Monday, February 28, 2011

Wielding a Lathi in London

Tilak Raj Sharma, an ex footballer from Punjab had migrated to England years ago. Obviously he went through whatever a strong willed sturdy migrant does in an opportune foreign land. I never asked much as he was a fiercely private person, yet occasionally prone to bouts of bragging, telling bits and pieces of his story.

Sharmaji adored his two well built sons and two perky daughters. The younger son, a budding kick boxer could kick a steep six feet high with a powerful muted cry of Jai Hanuman and would send an imaginary opponent repent his misdeeds forever. By mid eighties, when he was my host in London, a sizable rent from hard earned properties made his life comfortable at fifty plus. But it was not an easy life either, dealing with ever changing shady tenants from various continents. They didn’t mind him paying what he asked, with out being inquisitive.

Further he loved to devote his considerable time and resources to help Indian friends in midst of any serious crisis.

While the boys had freedom to attend late night parties with fast changing girlfriends, the grown up daughters were a constant source of grave worries. He repeatedly asked me to find good matches for them in India fast. I lamely assured him to do just that back in India. But the girls secretly disapproved of his weird plan to get them married to unknown boys from India. Behind his back they requested me not to look for any boys.

“Papa is so impossibly weird and he will never allow us to mix with boys we want to be like any other girls and experience life, don’t want to get married so early, there is so much to see and experience. He controls us so closely… and look...brothers Ronny and Mony have all the freedom they are allowed night outs with girlfriends and we have nothing he is still stuck in some lousy Panjabi village I am friendly with few boys. Can’t help it, its so natural and not a big deal here.”

The rebellious Richa poured her worries when Sharmaji went away early one morning.

“Don’t try to compete with your brothers. We are Indian and have different culture than these corrupt English people.” Mrs. Sharma softly reminded Richa.

“Oh yea different of course I know we are a bunch of horrible hypocrites and what about the many secret affairs of so called honorable Indian couples? Don’t tell me, you don’t know who is sleeping around with whom.”

“None of your business, you have no shame Richa, and we parents know what is good for you, isn’t it Bhaisaab?”

A troubled Mrs. Sharma feebly tried to defend her draconian husband and looked at me for support. I had to a give a small nod but preferred to be silent; devouring tasty butter soaked spiced paranthas.

“He has no right to insult my friends. Patrick only come to see me when I was ill and you know how he was insulted. Its awful and I hate it, my friends think we are weird.”

“He is your father and has every right how many times I have told you not to let any boys visit home. Pratibha knows this and obeys papa, why can’t you be like her?”

Mrs. Sharma tried to reason and seemed quite peeved at her younger daughter discussing her boyfriends in my presence.

“You mean discreet? I am honest and don’t hide and you know she is friendly with few boys too, I know when she lost her virginity and to whom, it’s so natural, but she is a real sissy and terribly afraid of papa.”

“Shut up Richa, that’s enough. How dare you called me dishonest.” An angry Pratibha tried to stop her rebellious sister.

“I didn’t say any thing like that sis…”

“No, you did, horrible bitch…”

The verbal dual fast deteriorated to the extent of the combative girls using forbidden four letter words. A helplessly ashamed Mrs. Sharma was in tears.

“Shut up both of you if your father comes to know about such shameful things he will kill you. I wish you shameless girls were never born but it his own fault to let you both live…”

“And what do exactly mean by...we were never born…haan…tell us mama..” Richa was in tears.

“Just shut up you know what I meant and you are living and hell bent on making me feels so much of shame leave me alone now…”

Richa pushed the chair back violently and rushed upstairs. Pratibha was immobile hiding her face, weeping silently.

I had already lost the appetite and was feeling uncomfortable and uneasy by sudden disclosures of family secrets.

“Bhai sahab, please don’t tell any one these are the hidden torments we suffer here foolish girls. I am so sorry I know they will go away with one of these boys they have no feelings for their father who loves them in his own way. He wont be able to bear.”

I nodded and silently slipped out to avoid further embarrassments.

