Zafar Sareshwala: Industrialist cum Activist, trying to become a Window in the Wall
Zafar Sareshwala may well be perhaps the most controversial Muslim in socio-political arena of the country today. A bearded Tablighi activist and a close confidante of Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India – these two characteristics combining the personality of Sareshwala are enough to make him one of the most talked about and debated figures of Muslim India. But this exact combination also makes him perhaps the most sought after Muslim in Modi’s India. He is no member of BJP, but still holds a kind of clout, which is unmatched in the community. He trusts Modi, and Modi trusts him. A trusted lieutenant of the most controversial ever Prime Minister of the country, he tries hard to use his position for bridging the gap between the Prime Minister and Indian Muslim Community. Often labelled as “Mir Qasim” and “Mir Jafafr” by his adversaries, with the passage of time, certainly, his acceptability is growing. More and more people are getting convinced about the inevitability of a dialogue between Muslims and Modi-led government if they have to continue the efforts to empower themselves. If such a dialogue takes a concrete shape, Sareswala might well emerge as the window in the wall, which so far looks unbreakable, and it is the success or failure of such a dialogue, which will ultimately determine his place in the future history. If it succeeds he will be hailed as a hero; if it fails he will be condemned as a villain. And of course, this success or failure depends more than anything else on how Modi government behaves in the next five years. Sareshwala has also been a darling of mainstream newspapers, which seem to have been equally amused by his religious ways, his ups and down in business and his connections with Modi.
Zafar Yunus Sareshwala has been the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Parsoli Corporation Ltd., since July 2006. Mr. Sareshwala has more than two decades of experience. He serves as a Director of Parsoli Corporation Ltd. He holds a diploma in Mechanical Eng. and Marketing Management. He has recently been appointed Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. He is also known as a champion of Islamic investment in India.
Sareshwala belongs to Sunni Bohra community of Gujarat. Contrary to the popular perception, which knows only about the Shia Ismaili Bohras, Sunni Bohras are a huge community spread all over Gujarat. Sunni Bohras are orthodox Muslims with a number of successful small and medium entrepreneurs. Most of the madarasas in Gujarat are run by the Sunni Bohras including a very old madrasa of Sunni Bohras in Dabhel, which was set up almost more than 100 years back. Describing the religious ethos of the community, Sareshwala says, “We are absolutely puritan Sunni Muslims. This is a norm among the Sunni Bohras community that we pray five times a day and our ladies are in burkas. But despite being religious, we are highly educated as a community. My physical appearance and “image” is that of a stereotypical Muslim. I have a beard, my wife wears a burkha, we pray 5 times a day, we’ve done Hajj and we follow every Islamic tradition. But our views are enlightened precisely because we take the teachings of Islam seriously.” Sareshwala has a long association with Tablighi Jamaat, a regular visitor to Hazrat Nizamuddin Headquarters of the Tablighi Movement and a regular participant, within India and abroad, in Tablighi caravans.
Sareshwala’s business fortunes have been swinging up and down in last 3 decades. A newspaper describes his business story as follows:
“According to a 2006 report from Hindustan Times, for decades, Zafar Sareshwala’s affluent Gujarati Muslim family had distributed lakhs of rupees to the poor in Islam-mandated zaqat donations. Sareshwala — whose company Parsoli has pioneered Islamic banking in India — lost Rs3.3 crore in the 2002 riots when its employees fled the ambushed building that was catching fire. They left computer terminals on, without being able to square off their positions on the stock market. It was the deadliest blow to the family that had lived for some 250 years in Ahmedabad, and had suffered severe damage in the riots of 1969, 1985 and 1992,” the reports said.
According to the report, family and friends suggested that the family should migrate. Sareshwala had to choose between his British resident visa and the stock exchange membership. “It was easy to leave. However, I decided to stay and revive my business. Others just laughed at us,” he told the newspaper.
Sareshwala then sold his century-old industrial valve-producing factory and revived his business. So much so that earlier in October 2009, Sareshwala, who also owns Parsoli Motors, a dealership for BMW in Ahmedabad, gifted a X6 Activity Coupe (Xdrive 30d), worth Rs79 lakh to Salman Khan.”
