TWO MONTHS after Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) district vice-president Arun Kumar Mahaur — a Dalit — was shot dead in Muslim-dominated Mantola area of Agra leading to communal tension, a Muslim organisation Tuesday felicitated local BJP MLA Yogendra Upadhyay and newly appointed BJP Mahanagar president Vijay Shivhare at a function organised to welcome them.
Members of All India Jamiat-ul-Quresh, the outfit behind the event, said it was done to ensure the Muslim population was heard by its representatives and to quell the tension in Mantola, which remains tensed “because of some disturbing elements from RSS, VHP and BJP”.
“During the function, we welcomed and honoured the BJP leaders to send a message of peace and harmony. I appealed to them to identify elements within their organisation who disturb the social atmosphere in Agra,” said Mohammad Sharif Qureshi, the president of the outfit.
No sooner had the leaders been felicitated, the BJP was quick to remark it as “a signal of change in Agra”, which happened because of “the charm of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his vision of ‘sabka saath-sabka vikas’”.
“I appealed to the Muslim community to step forward. Aap ek kadam badho, hum aapki taraf chaar kadam badhayenge,” Shivhare said of his interaction at the event. BJP has assured local Muslims of all cooperation and redressal of their grievances with the help of local public representatives, he added.
The college ground venue where the event was held is barely 200 metres from the spot where Mahaur was murdered on February 25. The incident had led to widespread tension, with members of RSS, VHP, BJP, ABVP and Bajrang Dal descending to hold a condolence meeting, holding Muslim youths responsible for the killing. It was alleged that Mahaur was killed for running an anti-cow slaughter campaign. A case was registered against BJP and VHP leaders for hate speech at the condolence meeting.
At the event on Tuesday, one of the speakers told Upadhyay, the BJP MLA from Agra South, that outfits associated with the BJP overreact without following any administrative procedure of getting information on cow slaughter. To this, the MLA shot back that “their (Muslims’) local leaders create hurdles in the carrying out of developmental works proposed for Mantola and other adjoining Muslim-dominated areas”.
This was Upadhyay’s first visit to Mantola since winning the Agra South seat in 2012 Assembly polls. Qureshi said that over 90 per cent of the population in Mantola belong to Sunni sect which would “never vote for BJP”. “Even after organising such a function, it will be too early to claim that local Muslims will vote for BJP in the next Assembly polls (2017),” Qureshi said. The Tuesday’s event was attended by about 150 Muslim men, he said.
The MLA, on his part, said he was “hopeful” that the outfit’s initiative “will improve relations between Muslims and BJP in Agra”. Pointing out that he had got “only three votes” against the nearly 5,000 votes polled at the booths of Mantola area in 2012 polls, Upadhyay said he told the gathering about how the ruling Samajwadi Party and the opposition BSP were “keeping Muslims deprived of basic amenities to exploit their votes” by not undertaking any developmental works in the area.