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

Mulayam’s Muslim appeasement backfires
By Masood Hasan

Lucknow: Succumbing to the pressure mounted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Uttar Pradesh Government headed by Mulayam SinghYadav has withdrawn the controversial Government Order (GO), making it compulsory for all Government-run or aided schools and colleges to end classes by 12 noon on Fridays. This GO was issued in the third week of February with the intention to woo Muslims in view of the Lok Sabha elections and to enable the Muslim students and teachers to offer Friday day (namaz-e-Juma) prayer. 

The Chief Minister admitted the mistake as a ruckus was created in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. The BJP members rose from their seats demanding that Mulayam Singh Yadav should come to the House and clarify the government's stand on the controversial GO. 

An amended order was issued on February 20 authorising the disrict magistrates to use their discretion in ordering the institutions to close at 12 noon for Friday prayer.

Even the Muslims leaders, organisations and theologians have opposed the controversial GO on the ground that if the Uttar Pradesh government is really keen in their upliftment then it should come out with concrete plans for their educational and economic developments instead of drawing a wedge between the students belonging to the other communities.

The RSS and other Hindu organisations announced that they would defy the controversial order and would not allow it to be implemented in the schools being run by the RSS. The central secretary of the VHP Puroshottam Narain has made it clear that the GO would be opposed tooth and nail. The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Prishad (ABVP) has threatened to launch an agitation if the controversial order was not withdrawn. The BJP had demanded a holiday on Tuesday for Hindu students. The leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Lalji Tandon charged the Chief Minister with communalising the institutions and vitiating the atmosphere just before the Lok Sabha elections to gain political mileage and said this order would divide the students on the communal lines.

The Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had come in for sharp criticism as the GO dated February 16 was issued. The Principal Secretary of Education Neera Yadav asked the directors of Basic and Secondary education to ensure that the primary, junior, high and intermediate schools should function from 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Fridays.

The renowned Muslim religious leader Maulana Sajjad Nomani termed the GO as communal politics. He says that the Chief Minister has taken the appropriate step by withdrawing it. He is of the view that the Chief Minister has snatched a tool from the hands of communal forces which planned to rake it up in the Lok Sabha elections to gain political mileage. He told this correspondent that he did not concede that it was withdrawn under duress, because of the agitation mounted by the communal organisations but described it as an appropriate step.

The senior Congress leader and MLC Siraj Menhdi said that withdrawal of the GO had hurt the sentiments of the Muslims. He opined that withdrawal of the order has clearly indicated that the ruling Samajwadi Party was hands-in-glove with the saffron organisations and he has asked the Chief Minister to give the reasons for issuing such GO and the logic behind its withdrawal. The Congress leader charged the Chief Minister with having some tacit understanding with the BJP. He cited an example that if Mulayam Singh Yadav’s intentions were good he would have removed the speaker of the Assembly Keshri Nath Tripathi who belongs to the BJP. The Congress leader has condemned and assailed the Chief Minister for withdrawal of GO.
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