Mr. Sareshwala organized the Ummat Business Conclave 2014 on 7th February, with the motto of Business in Harmony at the Riverfront to showcase corporate culture of Muslim business community and help them network with the Hindu majority. As it was bound to happen, neither the Muslim business community nor the Hindu counterparts turned up to oblige Sareshwala
Zafar Sareshwala’s meteoric fame is directly linked to his hostility against Modi after 2002 Gujarat Riots, followed by a rapidly growing relationship of mutual trust. He described his story of meeting with Modi to twocircles.net as follows:
“During those horrible days in 2002 I was living in UK with my family. We were the only Muslim registered stock broking company and our terminal was closed due to which just within one day we suffered a huge loss of Rs 3.5 crore. Our bank guarantees were cancelled for nine months, we were totally shattered, bankrupt. Turmoil and pain that was there was just unspeakable.
I and my family did our best. I was appalled hearing and reading about all this. I organised protest against Modi and Advani in London. I tried to collect funds personally with a ‘begging bowl’ to Muslims to help my poor brethrens in India, who suffered loss of life and property.
Meanwhile, I learnt that Modi was back in power, elected as the Chief Minister. It was in that heat of the moment that I started seeking guidance as to what should be done for our (Muslims) to improve their lot, how to restore peace, it was not that easy. I sought the answers from the Holy Quran and Hadith and from the real scholars of Islam. I learnt that our own Prophet suffered hugely, miscreants did every possible torture him and his followers, there were wars and battles, pacts and agreements, Islamic history was my point of reference and I started searching and re-searching it. I started getting answers in our own Islamic history.
There was magnanimity and forgiveness. There was humility and patience. There was grace and softness in words and action of our Prophet…there was no revenge, no blind attacks, no haste to react. There was always a dialogue and communication flow initiated and entertained by our Prophet.
So it occurred to me why not have a dialogue with one who is going to rule for next five years at least, who was elected democratically by the people of my own state. So, I decided to have a dialogue with Modi who was to visit London to invite Fortune 500 companies to invest in Gujarat.
Back in Ahmedabad, there was chaos…nearly 2000 families were directly affected. To our utter shock we found that some of the affluent Muslim families were unperturbed. Not only that there were weddings taking place in this very city just within a few months’ time with all frills and frenzy, lavish food. There was hardly any concern for the victims, survivors and witnesses…from within the community.
I knew it was a very bad situation for Muslims. We needed to be cared and justice to be meted out to us. But, without entering into a dialogue nothing would materialize. Therefore, I decided to consult two leading Muslim scholars- Maulana Isa Mansuri and Maulana Yakub Qasmi - who lived in UK.
I asked them that if it was correct to meet Modi. They both clearly said “BILKUL, BILKUL and BILKUL” meaning certainly you should.
When I left them I had decided that ‘Come What May, I will meet Modi’. Suddenly my ‘hero image` became ‘zero’ I received 1100 hate mails. But, I was determined that even if 100 crore of Muslims are against me I would engage Modi in a dialogue for justice and welfare of my community…for all those who have survived but were not yet comfortable and feeling fearless.
Our friend Mahesh Bhatt, noted film director and crusader of justice, was with us .So, I had even phoned him to consult to meet Modi to have a dialogue. He agreed but told us that I should have courage to tell him with an ‘eye to eye’ contact “there can’t be peace without justice”.
We knew that Rajat Sharma of ‘India TV’ was close to Modi. We requested him and thus the meeting was arranged with Modi on his visit to London in 2003 (on August 17 at St. James Court). At that time Rajat had told us that we would be heavily criticised but after10 years your community would bless you. I was successful in convincing Maulana Mansuri to accompany us with his conviction and support that he lent me earlier.
I was pleasantly surprised when Modi himself had come to receive us at the lift. He made us comfortable and made me sit next to him on a ‘jhoola’ (swing). He was ready to listen to us. He told us we had all rights to ask whatever we wanted to. He remained soft and positive; did not refute charges that we made, nor did he retort them.
