Sangh Parivar tries to build bridges with Muslims
Manjari Mishra, TNN, Feb 9, 2011, 12.43am IST
LUCKNOW: Mohammad Wahid Chisti did something few would dare. Part of a team of 15 `saffron maulanas', Chisti trudged the labyrinthian gullies of Machchali Mohal, Model Town and Baeesi Masjid -- all predominantly Muslim pockets in the city -- to introduce them to Sangh philosophy on Tuesday afternoon.
The short high-pitched sales talk ended in waving of a slim booklet cataloguing the virtues of RSS. Each of its 24 pages marked the parivar's angst at the `saffron terror canards' and misinformation campaign about Ramjanmabhoomi movement. "Please go through it," Chisti would plead "and let me know whether or not you agree with the sentiments." Incidentally, Chisti was roughed by Imam of Jama Masjid Maulana Abdul Bukhari when he suggested handing over "the RJB complex to the erstwhile king of Ayodhya" at a press conference in Lucknow some time back.
The surprise visit, a part of the RSS's ongoing Grih Sampark Abhiyan (home-to-home interaction campaign) led to varied reaction among the audience. Some like Mohammad Alam simply gaped at the gang in bewilderment. Meeraj Hussain gritted his teeth trying to control his outburst; Parveeen Abidi looked openly skeptical unlike her young neighbour Arshad Hussain, a student of Shia PG college, who declared that a friendly dialogue was welcome for whatever it was worth.
In any case, Alam grudgingly conceded, "it was the first time in the past 60 years that the lanes of Machchali Mohal had seen a khaki nickerwalla from close quarters, even though the nicker and Faiz cap don't go together".
Leading the team along with Mohammad Afzal, national convener of Muslim Rashtriya Manch Vibhag Pracharak, Lucknow, Dr Umesh Kumar also offered a cautious line now and then. "Most of the Muslim brothers are finding this an extremely stimulating experience," he declared. Donning his trademark copious khaki shorts, Kumar resolutely ignored the sniggers barbs or vibes that came his way.
It is the first time so they are a little wary, he patiently explained, even as Mohammad Arif a particularly cantankerous subject loudly chose to question the credentials of Chisti and Co, or his neighbour used choicest expletives for one of the troupe members severely demanding the man be "handed over to the police for promoting rabid anti-minority sentiments for the rest of the 364 days".
An unfazed Kumar determinately continued about the "stupendous success" of his mission instead. "Over the past two days, we have already distributed 26,000 copies of the booklets," he claimed. Most of the recipients, he said, willingly paid Rs 5 as the contribution money. Even a Muslim pocket like this has earned us Rs 150, so one can imagine the response, he gushed.
A rather strongly worded document, the booklet contains some interesting observations. Rahul Gandhi is particularly targeted for his statement quoted by Wikileaks. "One feels like laughing when Rahul Gandhi weighs Sangh and SIMI in the same balance...leave aside Sangh the boy would not know the history of Congress or his own ancestors". Digvijay Singh is described as a" textbook case to prove how low can a politician fall to further his narrow interests."