The Rajasthan government has clarified in the Assembly that neither the state government nor the district administration gave permission for the public meetings held by Pakistani spiritual leader Peer Syed Taj Hussain Gilani in the border district of Barmer in February.
Gilani’s visit had raised eyebrows because at the meetings he rallied for CM Vasundhara Raje and asked the dominant minority electorate in the region to “strengthen Raje and BJP’s hands”.
Access to border areas is restricted for foreign nationals. According to Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order 1958, the International Border of the state has been declared as a protected area and a foreign national is not allowed to visit such an area unless it is established “to the satisfaction of the government that there are extraordinary reasons to justify such a visit”. In Gilani’s case, not only was he given permission to visit the area but the state government also looked the other way while he held public meetings and made political and religious comments.
Gilani, who was in Jaipur on a visitor visa to attend a wedding, was given permission to travel to various parts of Barmer from February 25 to March 5.
The reply (a copy is with The Indian Express) to BSP MLA Manoj Nyangali’s questions said, “Pak national Peer Taj Hussain Gilani travelled to border areas such as Derasar to meet Haji Suleman, son of Chhutta, who was unwell; to offer condolences to deceased cousin Kabir Shah’s family in Garadiya; to do ziyarat (offer prayers) in a dargah in Sehlau and to meet paternal uncle’s son Ami Mohammad Shah in Bamnor.”
Gilani held public meetings at Derasar, Sehlau, Garadiya and Bamnor. The meetings, though not videographed by the district administration, were recorded by locals. The Indian Express accessed some video clippings, including one where Gilani asks a gathering of over 5,000 locals to strengthen Vasundhara Raje and BJP’s hands”.
Maulvi Saleh Mohammad, a resident of Chohtan in Barmer district, said, “I attended each of those public meetings, where Peer Gilani held religious preachings and made political comments. In Sehlau, he made some local gurus tie black safas (headgear). This is not even an Indian tradition. His religious preachings were all wrong.”
The reply admitted that “the state government… did not give any permissions to hold public meetings” and said Gilani’s cousin Kabir Shah’s son Alana Shah lives in Garadiya tehsil. However, locals from Barmer maintained that Gilani had no relatives in the entire district.
Amin Khan, former Congress MLA from Sheo in Barmer, said, “Taj Hussain is an antisocial element from Sindh and is active in local politics there… he has no relatives in Barmer, not even distant ones. But the state government blatantly ignored rules and facilitated his travel to the border district, where he praised BJP and Vasundhara Raje government and sought support for them”.