Our meeting lasted for two and half hours. We asked him uncomfortable questions that IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt or Teesta Setalvad have raised, questions relating right from February 27 till that day.
We told him that we wanted peace, and that it can’t be achieved without justice. During our conversation we found he was respectful and did not dodge any question. He assured us that justice will be done. He said “ye mere kaal ka kalank hai, ise mujhe hi dhona hai” (I will have to handle it, it is the blot of my period)”.
““People who go on and on about the 2002 riots choose to forget that it was a culmination of an endless series of riots. The worst riot in post partition India happened in 1969 in Ahmedabad; more than 5000 Muslims were killed in that massacre. But because there was no 24x7 media, no one outside got to know because those earlier riots were not documented. It was a small incident involving a cow but it led to a shocking outburst. At that time, Gujarat was under the Congress Party’s Hitendrabhai Desai’s regime while Indira Gandhi was in power at the Centre. During the 1969 riots our office, factory, everything was burnt down. There is an area called “Kalupur which is the heart of Muslims neighbourhoods. In that locality, the police station is situated on Relief Road. Right opposite that police station, there is a mosque and several Muslim shops. That mosque and the shops were burnt down. When Mrs Indira Gandhi visited the riot affected area, she visited that spot. I still remember, I was 5 years old, my grandfather was present when Indira Gandhi got down from her car and said, ‘Here is a police station, and 40 metres away, a mosque and Muslim shops are set on fire. She got down from her car, called her sentries and told them to measure the distance. How on earth is it possible that right opposite the police station Muslim shops were burnt? In the 1969 riots Muslims were systematically massacred.
Forget about punishment, not even a single charge sheet was filed. The Jagmohan Commission report is there for everyone to see. Whole communities were wiped out, without a trace. Why are people not talking about those victims? In 1969, 5000 Muslims were massacred in Ahmedabad alone. Has anyone documented where these 5000 families have gone?
“After each riot, it is the same Hindus who help the rehabilitation of Muslims. I always say this, if the Gujarati Hindus were 100% communal, the Muslims would have been destroyed long ago. It is because these Hindus are not communal that Muslims continue to prosper in Gujarat.
“After the 2002 riot, we were financially wiped out because we were in the stock market. Financial losses to a Muslim, who employs 250 people, is not a joke. At least 250 families receive their ration through me. We couldn’t square the position, our bank guarantee was encashed. The nationalized or private banks that refuse loans to Muslims are not run by Narendra Modi.
“Even though I was in England at the time of 2002 riots, our main family business is in Ahmedabad and we suffered heavy losses. One felt a sense of despair that there is no one to speak for us. I used to live in Dewsbury. Three Gujarati Muslims from Dewsbury were murdered near Himmat Nagar during those riots along with two others. They had gone to visit their ancestral village in Surat district and did not know about the riots. So they got caught in the frenzy of that fateful night of 27th February near Himmat Nagar. They were dragged out, brutally killed and badly mutilated. One of them named Aswal was my neighbour in England. People were shaken and horrified and we thought that now was the time that we do something. We decided to take Gujarat government to the International Court of Justice. In fact, at that time Mr L.K. Advani who was then the Home Minister, was due to come to the U.K, I filed a case against Advani in the London High Court that this man should not be allowed to enter U.K because those days Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam -- an ultra-right wing black movement -- was scheduled to come to UK but UK government did not allow him entry.
“I said that when you can stop the entry of Farrakhan, Advani should not be allowed either. My case was admitted in the London High Court. Mr Advani went back from Spain because he did not want to face the embarrassment. That case was dismissed, but I wanted to make a point. I…
“I thought, if they had entered into negotiations earlier, these 3 million refugees could have lived settled lives. And who decides what Palestinians or Gujarati Muslims should do? These armchair critics? They are sitting in their plush offices in 9 to 5 jobs getting 7 figure salaries. All they do is sending off emails. It is we who have to live and die in Gujarat. And these guys control us. They don’t want to come to India, they don’t want to visit Ahmedabad, and they don’t care to do anything concrete. It also broke my myth about Pan-Islamisation. I used to think Islam is one. But I came to realize Arabs are Arabs and Pakistanis are Pakistanis. Forget Gujarat, even within India, Lucknow Muslims are Lucknawi. They don’t care if Gujarati Muslims die. The worst was when I realized that if you are Ahmedabadis, even Surat Muslims will not come to save you.
