Rewards of Mortgaging One’s Conscience

By M Ghazali Khan

It was the fourth anniversary of Babri Mosque demolition. Indian Muslim Federation (IMF) had organised a remembrance meeting. The organisers were contacted by Maulana Isa Mansuri, a London based Muslim scholar, to request to invite a gentlemen, Zafar Sareshwala, introduced by the Maulana as, ‘A young Indian Muslim businessman from Bombay with keen interest in Muslim affairs.’

No one among the organisers had known or heard of the gentleman before. Yet complying with Maulana’s request when Sareshwala was contacted on phone, instead of appreciating and encouraging the organisers and thanking them for the invitation he responded, ‘Ham to Babri Masjid ko bhool chuke. Aap log bhi bhool jaiN. Ham ne is silsle meN Maulana Ali MiaN se bhi bat ki hai aur who bhi ham se muttafiq haiN’ (We have forgotten the Babri Mosque you should forget it too. We have discussed the issue with Maulana Ali Mian and he agrees with us on this).  Mr Sareshwala did attend and addressed the meeting but then judging the mood of the audience he did not ask them to forget the Babri Mosque.

Although an old Tableeghi activist and pretty religious in his personal life, Sareshwala does not hesitate in using any opportunity to his gain. After the death of Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (24 November 1914 – 31 December 1999) he organised a condolence meeting in Dewsbury, a town in West Yorkshire with a large number of Muslims and a Tableeghi Centre, in which he invited leading scholars from India and Pakistan including Maulana Taqi Usmani.  A friend, a successful businessman who had attended the conference, later said that the main purpose of the conference looked like more of a personal PR exercise.

Only few months later the condolence meeting was followed by a massive publicity of Zafar Sareshwala’s Parsoli corporation — along with the publication of fatwas and testimonials of leading ulema on investment—a venture that in later years fell into disrepute and has now earned notoriety. None of his former business colleagues and investors has a good word for him and much has been reported about Parsoli’s misdealing in Indian press in the past and is available on the internet.

In 2001 Hindutvaites burnt a copy of the Holy Qur’an  in Delhi. Muslims in India protested against the incident. Some newspapers in India reported that Indian Muslims in UK had specially contacted few clerics in Delhi and had asked them to organise these protests. An Urdu tabloid published from Delhi reported that UK based businessman Zafar Sareshwala was the person who had made this request. Few days later I happened to see him at a function of Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) at Islamic Cultural Centre London where Sareshwala confirmed to me that he had in fact contacted the clerics in Delhi. I have to admit I was impressed. He looked sincere and genuine.

Following the incident IMF appealed the Muslims in UK, through a small advertisement in Urdu daily Jung, to mark the next Friday as Youm-e-Du’a (Day of special prayers) and pray for the welfare of Indian Muslims. The advertisement in question was paid for (about £150.00) by Mr Sareshwala.

Everyone in the world with some sense of humanity in him was shaken by the merciless killings of Muslims during Gujarat massacre of 2002 and UK was no exception. In north London, an area with a sizeable population of Gujarati Muslims, the North London Muslim Community Centre (NLMCC) organised an emergency meeting of Indian Muslim activists from all over the country. The delegates decided to form an umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations in the UK and named it as Council of Indian Muslims (UK).

The CIM (now erstwhile), in association with various Muslim and non-Muslim organisations and activists launched an aggressive campaign against the atrocities in Gujarat followed by a second meeting of Muslim representatives, held at NLMCC’s office. It was attended by Zafar Sareshwala as well.

In his speech Mr Sareshwala, whose business and extended family in Ahmadabad had been badly hit by the riots, gave a moving account of the events. Describing the brutal murder of late Congress MP Ahsan Jafri whom he referred him  as ‘My relative’. Mr Sareshwala told the audience, ‘Jafri Saheb made several calls to various Congress politicians asking for help. But all of them expressed helplessness. He then contacted Narendra Modi only to be responded to with filthiest abuses. In order to save the lives of those who had taken shelter in his house Jafri Saheb came out of his house and told the mob gathered outside that they could take his life but spare those taking refuge in his house.  But they spared none. They paraded Jafri Saheb naked on the street and forced him to shout Ram, Ram. When he refused his fingers were chopped. He continued refusing to comply with their demand and they continued torturing and dismembering his body and was at last burnt while still alive.’

