painted a beautiful picture of AIMC. People could not answer why in UP, which has the highest number of both legislative and parliamentary seats, only 11 Muslims managed to win out of 80 parliamentary seats and nine ended up at the second position missing elections by very thin margins. 

"Does Milli Council maintain an office in Lucknow where one can get hold of any data bank/analysis of constituency-wise configuration," asked Sibte Hasan of Citizens’ Voice for Social Justice. Surprisingly, AIMC does not have any such office in Lucknow, the state capital of the most politically volatile state in India.
Interestingly, out of many resolutions passed at Dehradun, AIMC also passed a resolution to go for the cadre-building at the grassroots level and also to take up the legal cases of hundreds of Zahira Sheikhs languishing for justice after the riots in Gujrat 2002 left them penniless and even shelterless, and decided to cooperate with Teesta Setalvad in Mumbai in the Zahira Sheikh case.

The few demands put forward by AIMC after the Dehradun congregation concern the uplift of Muslims, establishing an Urdu academy in Uttranchal, appointment of Urdu teachers and Urdu translators and withdrawal of ban on Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) which was banned under Unlawful Activities Act on Sept. 21, 2001.

AIMC failed to elect new office-bearers amid allegations that the incumbent secretary general tried to lobby for an extension and went to the extent of issuing fake membership cards to some local people to vote for him. 

Big-mouthed AIMC’s helplessness is clear to all when UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav allocates Rs 6500 million for scholarships for Backward Castes and forgets Sunni and Shia Waqf Board employees who are fending for themselves without salaries since the last two years! This is despite Muslims voting 70 percent in favour of SP according to the survey of Centre for Study of Developing Studies (CSDS) published in The Hindu on May 20, 2004. We may hear more of AIMC demands during its next meeting to be held on June 27 at Lucknow. 
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