Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday held a meeting with Muslim intellectuals, industrialists and former bureaucrats even as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pointed to the Congress party’s “politics of Muslim appeasement”.
The meeting comes a week before the Monsoon Session of Parliament. Issues related to minorities are said to have been discussed in the meeting. The Narendra Modi government is keen to push through the 'triple talaq' Bill during the upcoming session of Parliament.
Sources in the Congress said contrary to media reports, there wasn’t a single Muslim religious leader in the gathering. Congress leader Salman Khurshid and party’s minority cell chief Nadeem Javed also attended the meeting.
The Congress party rejected the BJP's criticism that the meeting with Muslim intellectuals was an example of “Muslim appeasement”. Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said her party believes in inclusive politics, and the Congress president has been meeting people from all walks of life, including farmers, diplomats, Aanganwadi workers, businesspersons and others.
“The BJP is indulging in poisonous politics whereby it is trying to make people look at any and every debate through the prism of Hindus-and-Muslims,” Chaturvedi said. She said questions should be asked to the Prime Minister for meeting and benefitting "crony capitalists".
Some of those who attended the meeting were publisher Atiya Zaidi, historian Irfan Habib, academic Abu Saleh Shariff, former telecom secretary M F Farooqui, author Rakshanda Jalil, activist Farah Naqvi, businessman and philanthropist Haroon R A Khan, lawyer Fuzail Ahmed Ayyuby and academic Ghazala Jamil.
Amir Mohammad Khan, better known as Suleiman, the erstwhile Raja of Mamudabad, also attended the meeting, as did industrialist Junaid Rehman.
According to a section of the media, poet and Hindi film scriptwriter Javed Akhtar too was supposed to be present. The Congress party said Akhtar didn’t attend the event. Media reports said Akhtar was one of the invitees, which riled leaders of Muslim religious organisations.
“Interesting that Akhtar, who proudly claims himself to be an atheist and doesn’t believe in Islam, would join the group of Muslim intellectuals who have been called by Rahul Gandhi to deliberate on ‘Muslim’ issues,” president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat Navaid Hamid tweeted.