Mr Sareshwala attended some more meetings organised by other groups but he did not enrol himself as a member of any organisation participating in the anti-Modi campaign. He is not someone who believes in maintaining low profile and working without personal publicity. He is articulate and possesses impressive PR skills. With his name constantly appearing in the press, the pressure and harassment his extended family in Ahmadabad would have been facing in those days was understandable.

One has to give Sareshwala the credit of showing some courtesy and phoning —prior to Narendra Modi’s London visit in August 2003—CIM’s Chairman Munaf Zeena and explaining to him his predicament and informing him that he was going to see Modi, notwithstanding the fact that he was not a member of the organisation.  Zeena sympathised with him and assured him that he understood his situation. Zeena told him that he had no objection if such a meeting could help in easing the difficulties his extended family must be facing. According to Zeena he emphasised that Zafar should meet Modi only in his personal capacity as an individual without claiming to represent anyone else.

But an ambitious and shrewd businessman whose personal publicity and interests come first, Sareshwala had as it appeared different plans. He had already invited his younger brother, Talha Sareshwala from India to accompany him in the meeting and issued a press statement widely covered in the Indian press. ‘Muslim leaders welcome Narendra Modi in London,’ screamed the headline of Hindustan Times.

The reaction of those who had the direct experience of and had suffered from Modi’s naked fascism was terse and obvious. ‘… Just because your daughters, sisters and wives were not raped during the Genocide in Gujarat you went and met the butcher of Gujarat Narendra Modi who everyone knows was directly responsible for the mass killings and rapes of Muslim girls. Your children did not see anyone in your family being burnt alive so you went ahead and met Modi… Your act of trying to give legitimacy to his black deeds might work for your business in Gujarat but for the victims of Gujarat this was a treacherous act – a betrayal. But thanks to God that the Muslims of Gujarat and UK have seen your true face and now they know what you stand for…’ wrote late Ahsan Jafri’s son Zuber Jafri to Sareshwala.

Sareshwala claimed that his London meeting with Modi was candid and frank in which Modi had expressed remorse on Gujarat massacre 2002. As a result of his London meeting with Modi, he told Turkish daily Zaman, ‘The perceptions which I had against Modi have changed as I had an illusion due to miscommunication.’

However, to Maulana Isa Mansuri, once Sareshwala’s confidant and spiritual guru who had accompanied Sareshwala in the meeting, this was a disappointing experience. Contrary to Sareshwala’s claims Maulana Isa vehemently denies that Modi had expressed any remorse.

Since his first meeting with Modi, relationship—the basis of which were not principles of honour but mutual interests— between the two continued to become stronger and stronger.  And it was upon Modi’s advice that Sareshwala moved his family from UK back to India. ‘Kya wahan angrezon ki ghulami karte rahoge.’ (Will you continue serving the British as a slave?) Modi asked Sareshwala as told by him to The Times of India.

The relationship has paid Sareshwala well. According to Times of India ‘Their [Sareshwalas’] industrial valve manufacturing factory was also burnt down, and the wealthy Sareshwalas, once among the largest zakat (charitable tax) [sic! Does Islam not enjoin upon the believers not to show off and give zakat by the right hand in such a way that his left hand should not know?] donors in the community, found themselves in dire straits.’  In an interview he had told IBN that financially he, ‘…was totally broke and on the verge to collect Zakat…’ But in Modi’s service not only has he become richer than before but one of the richest businessmen of Gujarat.  In addition he has been bestowed upon with the prestigious designation as the Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, something he was not expecting and was taken aback when contacted by the press.

What is his qualification for the job? Apart from being Modi’s blue-eyed boy, ‘Urdu is my mother tongue…Not only do I speak Urdu, but I also write in Urdu. I am equally comfortable in Urdu and English…My ‘khaandan’ (clan) has served the cause of Urdu in Gujarat for a long, long time. In 1972, when Urdu was facing an existential crisis in Gujarat, my late father and my paternal uncle established a board in Ahmedabad to promote Urdu. Since that time, the board organized a grand international mushaira focusing on national integration…We grew up in their presence. Urdu runs in our blood. We would read “Shama” magazine and the womenfolk in our house grew up reading “Rizwan” and “Bano” magazines.’ Sareshwala told the Arab News .

