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Exclusive-India Hindu group puts allies in Muslim universities in outreach for votes

2024.02.09 07:36

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© Reuters. Men trip a motorcycle contained in the premises of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Aligarh district of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File Photo

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By Krishna N. Das and Saurabh Sharma

ALIGARH, India (Reuters) – A Hindu group intently linked to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is putting in Muslims loyal to it in management positions at Muslim universities as a part of a push to garner Muslim votes forward of nationwide elections, officers mentioned.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which Modi joined in his youth and which is the de facto mum or dad of his political occasion, is making an attempt to woo Muslim voters away from Congress and different events that they’ve historically supported.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which received about 9% of the Muslim vote in the previous two normal elections, is focusing on as much as 17% in the elections due by May. Opinion polls counsel the BJP, which has no Muslim members in parliament, will simply win a uncommon third straight time period.

“It is for certain that the BJP will win a much bigger percentage of Muslim votes than the last time,” mentioned senior RSS chief Indresh Kumar, chief patron of the group’s Muslim wing, which says it’s making an attempt to win over the poor majority of India’s 200 million Muslims.

The Hindu-first RSS and India’s greatest spiritual minority have been at loggerheads for a long time. Muslims and rights teams allege some BJP members and associates have promoted anti-Islamic hate speech and vigilantism, and demolished Muslim-owned properties, whereas Modi denies spiritual discrimination exists in India.

The RSS marketing campaign to place Muslim allies in high college roles, which has not beforehand been reported, marks a brand new strategy of working from throughout the group, officers informed Reuters. Despite its strongly Hindu identification, the RSS additionally has divisions working with Christians, Sikhs and different minority teams.

Membership in the RSS’s Muslim Rashtriya Manch, fashioned in 2002 for dialogue between Muslims and the RSS, has jumped to 1 million from 10,000 earlier than Modi took workplace a decade in the past, mentioned spokesperson Shahid Sayeed.

FLYING THE FLAG

India has greater than a dozen universities catering to Muslims, established to spice up a group that lags Hindus educationally, economically and socially.

The authorities has lengthy seen some universities, particularly in Muslim-majority Kashmir, the place India has fought an insurgency for a long time, as hotbeds of Islamic activism and even sanctuaries for folks hostile to India’s pursuits.

But now the RSS’s Kumar recommends 99% of the vice-chancellors, or heads, of Muslim universities, and the federal government largely accepts his suggestions, Sayeed mentioned.

In the previous, these faculties have been “anti-India”, disrespecting the Indian flag and never celebrating occasions corresponding to Independence Day and Republic Day, however that’s altering, Kumar informed Reuters.

“The network among teachers is building very well, students are coming on board,” he mentioned. “Along with studies, a sense of love for the nation in these universities is building up.”

The RSS Muslim wing, he mentioned, seeks to create a “well-organised system to reach out to the youth and the teachers” in Muslim-majority universities corresponding to Aligarh Muslim University, the University of Kashmir, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Language University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Hamdard and Maulana Azad National Urdu University.

The vice-chancellor of the University of Kashmir raised the Indian flag on Independence Day on Aug. 15, after which the nationwide anthem was sung, a video uploaded by the college reveals. That was not at all times the case in the previous, mentioned a senior professor.

“Playing the national anthem is mandatory for every function now,” mentioned the professor, who requested to not be named due to the sensitivity of the problem. “It is also ensured that all the students and staff stand up as a mark of respect.”

The universities didn’t reply to requests for remark.

‘OBEISANCE TO MODIJI’

At Aligarh Muslim University, India’s greatest Muslim college with almost 25,000 college students, the vice-chancellor from 2017 to 2023 was Tariq Mansoor, who resigned in April final yr to turn out to be a BJP state lawmaker and was named a celebration nationwide vice chairman three months later.

Increasing numbers of college near the BJP or the RSS have joined the college in latest years, mentioned Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, a professor of mediaeval Indian historical past.

“My vice-chancellor knows that he can continue as a vice-chancellor only if he pays obeisance to Modiji,” mentioned Rezavi, utilizing an honorific for Modi.

Mansoor declined to remark. Modi’s workplace and the Ministry of Education didn’t reply to requests for remark.

BJP spokesperson Shazia Ilmi mentioned there was nothing uncommon in the federal government selecting its personal nominees to move establishments. “Every government does that,” she mentioned. “Also, nationalism is a good thing and Muslims are happy with nationalism.”

But Roop Rekha Verma, a former vice-chancellor of the University of Lucknow, mentioned: “If ideology is given priority over qualifications and lots of people are placed through the back door holding the same ideology, then it is very damaging to the intellectual atmosphere.”

Congress, which ruled India for most of its post-independence historical past, believes everybody has a proper to hunt votes from totally different teams however it’s incorrect to impose any ideology, mentioned spokesperson Pawan Khera.

“There should be a good mix of all good ideologies in educational institutions,” Khera mentioned. “Why are you imposing one ideology on education institutes?”

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