LUCKNOW/NEW DELHI: One Wasim Rizvi shot into the news with a series of inflammatory comments from November last year, freely brandishing the label of “terrorism” for madarsas or for that matter the Muslim Personal Law Board, and seeing a “Pakistan hand” behind the Babri Masjid controversy.

And in between also offered his ‘solution; for the vexed Babri Masjid issue that is currently in court, with a highly divisive, “in the name of peace all Shia Muslims are in favour of a mosque in Lucknow's Husainabad area, away from the religious territory of the Hindus.” Forgetting of course that the dispute is legal and the property no his anyone else’s to be bartered with.

Rizvi is the current Chairman of the Shia Waqf Board with corruption and other cases against him. The Waqf Boards have been mired in charges of corruption in several states, and even at the centre, as these deal with real estate, and have been know to use their powers to sell valuable property at low official (but high unofficial) price in a procedure that is secretive and often highly illegal. Rizvi himself reportedly had several cases slapped against him and his statements according to luminaries in Lucknow are “inspired” by the threat of FIRs and cases being activated against him.

Lucknow feminist Tahira Hasan said, “he (Rizvi) has given a statement that madarsas produce terrorists. He is legitimising and further spreading Islamophobia . He has said that the personal law board is a terrorist outfit. He has said that the Babri masjid can be shifted to Lucknow but what precident will it set for litigations that might come up in the future. He is essentially doing this to protect himself from several cases of land grabbing and fraud.”

A well known doctor in Lucknow, and an active member of civil society organisation Shoulder to Shoulder, Riza Mehdi echoed similar sentiments. “Why is the media bothered about this man, he is a non-entity being propped up,” he told The Citizen. “He was earlier the right hand man of Samajwadi party’s Azam Khan who was the convenor of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, then this Rizvi supported that position. And now to save himself from the cases against him is saying whatever he is being told to,” Mehdi added.

Azam Khan when contacted by The Citizen answered questions in riddles, saying that now the issue was between Rizvi “and his God”. He did not go into details about the appointment and the corruption charges, despite questioning.

Rizvi who is getting attention as if he indeed is a Muslim leader from sections of the pliant Delhi press, has no following in Lucknow, or UP for that matter. As Mehdi said, “he will not even get five Shia votes.” And Rizvi’s career trajectory shows, he has moved up in the hierarchy by attaching himself to individuals. Azam Khan and Jawad being two such persons he fell out with.

Rizvi was a corporator of the Samajwadi party and attached himself to a local, well known Shia leader Maulana Jawad. He used these connections to become the Chairman of the UP Shia Waqf Board in 2004. Three years later he joined the Bahujan Samaj Party. After the five year term of the Shia Board ended in 2009, he was replaced by Jawad’s brother-in-law Kamaluddin Akbar as the board chairman. A year later Akbar, reportedly upset and hassled by charges of corruption on the Board, resigned. And Rizvi replaced him again.

Serious differences emerged between Jawad and his one time protege Rizvi and the former dissolved the Board. Rizvi again joined the Samajwadi party and used the political connection to press charges of corruption against Akbar. In fact the SP played heavy politics at this point, using Rizvi to attack Jawad and his family. However, finally the latter won the day and the SP was compelled to expel Rizvi in 2012 after Jawad threatened an agitation. Jawad kept up the heat on the state government to arrest those charged with corruption.

The UP government ordered a probe into the alleged irregularities and subsequently six FIRs were filed. The Times of India and local papers reported on a supposed “Rs 450 crore scam”, with both Jawad’s supporters and Rizvi himself hurling accusations at each other.

had the day and there was brought in as Chairman of the There are cases against him He told The Citizen that Rizvi was bei being made active again Muslims absurd comments from November last year making Chairman of the Shia Central Waqf Board Wasim Rizvi demanded on Sunday a ban on the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the highest decision making body of Muslims in the country, and labelled it as a terrorist organisation.

Incidentally Rizvi’s strong attack on the AIMPLB came after it sacked a member Salman Husaini Nadvi after he also suggested that the Babri Masjid be shifted from Ayodhya. Nadvi said this after a reported meeting with the founder of the Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Rizvi went full blast after this maintaining that Indian Muslims were being dictated by terrorist organisation of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. And that the personal law board was a branch of these terror outfits.

And of course, Rizvi has now received a threat call as does every VIP. “I received the call last (Saturday) night in which caller took the name of Dawood and threatened to blow me up and my family for my stand on madrassa education and other issues,” he said. And lodged a complaint subsequently. It will not be long before he receives state security, to guard him from the ‘terrorists’ and give another boost to his new found fame.

Rizvi’s statements are designed to provoke and he has been successful in that he has all minority bodies in the state reacting to him. Jawad, who has a long standing feud now Rizvi wants him to be arrested, Jamiat ulema i Hind has filed a legal case against him, and the personal law board has also issued statements denouncing him. All this has given him a new lease of life with Rizvi gaining mileage in the media that is hailing him as a “Shia” leader and using his volatile comments to create divisions within the community. BJP leaders are enjoying the spectacle as it feeds into the propaganda against the minorities, particularly in Uttar Pradesh where Rizvi is doing more for the BJP as a journalist wag said, than even Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath!