Atir Khan/ Bareilly
Tauqueer Raza Khan, who recently gave a call to Muslims to rally in large numbers to protest against the “call of genocide” given at the Haridwar Dharam Sansad, is one of the most controversial Muslim leaders of Uttar Pradesh. All the 60 years of his life, he has lived in the media limelight because of his provocative statements.
Tauqueer Raza Khan is the great-grandson of Ala Hazrat, the founder of Barelvis, one of the two major Sunni Muslim sects that are spread all over India and abroad.
He lives in an old multi-storied building in the congested Mohalla Saudagran of Bareilly. The place can be reached through narrow and congested lanes only in a cycle rickshaw. The ambiance there resembles that of the areas around Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah in Delhi or Ajmer Sharif. Not very far from the mohalla is the dargah of Ala Hazrat and his disciples. The tiny and brightly-lit shops lining the lane sell Islamic religious books, prayer beads, itr (fragrance), etc.
Given his penchant for controversies, it’s a bit shocking that Khan’s house is not provided with security by the State.
The meeting hall where followers and visitors for Khan are ushered has floor-level seating on the soft mattresses covered with white sheets. A glass showcase on the wall displays mementos that Tauqeer Khan has received.
Khan is clad in a white kurta-pajama, sporting a half sleeve Monte Carlo pullover and a black cap commonly worn by Sajjadanashins of dargahs.
As we settle for his interview, he makes it clear that he is not interested in talking about Sufism. With the serious expression on his face, we go ahead with a business-like interview.
On the question of the need to give a call to Muslims to gather for a protest in Bareilly on January 7 in the wake of Haridwar Dharam Sansad, he smiles and says: “You ask me what was the need? It’s a good question.”
He continues to justify his action. “It’s a Gandhian way of peaceful protest. If someone slaps you on one cheek, then offer the other one. If those people have any humanity in them then they would be ashamed of our upcoming protest. How long can we tolerate this kind of humiliation? This has to stop somewhere. That’s why I have given the call for Muslims to gather.”
He adds: “I have high respect for one sadhu who walked out of the Dharam Sansad and boycotted it. His conscience did not allow him to stay there. He realised whatever was happening there was wrong so he walked out. I also respect non-Muslim organisations and intelligentsia that have criticised the call for genocide of Muslims in Haridwar.”
Khan refutes allegations that his call for protest was confrontationist. “I am not asking Muslims to be violent. That would be the situation if I had given a call to be violent but that is not the case. All I am saying is that we are willing to die for the country.”
He explains: “We have decided if the country benefits and progress with our deaths then we offer the first batch of 20,000 youth. Whoever wants can kill us as we offer ourselves.”
Already several people from civil society including retired Army officers, Supreme Court lawyers, and various Hindu groups have condemned what was discussed in the Dharam Sansad. The police have lodged a case and SIT has been formed to probe the matter.
Asked if his move would further polarise the situation and place Muslims on a confrontationist line, he replied, “My religion demands we love both our country and our religion. We are ready with folded hands to be killed in the interest of our nation. Our religion doesn’t allow suicide otherwise we would have taken our lives.”
Khan says his statements had been misunderstood and he didn’t mean any confrontation. He adds: “At any cost, we don’t want to see a civil war in the country. We never want our youths to be aggressive and harm fellow Indians. We want our youths to be peaceful and wish to lead them to the path of peace. Our religion has taught us the virtues of sacrifice.”
He says his fight is against factionalism and hatred that is being spread in the country. And that he wishes to eliminate the differences between Hindus and Muslims, which he believes are growing by the day.
“I ask the question should the police and administration have waited for so long that someone would come forward to lodge an FIR. If fellow Indians wouldn’t have opposed the Dharam Sansad, then even the FIR would not have been lodged.”
He says the only person, who has been arrested is the one who was disrespectful to Gandhiji but the people who gave a call for genocide are still scot-free. He alleges all those people involved in the Haridwar meeting owe their allegiance to Pakistan and China, which would like to unsettle the country and engineer internal disturbances.
When asked that he is also a politician and heads a political party called Ittehad-Millat Council and that his call to Muslims would be seen through the prism of politics, he says, “I have not given this call as a political leader but only conveyed the decision which the ulema have taken in response to the Dharam Sansad.”
He adds: “Ulemas are of the view that if we can save the country and our religion by giving our lives then it’s alright. After Bareilly, my next demonstration would be in Kanpur and Muzzaffarnagar. I have been getting invitations to stage demonstrations in Telangana and Bengaluru.”
Khan believes a large section of the Hindus who have opposed Dharam Sansad would like what he is doing. He believes that FIR and the formation of SIT is no solution. The people responsible for hate speeches against Muslims should be arrested.
“A suo motu action should have been initiated much earlier …what the administration and police were waiting for so long when a serious offense was committed in public?” he countered.
He says the Parliament should hold a special session to make a law to jail people who make irresponsible statements against any religious group.