Oblivious of the simmering discontent and secretes of his dear daughters, Sharmaji along with few equally motivated souls did impossible and dangerous tasks to save the brittle honor of bewildered and helpless Indian parents shocked by elopement of their teenager daughters with those devious Firangs of various back grounds and colors.

He kept one well oiled Lathi in each of his four cars to confront any miscreants in his not so honorable neighborhood and elsewhere. His limp came handy in explaining presence of the weapon to any curious policeman, as it also doubled as his walking stick.

“This is my late grand father’s hundred year old walking stick and through it I feel him nearby, any problems about that, officer?”

The suspicious policeman would nod, force an understanding smile, wave and turn away.

“You see this is the way to deal with these foolish

Englishmen. Give them emotional and historical garbage and they turn soft but not all, some are really mean bastards too happy to trouble us endlessly.”

His popularity and respect cut across among the regionally and linguistically divided Indians of the city. He some times did give me exclusive permission of witnessing some of his not so legal activities. That made me roam through markets, pubs and take nap in his parked car for hours, while he was busy helping Indians in difficult situations. He and his gang of young Indian boys would keep an eye and thrash any miscreants during community Diwali and Holi celebrations.

A south Indian doctor couple was in tears explaining how much they trusted their daughter, pursuing doctorate in anthropology and how they were deceived by her. She went missing with her African boy friend and had not even bothered to inform them. May be it was their misfortune to have a daughter in this permissive land of butter and honey and to experience the horrible trauma she had just subjected her unsuspecting loving parents.

Sharmaji was furious and severely reprimanded them for allowing an unholy friendship to grow with an African and now bothering him with their misery

The couple repeatedly appealed with folded hands, touched his feet and begged for the help, as the police would not interfere in the matters concerning two consenting adults.

Sharmaji asked me to be on my own as he went about discharging his responsibility with zeal of a true savior of Indian honor. After few days the girl was back with her parents after the adventurous African was suitably thrashed to repent his folly of seducing a demure Indian girl. A proud Sharmaji later told me how he had used his well oiled Lathi to overpower the well built suitor. His son was helpful in delivering a hard kick to the unsuspecting African and the girl was freed with out much trouble.

For Sharmaji and his gang, dealing with the demure African with an expired visa was a cake walk. He happily described the events in great details enabling me to visualize few important scenes. The African, a scholarly loner not having any links with gangs of his tribe was petrified by threats of him being linked with dreaded drug trafficking.

The gusty tall girl threatened Sharmaji with dire consequences as she would report the matter to the police.

“You fucking dog asshole. How dare you?”

An angry Sharmaji sprang up and gave her few hard slaps.

“This is shameful, a girl abusing elders, I will kill my daughters if they utter such filthy worlds.”

Sharmaji was livid with anger as the couple begged him to forgive the stupid girl.

“Don’t forget to keep an eye on and marry her off fast. You have only one day, better you hurry up and take next flight to India.”

“I hate you guys, how could you allow this brute?”

The girl stopped speaking as Sharmaji raised his bony hand again to hit her. He brazenly brushed off girl’s threats and asked the parents to keep her locked in a room with out a phone and arrange to marry her off fast before she would bring more dishonor to them. The relieved couple thanked him for his help.

I secretly despised what he did to that girl and many others before her, but could not even dare to stop or discourage him at all. Any such foolish attempts of mine would have surely invited his deep anger laced with volley of choicest Panjabi gaalis. I also dreaded as a consequence, the sure termination of his much needed comfortable hospitality in a foreign land. The small window he provided to view life of some of the Indian Diasporas was also of great value. So I willfully resigned myself to being a silent privileged witness.

When I asked wasn’t it dangerous to use strong arm tactics in this law abiding country, his answer was typically Indian: Jiski Lathi Uski Bhains.

He practiced this universal truth and his good connections within the police saw him through these small problems.

The girl was some how cajoled, persuaded to get over her infatuation, drugged and transported to madras to be married off to a New York based green card.

Later she divorced the green card and joined her lover in Canada. They lived together for few years and gradually parted away.

