Tuesday, June 12, 2007

CM, Malegaon moulvis strike deal

JOINING HANDS: Members of the IMCP met Vilasrao Deshmukh on Monday

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

The Congress finally capitulated on Monday night and gave the Malegaon mayor’s post to the the threemonth old Indian Muslim Congress Party (IMCP) or Third Front, a party headed by Mufti Mohammed Ismail, high priest of Malegaon’s Jama Masjid.

The Congress and the IMCP will jointly rule the Malegaon municipal corporation for the next five years. This decision was taken at a meeting between the leaders of IMCP and chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, at the latter’s official residence.

Explaining the turnaround, Ismail, who till yesterday was talking of an alliance with the Shiv Sena said, “The ideological conflict is still there. We were talking to Shiv Sena but could not muster up the 37 seats needed for majority and therefore, when we got an offer from the Congress we agreed. All this is for Malegaon’s development.’’

He added, “We contested the election on the development issues since we realised there was a lot of work to be done for the city. The residents of Malegaon voted for us and now we are looking forward for their upliftment.’’

The IMCP bagged 27 seats in the 72-member corporation elections. Congress has 15 seats and the Nihal Ahmed-led Janata Dal (Secular) could manage only 12 seats. The Shiv Sena bagged seven seats, and the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena won two.

The CM agreed to IMCP’s demand and they will get the post of mayor for five years. The office of the deputy mayor will be held by Congress.

Deshmukh congratulated Ismail and said the two parties should work together. “We should work for the development of Malegaon. Leaders of the two parties know the issues and will work jointly to solve the problems,’’ he said.

The IMCP will have standing committee chairmanship for three years and a Congressman will hold the same post for two years. Likewise, the municipal corporation’s school board chairman will be from IMCP for three years and then from Congress for two years.


(The Times of India, June 12, 2007)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Malegaon deal: Cong-NCP tries to win over IMCP

Mufti Mohammed Ismail (above)is the chief imam of Malegaon's Jama mosque.

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Congress and NCP are putting intense pressure on Indian Muslim Congress Party, a group of religious and community leaders that has emerged as the single largest party in the civic polls, ever since it talked of forming a coalition with Shiv Sena to rule the corporation.

IMCP has emerged as the leading player after the recently-held Malegaon municipal polls, but remains short of a majority. The outfit has been in talks with Sena on the issue of sharing power since the election results were declared on May 28. Sena chief Bal Thackeray, on his part, has given the nod to tie up with IMCP. But Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), the other contenders, have also been discussing the idea of joining hands.

State Congress chief Prabha Rao has tried to open a line of communication with the IMCP head, 46-yr-old Mufti Mohammed Ismail. Sources said Rao called up Mufti Ismail on Tuesday night and asked him to join hands with the local Congress unit.

Mufti Ismail told TOI that he had made it clear to Rao that IMCP was looking for support from the secular parties in order to retain control of the corporation. But if Congress tried to use ‘under-hand’ means to take charge and appoint the mayor, Mufti Ismail said, his party would make them ‘pay for it in the assembly polls.’

Mufti said, “Prabha Rao called me up and asked me to form a majority with the help of Congress. I told her clearly that as we won the maximum seats, the mayor would be from our party.’’ He also clarified that IMCP would not stop negotiations with Sena in its bid to form a coalition.

The three-month-old IMCP, also known as the Third Front, had bagged 27 seats in the 72-member elections. Congress had 15 seats and the Nihal Ahmed-led JD(Secular) could manage only 12. Shiv Sena bagged seven seats while Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena won two.

Malegaon’s Congress MLA Shaikh Rasheed, whose son Asif (27) has already been a mayor between 2005-2007—a period which saw brewing discontentment among residents of the textile township due to deterioration of civic services. This time, Nihal Ahmed wants his daughter Shan-e-Hind (25) to be deputy mayor.

With Congress seeking to wrest control of the Rs 120-crore civic corporation, the IMCP coalition is keen to ensure that the township gets a new set of people to govern it. For this, it is willing to forge an alliance with Sena despite ideological differences. “It’s a matter of trust. We are negotiating with Sena only for the development of Malegaon,’’ said Mufti.

Deputy chief minister R R Patil has also tried to woo IMCP by assuring Mufti Ismail that he will speak to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and ensure Congress-NCP’s support for the Third Front. It’s a situation that has landed the Mufti in a dilemma.