“I used to go from mosque to mosque in England to beg money for 2002 riot victims telling them, you don’t need to give me money. Send it directly to victims or community NGOs working for them. People need money, we need to build houses. My immediate reaction at that point of time also was that we should not make beggars of our community. When I used to hear about refugee camps, I used to tell my brother, For God’s sake, do something to get these refugee camps closed. Don’t allow Muslims to become a beggar community.
“It is not that I could not have gone on with my cushy life living in England. I was running a financial services company. I was part of the team along with a renowned Shariah scholar in creating financial products regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) of the UK. I set up the first Islamic Equity Fund in the world. I was lecturing in Harvard and at the Islamic Institute of Finance in London. I had given this whole idea of the Islamic finance, Islamic funds. That was my field. But when I saw the apathy, it hit me very badly. Nobody cared about those dead, or those whose dear ones died. The rest were happy in their own world. Gujarat had become a topic of drawing room conversations over kebabs. And I was horrified with that. I told myself, we don’t want such people; we don’t want their sympathy. But I had already waged this war against Modi. I could not even return to Gujarat. With that as backdrop, I thought whether it is Gujarat or any other issue, unless and until we sit down and talk, the problem can’t be solved. Then I asked myself, if one has to start the dialogue, who do we begin with? Why not Modi himself?”...
(as reported in Manushi)
1. Whenever would-be prime ministerial candidates of the country for the 2014 elections is being discussed, it cannot be complete without mentioning Narendra Modi, who is, by far, way ahead of any other person across the political spectrum. It is also equally important to make an intellectual analysis as to why Modi, who took charge of a communally surcharged state being a non-starter as a politician in 2002, has reached this level of popularity across the country where no other politician has been able to reach.
You may hate him or you may like him but you cannot ignore him. The journey which Narendra Modi has covered - from being the most hated figure in 2002 to a probable prime ministerial candidate in 2014 - is astounding. Modi's approach has undoubtedly given him the status of a statesman and the architect of the Gujarat growth model.
This could be counted as one of the reasons for the minorities, including the Muslims gravitating towards Narendra Modi. The fruits of this model have touched more or less all sections of the society, and has been inclusive beyond doubt.
The nation did watch the UPA back-patting itself on completing 9 years and the nation also watched Narendra Modi completing 10 years as the Gujarat CM. And no doubt, the applause goes to Narendra Modi. The million-dollar question now is, "What changes have been made in Gujarat in these ten years? And why this gravitation towards Narendra Modi is now creeping across the country?"
Modi and Gujarat are development symbols for the nation. Although the scars of 2002 still remain but it was not just an enigma that more than 31 per cent of the Muslims voted for the BJP in the 2012 Assembly elections. Media has not yet realised this. The reality has not yet dawned that 6 out of 8 Muslim-majority constituencies were won by BJP candidates last December. And this momentum of the Muslims overwhelmingly voting for the BJP continued in the local elections of February 2013. Modi has been time-tested several times in the past decade and this is perhaps the first decade in the last 60 years when Gujarat remained riot-free. The reason was simple. Modi has given the Gujaratis the boon of peace and justice which money can't buy. And across civilisations of the world, people have liked a leader who can provide them peace and justice because prosperity is bound to follow if these are made available to the people.
There are number of reasons for the Muslims of Gujarat to move beyond the 2002 riots, primarily because in the 9 major cases of rioting and arson, the perpetrators of the crime were convicted, justice prevailed and the rule of law was established.