True to her independent spirits Richa, dated and married her Shri Lankan classmate. Sharmaji was deeply hurt but gradually manage to forgive her. Pratibha didn’t mind an arranged marriage with a bright Panjabi doctor, produced by her loving father.

Last I heard of Sharmaji, he was in some real deep trouble with the British police.

The Girl Who Lived

It was a hot and humid afternoon.

Indra knew the expected outcome of their relationship was near, as Prerna looked tense and forlorn as never before. She had avoided meeting him and messages sent through her cute little brother Pintoo to her remained unanswered.

They were sitting silently in his room; the door was left wide open to make them visible to any passerby in the inner gallery. It was advised by a fiercely independent Prerna, Indra found it to be very convenient and seemingly acceptable in the building. Some knotted souls were curiously uncomfortable gleefully whispering malicious gossip around. But adventurous Prerna was not perturbed at all and these meetings were held to discuss pressing matters. Being a bright young government officer with individuality, she could afford to be dismissive of such silly concerns.

His suggestion to meet in a nondescript, usually deserted restaurant was mercilessly vetoed by her.

She did confide in him the growing interest shown by a batch mate from same caste. His parents would be too happy to add one more power centre in their household. Prerna was not content being a state government officer and had set her goals higher. A marriage would be a big hindrance in her scheme of things. But she had been quite elusive and unresponsive for a long time, a big change from her unusually independent and straightforward persona.

He wondered if she would meet before his departure to pursue his dream.

“Didi is not talking to Papa and Mummy…. sleeping all day and I can tell you some thing more if you give me two chocolates.” Pintoo had deftly negotiated a few days ago.

“She was weeping whole night and didn’t’ tell me any new story. I really wanted hear that story of Pari she promised, but got a slap…she never hit me before… can you see it here…this red mark?” Pintoo disclosed with a sad face and cutely pointed to his pink cheek.

“Can you tell her not to hit me again or I will not sleep with her ...and won’t give your messages too…I will throw them away.”

“Sure, I will tell her and she will not hit you again.” Indra had pulled him near and made a promise.

“But Didi will not talk to you…how can you promise me that?” Pintoo was unusually sharp and argumentative for his age.

“Aap jhoothe ho…katti.”

Lost in thoughts, Indra let Pintoo, run away, and sensed his tender hurt.

His heart sank further in despair. So the greedy parents have prevailed over a bright girl, pushing her in an unwanted alliance to get one more officer in the household. He presumed.

Suddenly she materialized and sat brooding before him. Pintoo was reminded of the pending homework and skillfully dispatched to earn a big chocolate in lieu of it.

She looked too depressed to be probed, almost fragile. Indra waited for her to speak and give him the bad news. He would not remind her of those promises made and would accept her decision. He would never forget her ever and felt the growing pain. Perhaps they were not made for each other and this would have happened sooner or later.

She set her dream to get in to Indian civil services and his, a fragile and uncertain acting career in Mumbai.

“Do you know Indra, why I have three cute sisters?’

Surprised at the question, Indra couldn’t answer. He stared blankly at her swollen eyes and rarely sad face.

‘Because, they didn’t have a machine, so I am sitting here with you.’

‘What machine?’

‘Oh! You ignorant fool.’ She said in a mock surprise.

That was good she was recovering, getting normal and arrogant as before. Indra decided to react as nothing abnormal had happened.

‘Yes... I don’t have to cram irrelevant shit to pass those bloody exams.’


‘I know you love to hear that… want to see others defeated? You people are trained to make common people like me…. feel and think defeated.’

‘It’s a non-sense.’ She said.

‘I just don’t want to know that. Is that clear, madam? But please tell me why do you look so sad? Where were you all these days? What happened…some office problems perhaps?’

Prerna become silent again and didn’t reply. He waited and braced him self may be now she would disclose her decision to obey her parents and dump him forever.

Their raised voices immediately attracted attention of an alert Shanno, reclining on sofa, languidly chewing a pan. She rose and lifted the gaudy curtain to make herself visible in her usual finery. Sound of her anklets alerted Indra and Prerna to lower their voices. She looked at them with a mischievous smile and proceeded to hang a towel on the balcony railing, taking her time, smoothing the wrinkles of the puffy cloth, turning it over many times. Her numerous bangles making clinking noises, ears tuned and hungry for any exciting sound bytes.

