by Mahesh Trivedi, Khaleej Times
Ahmedabad: The appointment of a Gujarat-based businessman who is seen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face of ‘Muslim’ support as Chancellor of the prestigious Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad, has drawn sharp reactions from community leaders and activists.
Reacting to the announcement by the federal Ministry of Human Resource Development naming Zafar Sareshwala, CEO & MD of Parsoli Corporation Ltd. to the plum post, the Gujarat chapter of the All India Milli Council said that the decision was a mockery of the Urdu language as the new incumbent was not an Urdu scholar and had no notable educational background.
Abdul Hafiz Lakhani, council leader and editor of the first national Muslim Gujarati fortnightly, also said that the HRD ministry was out to saffronise education in the country and Sareshwala might now be used in the top minority university to achieve this goal of the Modi government.
Vadodara-based social activist J.S. Bandukwala, a retired physics professor of the famed M.S. University whose home was attacked by Hindu rioters in 2002, said that the appointment of a diploma holder in mechanical engineering to the hallowed post was made at the behest of the Modi government but the political appointee was a square peg in a round hole.
Pratik Sinha, who runs human rights organisations like the Truth of Gujarat and Jan Sangharsh Manch and has taken up the cudgels for the Muslim riot survivors, said Modi had rewarded a sycophant like Sareshwala for spreading lies in the country on his behalf during the Lok Sabha poll campaigns.
Gujarat High Court advocate Iqbal Masud Khan said he was surprised how a businessman with practically no background in education could be named the chancellor of a public-funded university.
“Such persons will not only spell the doom for the beautiful Urdu language but will also make the younger generation forget the contribution of Maulana Azad to the country’s freedom struggle and framing of a secular education policy as the federal education minister,” said Khan, who has fought the authorities to preserve heritage in the historical city of Ahmedabad.
Khan, a former newspaper journalist, also pointed out that Sareshwala was a staunch Tabligh Jamat member which, he said, had hidden sympathies with the notorious ISIS.
Shabnam Hashmi, managing trustee of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, described the appointment as ‘horrendous’ and said it was high time “the future generation was saved”.
Sareshwala, 51, had played a critical role in Modi’s attempt to reach out to the minorities, from organising conclaves for Muslim business leaders to facilitating kite-flying with actor Salman Khan during election campaigns.
Many say his credentials in business itself are dubious as his company Parsoli Group had faced the ire of the Securities and Exchange Board of India on several occasions.
But admits Sareshwala: “I don’t know much about MANUU. But I know that empowerment of a community is not possible without proper education.”