Updated: March 24, 2021 9:06:48 am
Former Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi is in the eye of the storm for filing a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking the removal from the Quran of 26 verses, which he alleges “teach violence”.
Rizvi, 50, is not new to controversy and has been in the news for his statements on issues such as triple talaq and the Ayodhya dispute, as well as for cases of corruption and promoting enmity lodged against him.
While Rizvi often takes positions on contentious issues that align with the BJP, leaders from the ruling party, including former Union Minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, have condemned his latest move. “I strongly object to and condemn Wasim Rizvi’s petition seeking removal of 26 verses from Quran. It is my party’s stand that saying absurd things about any religious texts, including Quran, is a highly condemnable act,” Hussain said.
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Who is Wasim Rizvi?
Till last year, Wasim Rizvi was chairman of the UP Shia Central Waqf Board, a post he held for over a decade.
The son of a Class II railways employee, Rizvi never finished college. He was elected a Samajwadi Party (SP) corporator from Kashmiri Mohalla ward of Old City in Lucknow in 2000, and in 2008, became a member of the Shia Waqf Board.
In 2012, Rizvi was expelled from the SP for six years after falling out with Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad, who accused him of siphoning off funds. Following this, the Shia Waqf Board was also dissolved. But Rizvi later got relief from the court and was reinstated.
While he was once considered close to SP leader Azam Khan, Rizvi has been seen as sending overtures to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath after the BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh.
In 2019, he wrote and produced a movie, ‘Ram Ki Janmabhoomi’.
The current plea and reaction
Rizvi, in his PIL, alleged that the 26 verses “promote violence”, and were not part of the original Quran, but were added in later revisions, and should hence be removed from the holy book.
Shias and Sunnis have come together to condemn this, claiming the PIL is nothing but a publicity stunt and an attempt to hurt religious sentiments. After the plea was filed on March 11, there have been protests against Rizvi in several cities, and police complaints –– including one by a BJP leader in Jammu and Kashmir, and one in Bareilly in UP –– have been lodged against him.
A Moradabad-based lawyer has been booked for allegedly announcing a reward of Rs 11 lakh for “beheading” Rizvi. Another Muslim outfit in Uttar Pradesh, Shiane Haider-e-Karrar Welfare Association, has earlier announced a Rs 20,000 reward for Rizvi’s beheading. Some Muslim religious leaders have demanded Rizvi’s excommunication.
Cases against Wasim Rizvi
In November 2020, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered two cases against Rizvi and others in connection with alleged irregularities in the sale, purchase and transfer of waqf properties in UP.
The police investigation into the matter is older, with one case being lodged in Prayagraj in 2016 at the Kotwali police station under IPC sections 441 (criminal trespass) and 447 (punishment for criminal trespass), and the other registered at the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow in 2017 under IPC sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 409 (breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) and 506 (criminal intimidation).
Rizvi alleged a “conspiracy” behind the cases. Last year, he claimed that nothing came out of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) probe in the Lucknow case, while he was not directly involved in the Prayagraj matter.
Earlier, in February 2020, the UP government gave the Prayagraj police sanction to prosecute Rizvi in a 2016 case in which he was booked for promoting enmity. The case pertained to alleged illegal construction at Imam Bara, a religious place, in Prayagraj.
“Rizvi is accused of changing original form of the religious place — Imam Bara — by carrying out illegal construction. Several other sections of IPC, including 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), were also invoked. Section 153-A was included because there was an attempt to promote religious sentiments by changing original form of the religious place,” Investigating Officer of the case, Sub-Inspector Ravindra Yadav, had told The Indian Express at the time.
Controversial comments in past
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2019, Rizvi had requested him to shut down primary madrasas, alleging that terror outfit Islamic State was funding such institutions to keep Muslim children away from mainstream education and from other religions.
“Agar jald prathamik madrase band na hue to 15 saal baad desh ka aadhe se jyada Musalman ISIS ki vichardhara ka samarthak ho jayega…Unmein Islam ke naam par kattarpanthi soch paida ki ja rahi hai (If primary madrasas are not closed down soon, then in the next 15 years, more than half the Muslim population of the country will become supporters of ISIS ideology… In the name of Islam, they (students in primary madrasas) are being turned into radicals),” the letter read.
In 2018 too, Rizvi had written to CM Adityanath and PM Modi, seeking abolition of the concept of madrasas, as they “had become a business venture for mullahs and generated terrorists instead of ensuring jobs for Muslims”.
Last year, in yet another letter to the PM, Rizwi demanded that the Places of Worship Act, 1991 be abolished and a high-level committee be appointed to “reclaim land from mosques constructed over ancient temples.” Demanding that the “original status” of such sites be restored, Rizvi gave “details” of such structures in Mathura and Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh and also in Gujarat, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and New Delhi.
He has also been quoted as saying that “giving birth to children like animals” is harmful for the country.
When the triple talaq Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in 2017, while many had questioned the legislation for criminalising a civil offence, Rizvi had advocated a jail term of 10 years for the offenders, as opposed to the existing provision of three years.
When the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute was in court, Rizvi in 2017 suggested that a Ram temple should come up in Ayodhya, while the mosque could be built in Lucknow.
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