In one of his election rallies, he had said, “Voting for NCP is a bigger sin than committing suicide.’’ Now, Malegaon’s residents are debating on whether he will go with Congress-NCP or prefer to join hands with Sena.
Petitions seek stay on mayoral polls

Nineteen candidates of Janata Dal and four of NCP have filed petitions in a Malegaon sessions court asking for a stay on the June 15 mayoral polls. The petitions, filed through advocate Azeem Khan, have argued that IMCP’s election rallies were organised along religious lines. They also said prayers were offered at the start and end of each rally. TNN

(The Times of India, June 9, 2007)

Monday, June 4, 2007

IMCP-Sena to share mayoral posts in Malegaon

WINDS OF CHANGE: The Malegaon civic polls have thrown up unexpected political equations

Third Front Team Likely To Visit Mumbai To Meet Balasaheb And Uddhav Thackeray For Final Approval

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
In a two-hour closed-door meeting at Shivneri Bhavan in Malegaon on Saturday night, officebearers of the Indian Muslim Congress Party and Shiv Sena agreed to a sharing arrangement for the posts of mayor and deputy mayor in the Malegaon Municipal Corporation. While the mayor would be from IMCP, the saffron party would get the post of deputy mayor.

This means that the cleric-led IMCP, which as the Third Front substantially dented the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) votebanks in the May 27 civic elections, is a step closer to staking its claim to rule the powerloom town’s civic corporation along with the Sena. While a 37-seat majority is needed to rule the 72-seat civic House, the IMCP bagged 26 seats and the Sena seven. An Independent candidate has also offered them support.

Meanwhile, Congress and JD(S), which are joining hands, have 15 and 12 seats respectively. One Independent has also offered the JD(S) support. The Malegaon House will vote for the mayor on June 13.

A delegation of the Third Front is likely to come to Mumbai to meet Sena chief Bal Thackery and executive president Uddhav Thackery to close the deal. A decision on meeting the Thackerays is yet to be taken. No Sena office-bearer in Malegaon was available for comment.

The Malegaon meeting was attended by the Shiv Sena’s Malegaon (Camp) MLA, Dada Bhuse, taluka pramukh Sanjay Dusane and IMCP office-bearers Maulana Ayyub Qasmi, Ateeque Mahendra and others. Several Sena leaders from Thane and Nashik were also present at the meeting and offered support to the IMCP.

It is learnt that deputy chief minister R R Patil on Saturday spoke to IMCP president Mufti Mohammed Ismail via telephone and assured him of the NCP’s support if the Front did not join hands with the Sena. Sources said that Patil even said that he would speak to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to get Congress support for the Front. However, the Front declined Patil’s offer, saying the Congress has ruined the city and hampered its development. TOI reported on Sunday that the Congress’s insistence on the mayor’s post for itself has angered the Front IMCP.

“The long-time enemies, the Congress and the Nihal Ahmed-led Janata Dal (Secular), have joined hands to keep the Front out of power. The central government has sanctioned a fund of Rs 200 crore after the serial blasts for the city’s development and these two parties are eyeing the fund and trying to capture power so they can misuse this fund too,’’ alleged Mufti Ismail.

There have been reports that Congress leaders in Mumbai have been told that party bosses in Malegaon are offering money and cars to corporators who will support them for the mayor’s post.

“Malegaon is known for generating the maximum revenue among all powerloom cities in the state. But the poor infrastructure, 10-hour load-shedding and lack of basic amenities are the reasons why people voted for us. We have to fulfil the people’s expectations to improve the state of the city,’’ said the 46-year-old mufti.

NCP will support the Third Front only if it does not join hands with the Sena, said NCP spokesperson Majeed Memon. “The Front’s success is a clear indication that the people have rejected the JD and Congress misrule of the past. We are supporting the Front for the mayor’s seat. We only caution the Front not to join hands with the Sena. If the Front does so, then we will be forced to sit in the opposition,’’ said Memon.

(The Times of India, June 4, 2007)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Malegaon’s new Front shows up old parties

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

The unexpected success of a loose, threemonth-old coalition supported by religious and community leaders in Malegaon’s civic polls has exposed the disenchantment with mainstream parties like the Congress and veteran socialist Nihal Ahmed’s Janata Dal (Secular).

The people’s mandate to the Indian Muslim Congress Party (IMCP) comes at a time when the established parties have betrayed the faith of an electorate looking for solutions to systemic problems such as unemployment, a spiralling electricity crisis, lack of educational opportunities and decrepit civic infrastructure.

The Third Front led by the textile township’s most prominent religious leader, Mufti Mohammed Ismail, had contested the election with development and education as its primary planks and emerged as the single largest party with 28 out of the 72 seats.

On the other hand, Nihal Ahmed, a trade unionist who rose to become Malegaon’s most enduring political figure, has ended up suffering one of his worst political debacles in an over 50-year career. The onetime minister in the Maharashtra Cabinet has found his outfit’s tally reduced from 35 seats in 2002 to 12 in the latest municipal polls. His son was among those who lost the poll.

The other big loser is the Samajwadi Party whose tally has gone down from 12 seats in 2002 to one in the present House.

Even the Congress has been at the receiving end of the Malegaon voter’s wrath though the party’s tally has risen from seven in the last House to 15 now. The township’s reigning MLA, Sheikh Rashid, had managed to get his son Asif Sheikh installed as mayor the last time through blatant opportunism and by persuading rival corporators to support the Congress candidate in exchange for favours. However, despite such strategic moves, the party has not emerged as a dominant force in one of Maharashtra’s biggest Muslim-majority enclaves.

“The residents of Malegaon have been divided and exploited by these veteran politicians. Everyone promises better facilities but see how many public toilets Malegaon has. Look at the plight of the civic schools. There is not a single technical, engineering or medical college in Malegaon. Hundreds of our students have to go to Mumbai or Pune for further studies. We wanted to change this, and we couldn’t have done it unless we had power in our hands,’’ says 50-year-old Mufti Ismail.

The Mufti, who has led the congregation for the Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-ul-azha namaaz at the historic Camp ground in the town for the last one decade, was the rallying force behind the movement. Born and raised in a weaver’s family in the township, he’s long been familiar with its problems.

Yet, the Third Front’s rise has been nothing short of amazing. Community leaders and maulanas banded in the months ahead of the polls and discussed the need for an effective political alternative to govern the town. Disillusionment was especially strong in the wake of the serial blasts in 2006.

To start with, announcements were made in various mohallas to nominate the right candidates. Interestingly, the Third Front’s office-bearers played no role in this process; instead they asked residents of every constituency to select an “educated, honest and social person’’ untainted by a criminal record.

The only hiccup was when the Front’s leaders realised they were not recognised as a political party nor had they been allotted a symbol. They then approached their counterparts in an Ahmednagarbased outfit called the Indian Muslims’ Congress Party and managed to get permission to adopt their name and symbol just 15 days prior to the polls. Besides, there was an unambiguous consensus at work: caste, religion and intra-community disputes were to play no role in selecting a candidate. Most of the nominees were thus people with at least some academic qualification— a welcome change given Malegaon’s colourful history of illiterate, criminal and scam-tainted corporators. “We have got the sort of candidates we wanted. Now, in case a corporator does not work, we will hold a dharna outside his residence to make him fulfil his promises. And if he refuses, we will have no option but to oust him from the party,’’ Mufti Ismail said.

Hopefully, the Mufti and his followers, with the help of a few Independent corporators, will get the roads, parks and playgrounds they aspire for.

Malegaon, a powerloom township in northern Maharashtra, has always been in the news for the wrong reasons. Communal tension, sectarian violence, seizure of firearms and ammunition, and a series of bomb blasts. In a population of six lakh, Muslims are in a majority of 65%. The rest are Hindu Marwaris, Jains and Sindhis, who traditionally vote for the BJP-Sena. This year, for instance, the Sena has bagged seven seats while the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has captured two seats.

The conflict between powerloom labourers and their employers was the central theme in various elections until recently and allowed veteran socialist Nihal Ahmed ample scope to hold centrestage. Now, however, residents are keen to see a makeover of the town and find a solution for long-standing problems such as bad roads, power shortage, poor healthcare—Malegoan does not have a single civil hospital—and lack of adequate educational opportunities. TNN

(The Times of India, May 30, 2007)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Malegaon youth all set to join IAS

Mohammed Qaisar is the first IAS officer from Malegaon

Times News Network
Malegaon may be synonymous with communal riots and the clutter of powerlooms. But Mohammed Qaisar has sought to give the Muslim-dominated township, situated about 300 km away from Mumbai, an all new identity.

Born and brought up in Malegaon, Qaisar—a son of a loom labourer—has cleared the prestigious Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams, ranking 32nd among the 472 candidates from India. His ranking is bound to secure him a place in the coveted Indian Administrative Services (IAS).

What makes the 29-year-old’s achievement a truly commendable feat is the fact that he achieved success without any professional guidance, the comforts of a spacious study room or for that matter a wellequipped referral system or access to a library.

The absence of life’s luxuries is so evident in Qaisar’s dingy MHB colony flat in Malegaon where he stays along with 10 members from his family. It was his raw determination to prevail over circumstances which saw him achieve the near-impossible.
“It was my dream to clear the UPSC exams and I was determined to achieve it no matter what. I had cleared the written tests thrice but my performance in the personality tests was not up to the mark. This time, however, I wasprepared and corrected all my shortcomings. My first choice will be the IAS,’’ an overjoyed Qaisar told TOI over the phone on Tuesday.
Qaisar, fourth among 11 siblings, opted for Urdu literature, history and physics in the main exams. Qaisar’s eldest brother is a lecturer with Bandra Junior College.

He did his schooling from Shaikh Usman Urdu High School and Malegaon High School and Junior College and completed his graduation from MSG College. “I could not get admission in engineering and, therefore, I studied B Sc in Malegaon but continued studying for the civil services examinations,’’ he said.

“It is a dream that has come true. I have studied hard for five years and, with the grace of Allah, I have finally made it,’’ Qaisar added.

“My parents were a great support during my difficult days. I would study 14-16 hours a day and my father would bring all the necessary notes for me. My family stood with me even after I failed in the earlier attempts,’’ Qaisar said.

The textile town of Malegaon is known to be “riot-prone’’ and hit the headlines last September when four bombs exploded near mosques, killing 38 people and injured 297 others.

The Times of India, May 16, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007


WEAVER’S NEST: Mohammed Toufique, whose grandfather migrated from Barabanki, still runs a handloom outfit in his memory

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

W its Muslim profile and powerloom economy, Malegaon in Maharastra is a child of 1857. Community elders who have been handed down tales of the slaughter that engulfed Meerut, Awadh and Lucknow, have not forgotten their Gadr origins, and with the 150th anniversary commemoration, memories are stirring once again.

Ninety-one-year-old Basheer Adeeb’s grandfather, Kallu Haji and his two sons Mohammed Usman and Mohammed Sultan, joined the river of migrants that flowed out of the United Provinces. Ironically, it was transportation technology introduced by the British, the railways, that helped the weavers and peasants in their flight. “My grandfather told me they used bullock carts and trains to leave Uttar Pradesh,’’ said Adeeb, who has written a book on Malegaon’s history. “The trains came up to Burhanpur (in Madhya Pradesh) and after that they had to walk. Burhanpur was the weavers’ first shelter town. Some stayed on, others kept on towards Jabalpur, Nagpur, Kampti, Shahda, Dhule, Malegaon, Yeola, Bhiwandi, and their last stop, Mominpura and Madanpura in Bombay.’’

Apart from the advancing bayonets of the East India Company it was also exploitation by the zamindars that the peasants wanted to escape. “The weavers did not even have the right to name their own children,’’ said Adeeb. When their wives gave birth a a child, the zamindar had to be consulted. He would typically brand the children with degrading names like Buddhu, Chhedan, Kallu, Kallan, or Khaddu. When the zamindar found out my grandfather had named his sons Usman and Sultan, he was furious. My grandfather was tied to
a tree and lashed for having the audacity to name his children on his own. This was the reason my grandfather decided to leave.’’

The migration did not take place in one single burst but was spread over years. Once a family reached Malegaon, word was sent back to those still in Awadh or Lucknow, telling them to join—
a family pattern that is still followed by migrants who flock to big cities for jobs.

It was not as if Malegaon had not existed before 1857. The local fort built in 1765 by the Marathas indicates it was already an important centre. However, its powerloom economy is a result of the migrant weaver population. Since
the first census was conducted only in 1881 (Malegaon then had 10,622 people) there are no pre-1857 figures to compare the expansion in population or to record the influx of refugees. Adeeb says about 75 families settled in Malegaon after the gadar, in the Sangmeshwar, Islampura, Rasoolpura and Belbaug areas.

Until 1857, there were only six mosques in Malegaontoday the town boasts 250, as well as the biggest Islamic education institution for girls and the biggest Muslim cemetery in the country, where the September 8, 2006 bomb blasts took place killing 25.

The most dramatic event in the modern history of Malegaon was the arrival of electricity in 1936. Today Malegaon has around one lakh powerloom machines and 80 per cent of the city’s four lakh population is dependent on this industry. But there are those who have turned their back on electricity and stuck to the old craft of handlooms.

Mohammed Toufique, whose grandfather migrated from Barabanki in UP after the mutiny, still runs a handloom outfit in Ramzanpura on the outskirts of Malegaon. “My father used to say handlooms should not be replaced by powerlooms. This is the reason I still operate a handloom at this age,’’ said the 77-year-old weaver, who supplies cotton to the town’s doctors for dressing wounds.

Electricity turned Malegaon’s weavers into merchants and businessmen and ushered in a wave of prosperity that they have never dreamed possible. Adeeb’s grandfather had arrived from Allahabad in his kurta-pyjama with two children. Today, Adeeb’s family has 110 members, they own several powerloom units and shops and one of his sons is an American citizen with a clinic in Texas. It’s been a long journey.

Basheer Adeeb

The Times of India, May 10, 2007