A banner in support of the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, put up outside the UP Assembly premises in Lucknow by BJP leader Kunwar Syed Iqbal Haider, has sparked a controversy as it features Maulana Dr Shabih Ahsan Kazmi, a religious leader from Pune.
Kazmi said his picture was used without his knowledge or permission, and he didn’t even know about the banner that “went viral on social media”.
The banner features Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, among others. Kazmi’s photograph is displayed on the banner, along with the statement “Ho janmabhumi par mandir nirman, Muslimo ka yahi armaan” (Let the temple be constructed at Ram’s birthplace, that’s what Muslims wish for).
Kazmi, a religious leader with Reza Trust in Guruwar Peth area of Pune, said his photograph was used with “mischievious intent”, to show that he had extended support for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
“I have not made any such comment regarding the Ram Mandir issue, which is sub-judice. The order of the Supreme Court on the issue will be final and I will accept it,” said Kazmi.
The banner also has images of Ram, a temple, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, as well as Kunwar Syed Iqbal Haider himself.
According to Haider’s Facebook page, he is running a campaign in support of Ram Temple, and has held a press conference in Uttar Pradesh as part of his campaign. An image on his FB page, posted on Friday, shows the banner on display behind Haider as he addresses the media.
Kazmi said he got to know about the banner from Anjum Inamdar, a social worker, on Friday. “The banner was part of a report on a Hindi news channel. I have nothing to do with this banner. I was not asked for permission before printing my name on it. I don’t know the people who have used my photograph on the banner. After the news report, images of the banner went viral on social media. There were many negative comments on it… I was harassed and mentally disturbed by them”.
Kazmi said he had approached police to file a complaint on the issue. “I have filed a complaint application with the Pune police commissioner, seeking legal action against the culprits. I have also contacted the news channel’s correspondent in Pune, clarifying that I had nothing to do with the banner. I have been working in the social and religious fields in Pune for the last 31 years. I travel all over India to spread the message of social harmony. It is wrong to misuse my name in such a manner,” he said.
When contacted, Haider told The Indian Express over the phone, “We got Maulana Kazmi’s photograph from his representative Hussain Raza in Lucknow, that’s why we used it. The Supreme Court wants the Ram Mandir issue to be resolved through talks. We are doing the same thing. Thousands of Muslims in India are joining our campaign and supporting the construction of Ram Mandir. We appeal to Maulana Kazmi… he too should come out openly to support it…”
Hyder Abbas Chand, president of the BJP minority wing in UP, said Haider had been a member of the party state executive for almost eight months, and he had been associated with the party for over a year.