The gang of five was about to visit her, to watch some exciting film together and indulge in floating malicious gossips. She was excited by the prospects of her tidbits being the juiciest. She was a generous host and the ladies were addicted to her tasty pakoras and tea. Further her deaf mother in-law was greatly envied by all the visiting ladies. It gave them freedom to enjoy video films, loud music and unhindered-uninhibited exchange of notes about their own vicious mother in law and their wicked ways. She loved being envied for her bulging purse, no kids to look after and a fawning husband.

The bewildered gang members were astonished at the tales of her premarital raunchy escapades with a variety of lusty rustic lovers. They sighed with envy and excitement as she shamelessly unfolded each episode with great explicit details. Some were repeated often on demand, and Shanno loved to tell a juicy tale.

Prerna silently went on looking at him.

“Okay. I am going...If you don’t want to listen.’ She hissed, her eyes betraying deep feeling of hurt.

‘I am sorry… if you feel that way.

She turned her eyes away.

“It’s okay…what it is?’ Indra knew there was no escape and he would have to bear the brunt of her discontent and listen.

'It’s is that sonographic machine……… the doctors now use to detect…’

‘Detect what?’

‘Don’t you know?’

No! I said I don’t know. Didn’t I?’

‘They detect the sex of the child by this horrible machine.’

Indra was silent. Didn’t know what to say and how it is connected by to her woes.

‘Oh that?’

She remained silent, her face clouded further.

‘You look sad.’

‘Yes I am sad. But should you bother?’ Prerna didn’t look at him.

‘I am sorry….I did try to….’

“Don’t be, please. It’s okay..’

Indra avoided her moist eyes, waiting for her to unburden herself, still foxed by a machine and its role in her plight.

‘I shudder to imagine, if they had that machine in those times my all sisters might have all been aborted… killed. Why only my sisters! I too might have been… sucked out of the womb…bundled and disposed off... thrown away to be eaten by hungry dogs.’

‘Please Prerna, why are you thinking like this?’

She didn’t reply.

‘Let’s change the subject…please.’

'So you don’t want to listen. I am going.’ Prerna got up.

‘No. It’s not that. Please stay…. I mean…. please tell me... and ...unburden your self.’

He waited.

‘I feel bad Indra. Being a girl, really bad.’

‘Don’t say that. And of all the girls you are saying this? I am surprised.’

‘Surprised? Are you, why do you think I am monster with no emotions?’

Both were silent. It was getting unbearable.

‘Those girls may have been fortunate they perhaps didn’t hearand if they did might have not felt as bad as I do. They don’t take these things the way I do.’

‘Please calm down.’

‘I heard all this... my self.’

‘What? Heard whom?

Prerna remained silence for long, tears slowly broke free of and hurried unrestrained downwards on a torturous journey. Indra held her hand and made her sit near him.

Shanno watched them from her vantage position, craning her long neck to see the unfolding action.

"I heard the they aborted three times...after my birth and before Pintoo was born...they killed three girls to get a boy.."

‘Don’t tell me. You mean... your parents?’

‘Yes.’ Her shaking voice betrayed her practiced self-control and dignified poise. She put her head on his shoulder and sobbed silently.

‘Oh my god....please hold your self, Prerna. You are too strong a girl to take such things to heart. May be they didn’t mean…what you have been thinking…. may be you misunderstood.’

‘No. I did not…’

A sense of heavy gloomy helplessness filled the .hot afternoon air. She regained a semblance of control and wiped her tears, moved little away from him, aware of the gossip queen Shanno watching them, spinning a juicy tale.

‘They were discussing the huge finances needed to marry off... all of us...and how unfortunate they are to have four girls…they.... never ever wanted...they wished that ghastly machine had arrived earlier..."

Indra listened, unable to say any thing further.

"How my father went on finding more ways to make money for impending marriages involving huge expenses, you know? They were loudly wondering what sin they might have committed to deserve four surely must have been a great sin.’

