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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Bad-mouthed minister
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: The cabinet minister of Waqf in the UP Government is in the thick of a storm as he stirred up a hornets nest while addressing the seminar on the occasion of Minorities Rights Day on Dec 18, 2003 by calling the convenor of All India Babri Masjid Action Committee [AIBMAC] and member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board [AIMPLB] Zafaryab Jilani a ‘Makkar’ [deceitful], Blackmailer and Dallal [middleman].

"I have come to know that once previously Shakir Ali [Waqf Minister] had also made utterances detrimental to the sanctity of AIMPLB and we let him off but this time we are going to nail him down," said Zafaryab Jilani, after serving a defamation notice to the minister. 

The stand of the minister has thrown up many surprises as Zafarayab Jilani is known for his integrity and a very simple way of life. The city knows him as a lawyer with a reputation of being a man of letters and honesty. 

"The minister by leveling a charge of encroachment on 22 acres of waqf land against me has lowered my prestige, image and reputation in the eyes of the general public and specially among Muslims despite knowing that I have not encroached upon any waqf land, much less upon 22 acres of waqf property," said Jilani.

Why would a minister speak like this? "This is just to browbeat me and to coerce me not to make genuine demands for payment of recurring and substantial grant to the Waqf Boards of UP for payment of salaries of their employees and also to desist me from exerting pressure for the expeditious constitution of the Waqf Boards of the state which were dissolved in Aug 2003," came the reply. 

The tough posture of Jilani was visible when he accused the minister of ulterior motives by wanting to remove him from the tauliyat [custodianship] of certain waqfs including ganj-e-shaheedaan, Ujarion, Lucknow, so that the minister and his men would be able to mint money out of these properties. Coincidently after the new plan for development of Lucknow these properties have assumed huge significance and market value. 

A word of caution came from Urban Development Minister Mohd Azam Khan who called Shakir Ali’s remarks as highly objectionable. Azam Khan took his cabinet colleague to task and termed his unsavory comments naive and totally baseless.

The waqf minister, however, was in no mood to budge and insisted that he was accountable for all that he had spoken and that Azam Khan should have consulted him before sermonising him. He said that Azam Khan need not apologise to the Muslim community on his behalf.

"Shakir Ali has caused enormous damage to my reputation as well as the reputation of AIMPLB and AIBMAC and is liable to pay of Rs.50,00,000.00 as damages and I may initiate criminal proceedings against him. He will have to pay rupees fifty lakhs as damages and also issue a public apology by withdrawing the baseless charges against me and these two esteemed organization," echoed Jilani.

AIMPLB spokesman, Qasim Ilyaas Rasul asked CM Mulayam Singh Yadav to rein in his minister as Muslim community would not tolerate such insinuations as the minister had done the audacity to speak ill about a prime and respectable Muslim organisation in the country. 

Shakir Ali, after being attacked from all sides lowered his pitch and issued a statement that he had no axe to grind against anyone and therefore expect the same from others. 

"Since the minister has been foolish enough to speak against the most paramount Muslim organization, the office bearers of AIMPLB and AIBMAC may take action against him. In case of non-compliance of terms of my notice within ten days I will be compelled to file a suit for damages as well as complaint u/s 500 IPC and in that event the minister will be liable to bear the entire cost of litigation," said Jilani.

What makes every one ponder is how a minister could make such remarks without the knowledge of Mulayam Singh Yadav who is right now under great media speculation of hobnobbing with the main opposition party [BJP] in UP.

Meanwhile, noted film lyricist Javed Akhtar along with Communalism Combat editor Javed Anand and Bollywood poet Hasan Kamal visited Lucknow on Dec 23, 2003 after visiting Allahabad. The objective was to mobilise opinion for the newly formed Muslims for Social Democracy (MSD). Javed Akhtar came down heavily on AIMPLB and VHP and refused to acknowledge them as representatives of Muslims and Hindus respectively.

Javed Akhtar considered Dec 6, 1992 as the blackest day in the history of independent India and which led people to think whether there would be the rule of law in the country but the nation has come out of it and the law of the land holds supreme. Replying to a query, he said that only the court’s judgment should be the way to resolve Ayodhya dispute.

Urban Development minister Mohd Azam Khan said in a statement that Javed Akhtar should know that it is Muslim personal law which allowed him to marry a second time. Shabana Azmi is his wife, and if not then we need to know about how legitimate this relationship is," he asked. 

Javed Akhtar was caught napping, when a scribe asked whether non-Muslims could be members of MSD to which he refused to reply.

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