Recently, India's most well-known film script-writer Salim Khan (actor Salmaan Khan's father) has said to a senior journalist in an interview: "Does anyone remember who the chief minister of Maharashtra was during the Mumbai riots which were no less deadly than the Gujarat riots of 2002? Does anyone recall the name of the chief minister of UP during Malliana and Meerut riots or that of the Bihar CM when the Bhagalpur or Jamshedpur riots under Congress regimes took place? Do we hear names of earlier chief ministers of Gujarat under whose charge, hundreds of riots took place in post-Independence India? Does anyone remember who was in-charge of Delhi's security when the 1984 massacre of Sikhs took place in the capital of India? How come Narendra Modi has been singled out as the Devil Incarnate as if he personally carried out all the killings during the riots of 2002?" No speck of doubt about what Salim Khan has said.
Modi, in fact, has given a new formula of inclusive development to our secular country by removing the labels of religion, castes and creed. He approaches the people as one and designs schemes intended to benefit all Gujaratis, thus eliminating the evil divide and rule formula of vote-bank politics from which the country is suffering from. No help or aid or scheme has been launched in Gujarat in the last 11 years in the name of religion or caste. This could be the quintessence of inclusive growth with communal harmony.
No wonder we see the highly respected and eminent Muslim scholar Maulana Vastanvi, a Gujarati Muslim himself, saying that, "Gujarati muslims had benefited from the inclusive development policies of Modi's government." Unfortunately he was forced to resign from his post as Vice-Chancellor of Deoband for saying so.
Another prominent Islamic scholar, Maulana Mehmood Madni of Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind, had agreed that Muslims in Gujarat were better off in many disciplines as compared to other states.
Yet another prominent non-resident Gujarati Lord Adam Patel of the UK, during his visit to India, met Modi at Gandhinagar and appreciated his peace initiatives and the inclusive prosperity among the Muslims of Gujarat.
Not only the Muslims of Gujarat, in a recent interview given to 'Milli Gazette', former IG of Police, Maharashtra, SM Mushrif said: "The most safe place for Muslims today is Gujarat." He further says that the state of Maharashtra has done the greatest damage to the Muslim community which is ruled by so-called secular parties like the NCP and the Congress for the last 10 years. So many cannot be wrong at the same time; there remains no doubt about why Muslims are gravitating towards Modi.
No wonder the Modi hate campaigners are finding a hard time to sell their part of story because they are in stark contrast with the ground reality in spite of repeated media-trials.
I remember Mahesh Bhatt, the renowned film director ,once speaking from a Jamiatul Ulema -e-Hind platform in Surat, said and I quote him: "Narendra Modi, sun rahe ho? Jis mazhab ko tum aaye din kehte ho ki ye aatankvadiyon ki gangotri hai, uske Rasool ne kya kaha hai...".as he quoted a Hadith of the Prophet. Mahesh Bhatt soon received a call from Narendra Modi. Modi told him, "Maheshbhai, Musalmaan 5 aaiye, 50 aaiye, 500 aaiye, 5000 aaiye, main milne ko taiyyar hoon, main aapki saari problems ko solve karne ke liye taiyyar hoon. Main aapko ye hi kehna chahta hoon ki main available hoon." Film director Mahesh Bhatt had put forward this to the Islamic leaders of Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind and to the Muslim community in general.
Here the CM seems to have won over the hearts not by practising divide and rule but by ensuring inclusiveness and submissiveness to the people. Taking into context the Muslims of Gujarat, they had never seen such inclusiveness and such a discrimination-free society. The only thing, every Gujarati was looking for, was development.
We all know that the worst riot in post-Partition India happened in 1969 in Ahmedabad and more than 5000 Muslims were killed in that systematic massacre. Because there was no 247 media those days, earlier riots were not documented. At that time Gujarat was ruled by the Congress and Hitendra Desai was the CM while Indira Gandhi was in power at the Centre. Forget about punishment, not even a single charge sheet was filed. The Jagmohan Commission report is there for everyone to see. Whole communities were wiped out without a trace. Has anyone documented where these 5000 families have gone?