‘When was this?’ Indra asked cautiously.

Shanno tried hard to catch the whispers, but the low voices assured her further of a rumored affair; a promising attractive young woman officer falling for a handsome scoundrel. She sighed with envy, trying hard to decipher the focus of the seemingly intensely private lovers’ argument.

Her fertile brain raced to decipher hidden meaning in girl’s tense bearing and boy’s alarmed stance. Then it hit her with surety and prospects she loved. Shanno smiled broadly, now sure to score in the ladies gang by divulging the piece of the hottest scoop.

‘It does not matter, when they said it. But the fact is that they did say such horrible things so calmly.... and I was unfortunate enough to hear. I.... do.... try hard.... to forget. But those whispering, repenting and angry voices haunt me every moment…and hit my self-esteem like a sledgehammer. It's even more painful, when they tell me how wonderful they felt when Pintoo was born after four girls. They aborted three unfortunate unwanted girls. Though, I love Pintoo...but now some times I see him in a strange way. I can't explain it... I mean. You know I did hit him…. I feel so bad.’

‘I know that, Prerna.’

‘Do you think you know?’

‘Please, for god’s sake... I mean... I didn’t mean any thing... offending

‘I know that you don’t mean any thing.... you never do. You are just listening to what I am saying now, because you don’t have any opinion. And why should you bother about it...and. if really you do, I suspect it’s just an idea for you... a good plot... for a new lousy play?

“You don’t know how I am feeling. How helpless I am... when I go over.... those horrible utterances of my so called loving and caring parents….killers of three unborn babies.'

They remained silent for a long time and Indra decided to wait.

“I am sorry to have burdened you with all this….but I had to talk to some one….and I have only you...”

“I was worried….you locked your self in room and didn’t reply.”

“Now it’s out…but not fully out…hey can we meet tomorrow evening?” Prerna said, she looked little composed.

“Oh sure ….why not…I will be waiting…here only?”

“Not here dumb boy….you mentioned a restaurant…didn’t you?”

“Yes is it okay with being seen there with me …as you said…”

“Forget all that now…. I am a different Prerna …a free bird…don’t give a damn…let them gossip and spread rumors…will be fun really. Go ahead and tell any one that I am your girl friend. … I know you will feel good about it…” and she was gone, leaving Indra puzzled and yet happy.

They arrived in the restaurant and heads turned to Prerna was becoming a popular public figure in the city due her crusading zeal in solving people’s problems.

“You do know the rumors about us…don’t you?” She sat facing him in her elegant finery.

Indra looked at her happy face.

“I think Shanno has already declared me pregnant.” She laughed and Indra joined in a little warily.

“What about your proposed marriage?

“No marriage…you are out too…. as of now… ...know about your other girls…may be I will meet a suitable person some time…I don’t know…Hey actor, when is your train?”

‘Next Sunday afternoon so that you can see me off... if you want to...”

“Oh so sweet…what about your stay there…could you do some thing?”

“Nothing as yet, will manage some how…”

“Don’t worry; you will see what I have done.”

“Prerna are you ok?” A troubled Indra asked her the nagging question at last.

“Do you think I have gone mad? Don’t you… I know what I am doing…. I have freed my self from pains of being good to all at the cost of my own freedom and desires…and don’t worry, okay? I can take care of myself…”

They drove around in her car and talked as they used to when ever they got a chance. At last Indra tried to kiss her and she didn’t resist…but no further, she set the limit and restored order.

“Stop it…nothing further…not now…when I am ready for it …you will know.”

The sparse luggage was stowed and they sat down in the train. Indra felt heavy and disoriented. Prerna gave him a packet.

“The Keys of your flat in Mumbai… all the details are in there. Call me if there is a problem…now be good and make me proud one day.”

Indra sat numb looking at her.

“This is too much…. how can you be…so…how will I repay you Prerna?”

“Make me pregnant one day…. I may be married or unmarried…it won’t matter…. only I will decide whose seed to nurture…. I am a girl and it’s my privilege and my choice.”

