4 Aug 2008
AHMEDABAD: Post-Godhra, while the Gujarat government and its police may have lost contact with the Muslims, there is an intense power struggle going on between the moderate and hard-line groups for control of the sizeable Sunni sect which accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the five million Muslims in the state.
Increasingly, after the 2002 riots, the more radical Deobandis, who are flushed with funds, are winning over turf from the moderate Barelvis.
Trends show that not only more mosques are coming under the control of the Deobandis, this orthodox school of Islam is also finding ready converts among youth coming from liberal and educated Muslim backgrounds.
Apart from running madrasas, mainstream educational institutions have been in special focus for the Deobandis. While this power struggle is a pan-India phenomenon, it is assuming quite serious dimensions in Gujarat in the last six years. Recent clashes between the two groups in Surat, Kalol, Prantij, Himmatnagar and other towns and cities across Gujarat have only underlined the intensity of this conflict.
The tolerant Barelvis, who are okay with dargah-worship, have even put up notice boards outside scores of mosques in Gujarat banning the entry of the Tablighi Jamaat, the missionary wing of the Deoband school of Islam which preaches for a puritanical interpretation of the holy Quran.
The oldest Deobandi madrassa in Gujarat is over a 100 years old and located at Dabhel near Surat and this explains why South Gujarat is supposedly the stronghold of the radicals. While the Deobandhis have moved in a big way into other parts of Gujarat, stiff resistance is coming from the Barelvis from Saurashtra.
Kadar Salot, the president of the Rajkot Saher Sunni Muslim Juna Masjid Trust, says: "The Tablighis want friction in society while people of Rajkot do not want any trouble. This is the reason why several mosques in Rajkot have banned their entry." "To keep Deobandhis at a distance, the trustees of the mosques may have resorted to pasting of notices," the chairman of Porbandar Dar-ul-Ulum, Abdul Sattar Amdani explains.
Kari Abdul Rashid Ajmeri of Rander (Surat) flayed attempts to brand Deobandis as "terrorists and fundamentalists" and said there was no reason to be afraid of the spread of Tablighi Jamaat.
Another prominent Deobandi, Mufti Abdulla Patel from Hansot, also said the propaganda against the Deobandis was the result of the divide-and-rule policy of the British which continues to afflict the Muslim community even today.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi