After the BJP’s reach out to Christian leaders on the issue of the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens turned out to be a damp squib, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader and Muslim Rashtriya Manch head Indresh Kumar’s public meeting with Muslim clerics also floundered.
As soon as the meeting began in the Constitution Club, Delhi, several people who were against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens began to protest at the meeting hall. The sloganeering continued for at least seven minutes before they were pushed out of the meeting hall. This protest got more coverage than Indresh Kumar’s speech.
In the one-and-a-half-hour meeting, only Kumar spoke and none of the Muslim clerics was given the chance to say anything much. Without the backing of facts, Indresh Kumar said that his team had done surveys in Old Delhi where it was found that of the 3,000 daily wage labourers in Sadar Bazar, only 235 were Indians, the rest were ‘Bangladeshi ghuspethias’. “I have sent out my people to survey few other areas in Delhi too and we found that more than half of the jobs were taken by Bangladeshi ghuspethia and these people were taking away the jobs of Indians. We are against this,” said Kumar. When he was asked for the data on the basis of which he made these allegations, he said that he doesn’t have to show anyone the data and if any media house wanted to follow up the story, they should conduct the research themselves.
Indresh relied on the same tropes that the BJP has been using to pull down the CAA and NRC protests. Sitting amidst less than 70 people, of which at least 30 were Hindus, Indresh Kumar said that CAA and NRC would only help minorities and it would not alienate people of any religion. “India has always given refuge to people from all religion. Parsis have come here, Jews have come here, so this law is only to help those who feel persecuted. Muslims will not be alienated,” alleged Kumar.
Kumar condemned the women protesting at Shaheen Bagh. Misrepresenting Islamic teachings, Kumar said that according to Islam, if one’s neighbours were hungry, then your prayers won’t be heard. “Women of Shaheen Bagh who are sitting on the road have rejected this teaching. The women who are sitting there are not brave,” pointed out Kumar. Of the 70 persons in the audience, two persons clapped.
However, Kumar refused to acknowledge the Islamic teaching which says that each one must protest any injustice being meted out.
Attempting to convince the audience about his own importance and that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kumar claimed, “When the women of Shaheen Bagh were asked who should go to meet them, they said PM Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah should meet them. “They also said that they would stop protesting if their brother Indresh Kumar came to meet them,” he added.
At the end of the meeting, NH questioned at least 15 Muslims in the audience about their reasons for attending this meeting. Of these 15, at least 10 of them looked away when the question was asked. When NH persisted, they said they had nothing to say and immediately walked away.
All of the five who spoke refused to be recorded or photographed. They all said that they did not support the CAA or NRC. “I am from Moradabad. I came here to see what these people are saying. I do not support either CAA or NRC as it will adversely affect all Indians, especially Muslims. The people have shared the dais have come only because they want power and money,” said Hamid Syed (name changed to protect identity).
Earlier this month, BJP President JP Nadda met around 15 pastors of the Christian community in Delhi along with BJP Vice President Dushyant Gautam and Tom Vadakkan to change the narrative amongst Christians on the Citizenship Amendment Act. However, all those who met the BJP President expressed their displeasure with the Citizenship Amendment Act.