The Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid has invited Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif and other politicians along with foreign dignitaries to his son’s anointment ceremony (dastarbandi) but has not invited the Indian PM Narendra Modi. While talking to media he said “I have not sent invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Muslims have not forgiven him for the Gujarat riots”. The statement of Shahi Imam regarding PM Narendra Modi has created quite a stir in the country.
The ‘Shahi’ Imam Ahmed Bukhari belongs to an ancient religious dynasty who for the last thirteen generations has been ruling over the Jama Masjid as Shahi Imam. Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari was the First Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid. It is said Shahjahan, the Mughal Emperor, requested the Shah of Bukhara to send Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari and on his arrival made him the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid. Since then all the Shahi Imams came from the Bukhari family.
Flirting With Politics
It is during the reign of Abdullah Bukhari, the father of the current Imam, that the Bukhari Family first started flirting with politics. During the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, when strong anti-congress wave existed in the country due to the emergency, Abdullah Bukhari had issued a fatwa, calling all Muslims to vote for the Janata Dal. But in the 1980 Lok Sabha election the Imam made a complete u-turn and urged the Muslims to vote for the Congress. This tradition of unexpected reversal of stand has stuck with the Bukhari Family. The current Imam has been notorious for his flip flop on political stands.
In the 2007 assembly elections in U.P, Ahmed Bukhari urged the Muslims to vote against the Samajwadi Party but in a total reversal of stand he supported the Samajwadi Party in the 2012 Assembly election in U.P. Later it was found that his Son-in-law, Umar Ali Khan, was given an SP ticket. Perhaps he changed his stand and supported Samajwadi Party for his own vested interests. When his son-in-law fell out with the SP supremo Mulayam Singh because of his alleged demand of a Minister post, Bukhari again started speaking against the SP and urging Muslims to vote for Mayawati, claiming that Samajwadi Party was fooling the Muslims.
So it is quite evident that Bukhari has a habit of misusing his influence among the Muslims and his political weight as a Muslim leader to achieve his own personal interests. It seems it was Bukhari, and not the SP, who was fooling the Muslims.
Shahi Imam Vs Modi
According to his statement against Narendra Modi, it seems he believed Modi and the BJP to have organized the riots in Gujarat. But I wonder where his convictions against the BJP and Modi were when in 2004 he openly persuaded the Muslims to vote for the BJP led NDA. Barely 2 years after the Gujarat riots he could relate to Modi’s party but cannot relate to him now when he is the Prime Minister of the Nation, a leader of all Indians. At the same time he has the audacity to invite Mr. Nawaz Sharif, a leader of a nation which has been responsible for countless terrorist attacks in India in which both Muslims and Hindus were killed. Does he mean to say that he is Anti-Indian and Pro-Pakistan?
Mr. Bukhari’s statement also suggests that he has no respect or belief in the Supreme Court of India which has given a clean chit to Mr. Narendra Modi on Gujarat Riots. The Shahi Imam’s lack of respect for the court of Law is not very difficult to understand given his past track record of not adhering to court orders.
He has been summoned by the court relating to an incident where it is alleged that Bukhari along with his mob of supporters attacked policemen and officials, who were there to remove encroachment near CGO Complex in Lodhi Colony. The Delhi Court also issued non-bailable warrant against him but he failed to show up. He repeatedly ignored the Court’s order and the police was too wary of inciting communal strife by forcefully arresting Ahmed Bukhari.
Too Much Power In One Hand
As with all dynasties, too much concentration of power in one family for too long will only result in abuse of power and corruption. There are allegations that the Bukharis have been using the Jama Masjid as their private property. A Government funded Guest House was allegedly used by Bukhari as his private bedroom moreover there are many similar allegations where the Bukharis have been accused of using government funded buildings for their personal use. There is also a case against the Bukharis in the Delhi High Court where they are accused of illegal construction in the premise of the Holy Jama Masjid. A team formed by the High Court probed these allegations and found the claim of illegal construction to be correct.
The Communal Shahi Imam
The irresponsible statement of the Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari not only undermines the dignity and respect of the position of the Prime Minister of India but also creates religious and communal mistrust in the largely tolerant society of India. It is the religious leaders who create insecurities in the minds of their followers and breed hatred, which in turn motivates their followers to blindly adhere to them, thereby increasing the religious leaders’ power and influence.
The Video where the Shahi Imam Threatens a Muslim Reporter
Hierarchy and dynasty in any religion creates powerful individuals who exploit their huge following among their masses as a tool to further their narrow interest and increase their clout. Such controversial religious leaders and self proclaimed spokespersons of entire communities should be rejected by the masses or else the ugly face of religious intolerance and communal hatred will keep on showing up from time to time.
By: Avinandan Choudhury