Thousands of Muslims rally, vow to fight elections (Lead)February 20th, 2009 - 8:41 pm ICT by IANS
Lucknow, Feb 20 (IANS) Thousands of Muslims railed against the Indian authorities and political parties at a massive rally here Friday, alleging harassment by security forces in the name of combating terror.
Islamic clerics leading the show of strength alleged in speeches that all political parties had failed them and announced the candidature of a Hindu historian, Amaresh Mishra, from Lucknow to fight the Lok Sabha election on behalf of the Ulema Council.
“In the coming days, we will announce the names of more candidates of the Ulema Council,” Maulana Amir Rashadi Madni, convener of the council, told the protestors gathered in a Muslim-concentrated area of Old Lucknow.
The rallyists came from all parts of Uttar Pradesh. Many came by train from Azamgarh, which has come under the scanner of security forces for the links of some of its young with Islamist groups.
The protestors carried tricolours and their leaders insisted that the real terrorists were politicians who believed in the ideology of hate.
“Not the Muslims, but (Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K.) Advani, (Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra) Modi, (Shiv Sena chief BaL) Thackeray and (former Uttar Pradesh chief minister) Kalyan Singh are the real threat to peace and harmony in this country,” thundered Madni.
Hindu holy men from Ayodhya, where Hindu mobs razed the 16th century Babri mosque in 1992, joined the clerics at the rally and vowed to stand by the Muslims, saying they had been wronged by successive governments.
“We will stand united with the Muslims who have been deprived of their rights,” said Swamy Haridayal Mishra of Hindu group of Ayodhya, a town of temples on the bank of the Saryu river.
Some speakers said they were sick and tired of all major political parties including the Congress, the BJP, the Samajwadi Party as well as Uttar Pradesh’s now ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
“At a time when Muslims are being victimised in one form or the other, we must stand united and fight for our rights. When this happens, we will not have to approach the governments to resolve our problems, rather the government will be standing at our doorstep,” said Kalbe Jawad, a prominent Shia cleric, enthusing the crowds.
The Ulema Council demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the Sep 19 shooting by the police at a Delhi home that killed two young suspected terrorists.
Many in the community believe the victims were innocent students. The Delhi Police says they were members of the Indian Mujahideen which carried out a string of bombings in the capital six days previously.
Placards at the rally, however, claimed that Muslims were being victimised because of their religion.
“Stop terrorising the youths,” read one. Another said: “We are students, not terrorists.” A third claimed: “Don’t kill innocent Muslims.”
The Ulema Council has initiated talks with Asom United Democratic Front, whose prominent leader is Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, to forge an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, said members of the council.
Throughout Friday, there was heavy police deployment along the route of the marchers and also at the site where speeches were made.
Madni later told IANS: “We will plead with the chief minister and the governor to help our young men, especially those from Azamgarh, who are being falsely implicated in terror activities. If the chief minister agrees to our demand, we will repay the obligation.”
Muslims are India’s largest minority, numbering some 140 million.