In the past, people of Gujarat always lived under the fear of communal riots but efforts and endeavours of prominent Muslims had made it possible for numerous Muslim delegations - Islamic scholars, businessmen, youth, women and even street hawkers to meet Modi. He has met them all and given an ear to their grievances. This was something the Muslims had not seen in the last 40 years of Congress rule. Muslim madarsas were supported. Madarsa students, who had never seen or gone to a school, got a chance to appear for SSC and class XIIth examinations. The famous Sarkhej Roza which was in dilapidated condition was renovated and restored. The numbers of Muslim-owned schools and hospitals in the state have increased. Economic prosperity too has visited Muslim households and as a result, the record turn-out by Muslims to vote for Narendra Modi.
It is important to understand that inclusive growth has benefitted the minority community and we can see that through various growth indicators. Some of them are:
This, being a season of preparations for the Hajj pilgrimage, it is important to see that the total quota for Hajj travellers in Gujarat is 3,500 seats whereas applications for Hajj have exceeded the count of 41,000 already. Going for Hajj is an indicator of economic prosperity of a family because in Islam, it is mandatory to fulfil all your social obligations before going on Hajj.
Gujarat has two of the fastest growing districts in the country and they are Kutch and Bharuch and both these districts have large Muslim populations and there has been unprecedented growth in these districts. Kutch has about 35 per cent Muslim population and Bharuch has around 20 per cent Muslim population.
Similarly, if one looks at the two-wheeler vehicle registration at various RTO's in Gujarat, almost 18 per cent of the vehicles are registered in the names of Muslims who form less than 10 per cent of the total population of the state. Similarly, the registration of 4-wheeler vehicles is also much higher than the communitys proportionate population.
The number of Muslims employed in the police force is 12 per cent in Gujarat,. while Muslims employed by the Gujarat state government is around 10 per cent of the total sarkari workforce.
Yes, we all agree that there was massive destruction of lives and property and Muslims did suffer a lot in 2002. But this was not the first time. Before this, major riots have occurred in Gujarat in 1969, 87, 89, 90, 92. In each one of these riots, many Muslims lost their lives and property worth crores of rupees was looted, but never were the perpetrators of the crime punished. Even FIR's were not registered. The government of the day would not dare to confront the arsonists. But now, for the first time, not only in the history of Gujarat but even elsewhere in the country, more than 200 miscreants belonging to the majority faith have been convicted for their roles in the 2002 riots. Out of these 200 convicts, 150 have been given life imprisonment. Although all these convictions have happened due to the involvement of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT, the role of the Gujarat government in ensuring justice cannot be ignored. These convictions have been like a balm on the wounds of the victims.
Two more cases are at a very advanced stage of conviction: Naroda Gam and Gulburga society where again the convictions of the perpetrators and arsonists are foregone conclusions.
Apart from justice, this government has been able to provide a terror-free atmosphere. So as compared to earlier when a Muslim could not even venture out to some parts, today he or she can freely move around and there is terror-free interaction between the communities. Such an atmosphere was unseen anywhere before 2002 in Gujarat.
People praise the riverfront project on the banks of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad but people forget that there were some 13000 families living on the bank of the Sabarmati for the last 50 years. Every single family has been rehabilitated in beautiful apartments and 68 per cent of these families were Muslim. No discrimination was done by the state government. The Gujarat government has raised schemes for the weaker sections of the society and there is not a single incident where Muslims have been discriminated.
In spite of the Modi government being reprimanded for not implementing any minority-related financial schemes, Gujarat Minorities Finance Development Corporation has disbursed over Rs 60 crore in the last 10 years. Modi is portrayed as anti-minority whereas the experience of the minorities in Gujarat is that Modi is a very minority-friendly person. Not surprisingly, most Christians vote for Modi. They have never complained against his regime.
In the words of V V Augustine from Kerala, who used to frequently interact with Modi during his tenure as a member of the National Minorities Commission, "People who spread the canard that Modi is against the minorities are reflecting their own political biases. My experience is totally different. He listens very carefully and acts very fast in case of genuine problems. As a member of the Minorities Commission, I dealt with several states. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar governments have also been good. But no chief minister is as good, as strong and determined as Modi. Now even Muslims realise that Modi is good for them. There are two kinds of Muslims in Gujarat - the rich and the poor. My experience tells me the poor Muslims are solidly with Modi because a riot-free Gujarat and a resurgent economy with new opportunities have benefited the poorer Muslims far more dramatically. It has provided them avenues of upward mobility. Truth is truth, how can I deny facts?"