A stunned Indra heard silently, unable to respond in any way.

Prerna stood up.

“The train is about to move now…best of luck and call me when you want too…” She bent down to kiss his temple and was gone.

The train whistled and started to move. A dazed Indra ran to the door…. she waved…he could see her tears…his own self-control broke down…and those long held tears found their journey to dissolve and slowly evaporated as the train sped away.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maulana Vastanvi:New Face of Darul Uloom, Deoband?

"Please, don't start your politics of Pakistan from India," Mahmood Madani had bluntly told Musharraf after the latter claimed that Muslims in India were alienated and suggested that this was one of the reasons for terrorism here. Virtually retorting the former Pakistani military ruler, he had said, "Population of Muslims in India is more than that total population of Pakistan. You should be knowing this.”

An unsuspecting Musharraf had turned somberly silent under the spirited attack beamed live, across the world from New Delhi. Madani, member of Rajya Sabha and leader of Jamat-e-Ulema-i-Hind, made it clear to the visiting Pakistani leader, that he or his country need not bother about the condition of Muslims in India.

Currently, Madani is locked in a fierce political battle for control of Darul Uloom, Deoband, the century and half old most respected Muslim seminary. His rival and relative, Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, the newly appointed rector is under blistering attack over his controversial statement praising Gujarat Chief Minister.

An MBA and businessman running many educational institutions with more than 200,000 students, Vastanvi had only taken up the assignment on January 10. He has established himself as a great pioneer in madarsa education, by linking modern education and Islamic teachings, and has transformed lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western India. Coming up a hard way, by starting 30 years ago, a small madarsa from a hut in the tribal area of in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district, Maulana was able to make it one of India’s top madarsas, known as Jamia Islamia Ishaatul Uloom in Akkalkuwa. It has 15 colleges equipped with most modern facilities besides running engineering, medicine, teaching, pharmacy and information technology courses. The madarsa runs schools in Gujarat and Maharashtra along with 30 well equipped hospitals.

According to some observers, his institutes have grown much bigger than Darool Uloom Deobabd, as far as the number of students, their much needed modern education and jobs are concerned. He has been honoured with the Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad Award by the Maharashtra government.

His fate will be decided in a meeting of the supreme governing council on February 15. He will attend the meeting and until a decision is taken, the Maulana will continue in his post.

Vastanvi was appointed rector following the death of his predecessor Maulana Marghoobur Rahman. But soon after, he sparked a grave controversy, frankly expressing his views on Gujarat by saying that Muslims too have benefited from the development initiative of the Gujarat Chief Minister.

Maulana Vastanvi belongs to Surat in Gujarat and happens to be also the first non UP person to head the institution. He has a long association with the Darul Uloom and as well as, been a liberal contributor. Perhaps the highly politicized and polarized environment of UP politics is also contributing to the perennial insider-outsider twist to the controversy and still there is much more hidden that what meets the eye in the unfolding drama.

But visibly encouraged with swelling support with in the institution, the community and Media focus, Vastanvi seems ready for a fight to finish.

However, there is another source of conflict between Madani and Vastanvi over the central government proposal to improve and modernize the Madarsa education in country. While Madani is looking at the proposal as an attempt to take away the fiercely protected autonomy of the institution, Vastanvi has more accommodating and fresh approach, far away from old, rigidly insular mindset to such issues.

It is reported that only around 2-3 dozen students of seminary have been greatly agitated over his open appreciation of on going development in Gujarat. In the fiercely politically correct, lip service afflicted environment of India, Gujarat and its feisty chief minister Narendra Modi has been a persona non-grata, since 2002, being under dark clouds of suspicion to be a willful accomplice in the massacre of minorities.

Taking a bold approach, Vastanvi has advised the community to forget the black episode and move on with the important issues of life with an open mind , accepting and appreciating the new unfolding realities. It is reported that the majority is out to supports Vastanvi inside the institution, outside with in the town of Deoband and as well as across India. He has a very clean and unblemished image of a cleric, who is open to modern education and has already achieved a lot for the community individually by creating modern institutions of learning..