Looking at these ‘impressive’ qualifications of Sareshwala one is at a loss for words for those unsung heroes who have suffered and sacrificed selflessly for the cause of Urdu  and educational betterment of the community and hundreds of well qualified Urdu graduates facing the indignity of having to live in poverty and joblessness.

‘Modi himself is also a big fan of Urdu.’ Sareshwala revealed in the aforementioned interview. Ever since giving himself in the service of Modi, Sareshwala has been constantly discovering Modi’s rare qualities and hitherto unknown love for Muslims.

‘I am assuring you that in this regime you are never going to face any discrimination. Modi led government is committed to provide you equal opportunities,’ he told Muslim youths in Jaipur.

On Modi’s proclamations and commitment to do justice with Indian Muslims Sareshwala had earlier claimed, ‘What Modi is thinking about Muslims is nothing new. We knew about it earlier and now the entire world knows it.’

In an article published on IBN’s website he writes, ‘The truth is Modi has excellent personal relations with a large number of Muslims. He has built a very strong team of Muslims who work closely with him. They are well educated; command the respect of the community. They are not seen as bikau [sell-off] types; they are not the kind who curry personal favours and become courtiers. By contrast, the Congress Party is today devoid of credible Muslim leaders, not just in Gujarat but also in the rest of India.’

Really Mr Sareshwala? What is a bikau (sell-out) if not surrendering one’s dignity, closing one’s eyes to unfairness and not having the courage to speak against grave injustices? When did you protest to Modi and what has he done about the Hindutva criminals who have been polarising the atmosphere all along these years? Your beloved leader has not only been maintaining meaningful silence on the crimes of his MPs and party men and women. He has honoured and given positions to riot accused of Muzaffarnagar. There is a long list of your beloved leader’s impish silence on the saffronisation of history, his letting lose the reins of his party’s foul-mouthing, venom-spitting and riot-organising politicians. Instead of taking any action against the law breakers and riot organisers, to rub salt on Muslims’ wounds he has appointed a Muzaffarnagar riot accused as a member in AMU’s court. As opposed to India’s long standing on Palestine case Modi’s and his party’s love for the Zionist entity is based on anti-Muslim hatred. These developments are no surprise though. The sort of politics Modi is doing was feared long before his election victory.

From Ghulam Mohammad Vestavia, Shahid Siddiqui, Adam Patel to Salman Khan behind every Indian Muslims’ attempted meeting with Modi appears to have the support or backing of Zafar Sareshwala. Having served his master perhaps he has now been assigned to do Modi’s PR in the Muslim world. The interview to Turkish daily Zaman and Saudi daily Arab News is, perhaps, the first step. An honourable title of Chancellorship of a University will add weight to his name. What matters in this world are economic interests, rules and laws are made to serve these interests. The murderers, looters, rapists and arsonists are being issued clean chits one after the other but those who dared challenge these injustices, like Teesta Seetalwad, Javed Anand, late Ahsan Jafri’s son Tanveer Jafri, are implicated in court cases against them.

From Ghulam Mohammad Vestavia, Shahid Siddiqui, Adam Patel to Salman Khan behind every Indian Muslims’ attempted meeting with Modi appears to have the support or backing of Zafar Sareshwala. Having served his master perhaps he has now been assigned to do Modi’s PR in the Muslim world. The interview to Turkish daily Zaman and Saudi daily Arab News is, perhaps, the first step. An honourable title of Chancellorship of a University will add weight to his name. What matters in this world are economic interests, rules and laws are made to serve these interests. The murderers, looters, rapists and arsonists are being issued clean chits one after the other but those who dared challenge these injustices, like Teesta Seetalwad, Javed Anand, late Ahsan Jafri’s son Tanveer Jafri, are implicated in court cases against them.

As for Zafar Sareshwala the only thing that can be said Lage raho Sareshwala Bhai your next appointment could be as Vice President of India. But remember Allah, the All-knowing, from whom nothing can remain hidden, is watching all of us. Sooner or later injustice comes to an end and Mir Jafars and Mir Sadiqs, Chaglas and Hameed Dalwais are remembered with utmost disdain by the community. Rewards of mortgaging one’s conscience may be big and charming for a while but become a butt of hatred later in this world. What awaits for us in the hereafter only Almighty knows.

Urdu version of this article has appeared in daily Jadid Khabar, 22 January 2015

یہ مضمون اردو میں پڑھنے کیلئے کیجئے

ضمیر فروشی کا انعام

 

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