The end result today is that Gujarat has seen its first ever post-Independence riot-free decade with inclusive growth. Muslims have gravitated towards Narendra Modi and Modi, the most hated figure in 2002, is the most suitable prime ministerial material for the country in 2013
2. My wife who is a good calligraphic, has designed the name of Allah and it was presented to Narendra Modi alongwith a book of Maulana Rabey Hasni Nadwi, President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Modij told me if 5 books like this were distributed among Hindus the communal feeling get end forever. I could’nt understand that in spite of the instruction of Prophet Mohammad (to acquire knowledge is compulsory) this community is illiterate. He said I did’nt have words to express the friendly attitude of Prophet Muhammad. What kind of a man he was, I appreciate and salute him.
3. 15 percent of the nearly 200 million Indian Muslims, mostly youth, voted for Modi in the 2014 elections. I predicted Modi's victory in 2012 because I saw the support Modi has among the country's youth, which composes 65 percent of the 815 million-strong Indian electorate. However, a large number of Indian Muslims are still hesitant in their approach to Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Modi government's practices improving the education level of the Muslim minority and providing direct access for Muslims to reach government funds will prove the sincerity of the BJP government.
4. In 2006, after a series of encounters in Gujarat, the police started rounding up Muslim clerics, many of whom ran madrassas. I set up a meeting between Modi and the maulvis, and the operation was dropped. I have ensured rehabilitation for 3,500 hawkers from old Ahmedabad being displaced by a government redevelopment plan. I have also facilitated dialogues between Modi and prominent community members, like Urdu weekly Nai Dunya's editor Shahid Siddiqui and Lord Adam Patel, chief patron of London-based Council of Indian Muslims
5. “I am assuring you that in this regime, you are never going to face any discrimination. Modi-led government is committed to provide you equal opportunities,"
6. “What Modi is thinking about Muslims is nothing new. We knew about it earlier and now the entire world knows it."
7. “The truth is Modi has excellent personal relations with a large number of Muslims. He has built a very strong team of Muslims who work closely with him. They are well educated, command the respect of the community. They are not seen as bikau [sell-off] types, they are not the kind who curry personal favours and become courtiers. By contrast, the Congress Party is today devoid of credible Muslim leaders, not just in Gujarat but also in the rest of India.”
A: Look at the economic and educational situation of Muslims in Gujarat today. Much more though needs to be done by Muslims from within the community and also from the Government yet things are brighter. Today, in Ahmedabad, you go to any mall, recreation club and hotels you find Muslims freely moving out and enjoying life. There is no fear as such to them, for last ten years there have not been any riots. There is a general prosperity feeling among Muslim community in Gujarat. Muslims have purchased good number of cars that we sell, this is something new, Muslims are living in good posh houses today. These could be some important denominators.
According to a news report,
“:Impressed by the works of Kimse Yok Mu, a charity inspired by the views of the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen which holds official UN consultative status, Sareshwala says the way Kimse Yok Mu conveys aid to people in need gives dignity back to the poor. That is what Muslims need to follow, even when they give zakah (alms) to the poor, Sareshwala added.
Sareshwala says Kimse Yok Mu plays an important role in social harmony by involving small, medium and large-sized corporations in charity work and bringing all sections of the community together to help each other.
After visiting the Kimse Yok Mu headquarters and Fatih University in İstanbul, Sareshwala noted that Fethullah Gülen, being one of the most important Islamic scholars not only in Turkey but also in the world, is important to Muslims by his example in educating youth and engaging in dialogue with people from different communities all over the world.”