In a meeting of motivated Vastanvi supporters, Maulana Madni was blamed for the ongoing crisis in the seminary. All those present in the meeting openly charged the Jamiat with playing a dirty game to retain power.

After death of Maulana Marghoobur Rehman, Maulana Arshad Madni group had become very active as they saw a bright chance of getting the controls of the seminary in their hands. But instead, the council, being seized of the matter, opted for a modern and progressive Vastanvi, thereby annoying Jamiat old guards.

Terming the tirade against Vastanvi the handiwork of Maulana Arshad group, Badar Kazmi, the Vice President of the Muslim Majlis in UP, said the regressive hardliners did not approve of the modern and progressive people’s association with the seminary

Being young and progressive Vastanvi emerged as a popular choice in the meeting of council and he was the one who faced least opposition. Many members of the council are pained and even surprised by the controversy over his appointment. Interestingly, the deputy vice-chancellor of the seminary Maulanan Abdul Khalik Madrasi has out-rightly resisted any Jamiat politics inside the seminary.

In many televised interviews, Vastanvi confidently challenged the old hardliners by sticking to his views about Gujarat development helping Muslims. He further advised the community to leave the matter to the courts and get on with education and jobs, the most important issues of life. When asked to rate the performance of Modi, he was quick to give him 5 out of 10 and expressed his inability to accuse the Chief Minister of a state of any crimes, as it for courts to decide, not him. Till recently, barely known to the Muslims outside Gujarat and Maharastra, his initiatives and defining contributions has been recognized and replicated by many madarsas across India, earning him admirers and supporters.

Apart from the internal politics of the seminary, the well known faces representing Muslims have left no time in strongly criticizing the despicable statement of Vastanvi and asked him to resign. Being the first Muslim leader to go against the well known cast iron narrative of discrimination, anger and bad past, he must have been certainly aware and prepared for the possible negative consequences. Making a somersault in last few days, Vastanvi even tried to attempt a damage control mode, by criticizing Modi, perhaps betraying a politician in him as well. The well entrenched old guards with age old script are still not ready to give space to difference of opinions to exist and be debated in a rational manner.

But the confident bearings, unhurried demeanor and bristling pragmatism can not be, only his own make over, and might as well represent waves of growing confidence with in the community. Being risen from grass root activism and entrepreneurship, he must have been aware and even an important part of the awakening pragmatic forces, uncomfortable and at odd with the prevailing age old breast beating-antagonistic mindset.

Lately, Vastanvi has tried hard to communicate that he never condoned the Gujarat carnage and like every body else, wants those guilty punished. But he never fails to insist, it is time for Muslims to emerge out of the shadows of past and move on. They must not fail to educate their children so that they do not take to crime or religious extremism and strive to flow within the national mainstream.

His, is a very bold move and conciliatory message and not just to Gujarat's Muslims, who were displaced during the riots. It goes across India and wherever the 2002 events have cast a dark shadow.

There have been a slowly emerging far reaching welcome change with in madarsas to align with the rising needs of Muslim boys and girls. Many madarsas started teaching science, engineering and IT. There by got busy in the much needed development endeavor, refuting the perceptions, heightened post-9/11, that Muslim seminaries have been only stoking fundamentalism and militancy.

In past, Deoband seminary has also been demonized by actions of few belonging to the fringe, who tried to turn it in to a regressive Fatwa Factory, ridiculing any attempt at change and modernity. The number of Muslim seminaries in India are estimated to be over 30,000 and not all of them are controlled by the school of theology that Deoband propagates.

Whatever happens, Vastanvi along with his growing ilk, will now be a force to recon with, during any future discourse and negotiations regarding issues concerning Muslims in India. Even if, he is forced to move away from Deoband, the hereto unknown pragmatism and confidence articulated by him will continue to enforce moderation and rationality, rather than die hard rigidities solely based on emotive tentacles of past conflicts.

To his credit, Mahmood Madani has maintained a silence and so far refused to comment on the on going controversies. He may be representing the old guard mindset, but his familial linkages, eventually might help Vastanvi, thereby strengthen the new forces of moderation and reconciliations.