It depends upon how one judges him, good or bad, but Zafar Sareshwala has certainly been a darling of maiunstreeam media. In a long write-up, “Zafar Sareshwala: The Muslim who bats for Modi”, Times of India says:
“The 50-year-old bearded businessman has become a familiar face on TV news debates and is the go-to person for journalists looking for a byte from a rare breed — a Muslim supporter of the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
Considered one of Modi's trusted backroomboys, he is said to have the Gujarat chief minister on speed dial, predictably earning brickbats for "backstabbing" community members who oppose Modi's Hindutva ideology. But Sareshwala, whose family hails from Ahmedabad, maintains that engagement with Modi and the BJP is the only way forward for the Muslims of Gujarat. "Muslims cannot remain isolated from a party which has been in power in Gujarat for so long, and Modi should not remain untouchable forever. Permanent animosity against a political party and its prime ministerial candidate will not help improve the community's condition," he explains.
Sareshwala's own leap of faith has been a long one — back in 2002, he was among Modi's fiercest critics though the only losses he suffered during the 2002 Gujarat riots were financial. A mechanical engineering graduate and expert in Islamic finance and banking, he was working in England at the time, but Parsoli Corp, an Islamic investment company he had set up in Ahmedabad with his two younger brothers, incurred losses of Rs 3.8 crore. Their industrial valve manufacturing factory was also burnt down, and the wealthy Sareshwalas, once among the largest zakat (charitable tax) donors in the community, found themselves in dire straits.
Back in the UK, Sareshwala joined a group of activists planning a suit against Modi in the UN-affiliated International Court of Justice. He even contemplated moving his family to England. Ironically, it was Modi who made him rethink his plan. "Kya wahan angrezon ki ghulami karte rahoge. (How long will you serve the British) You are needed in India," Modi had said to him during a phone conversation in 2005.
Earlier, in 2003, Sareshwala and London-based Islamic scholar Maulana Isha Mansoori had a long meeting with Modi to thrash out differences. He claims the Koran and the Prophet's traditions, his two main guides, did not stop him from engaging with enemies. "The Prophet signed Sulah Hudaibiya, a seemingly humiliating treaty, with the then pagan Meccans who had oppressed him and his followers. This is the example that I follow and want my fellow Muslims to follow too," says the businessman, who returned to Ahmedabad with a two-pronged task — strengthening his family financially and providing help to his community.
A BMW dealership that his brother acquired while rebuilding the family's finances has led Sareshwala's critics to label his proximity to Modi "sheer opportunism". "I have no problem if Sareshwala has made peace with Modi only because of his business. But after capitulating to a tyrant, he is now collaborating with him to make India a Hindu rashtra where minorities, especially Muslims, will be second-class citizens," says Javed Anand, secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) and coeditor of Communalism Combat. Human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi says Sareshwala has sided with Modi to "serve his own interests", but director Mahesh Bhatt, a supporter of Sareshwala and other riot victims, is more dispassionate. "Zafar is my frenemy. I am friends with him despite my fundamental dislike of his politics," he says…
Sareshwala, who receives loads of hate mail and is frequently referred to as 'Mir Sadiq' and 'Mir Jaffer', historical figures who betrayed their community to help the British, is unfazed by criticism. His grouse is against "publicity-hungry" activists who pretend to side with the community. "Funds were being collected to fight court cases but the Muslims in Gujarat were completely isolated. There was no one who would talk to Modi on their behalf," he claims. His family, including his three children, supports his stance and Sareshwala says his father, who died last month, advised him to stand his ground.”
“After the 2002 riots, Zafar Sareshwala – A Gujarati Muslim – was among those who led an international campaign against Modi. He became a celebrity when he announced his intention to take Modi to the International Court of Justice. But very soon he decided to change track.
At a time when Modi had been made into a national and international hate object, Zafar had the courage to start the process of engagement with Modi. He did this despite the fact that his own family suffered huge losses in the riots of 2002. Their factory was totally gutted. They had also suffered similar losses in numerous earlier riots as well in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s. Every time their business establishment was burnt down and they had to start afresh.
Zafar paid heavily for this “politically incorrect” step. He was attacked not only by fellow Muslims but also the national and international media as well as activist networks for having “sold out” and betrayed his community. The very same people who treated him as a hero for having led the anti Modi campaign defamed him with ferocity…..
Zafar Sareshwala has set into motion a new phase of Muslim politics in Gujarat. I believe it has historic implications for Muslim politics in all of India”.