NEW DELHI: Syed Ahmed Bukhari, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, triggered a controversy on Thursday when he invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other top Indian politicians, but left out Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the VIP guests list for the post anointment ceremony of his son.
Pakistan High Commission spokesperson Manzoor Ali Memon confirmed to Express that an invitation had been received from the Shahi Imam for the Pakistan Prime Minister to attend the anointment ceremony. It will be forwarded to Islamabad, he added.
However, sources pointed out that this invitation was just a symbolic one -- with the Pakistan Prime Minister certainly not coming down to India to attend the ceremony. There will likely be an official representative from the Pakistan High Commission.
Bukhari said, “It does not make me anti-national if I don’t invite Modi. He had also invited Sharif, but did not invite me to attend his swearing-in-ceremony. It’s my choice whom to invite and whom not to?”
Bukhari recently had named his 19-year-old son Shaban Bukhari as his successor. Shaban is presently pursuing a Bachelors in social work at a private university in Delhi.
He will be anointed as the Nayab Shahi Imam (Deputy Imam) at a ceremony inside the majestic walls of the mosque on November 22. The ceremony, which will include dastarbandi (tying of turban), will be attended by around 1000 religious leaders from across the world.
A large number of politicians have been invited to attend the gala dinner on November 29 to celebrate the succession.
Strangely, Bukhari has invited some prominent BJP leaders like Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Shahnawaz Hussain, Union Home Minister Harshvardhan and Vijay Goel, along with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son and UP Chief Minister Akhilesh and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee among others.
Bukhari’s father Imam Abdullah Bukhari had passed the baton to his eldest son in October 2000, in a ceremony that smacked of royal coronation amidst lot of fireworks and dastarbandi (tying of turban).
Asked why he decided to invite Sharif but not Modi, he said, “Indian Muslims have not forgiven him for the 2002 riots in Gujarat and the wounds are yet to be healed. He has never apologized for the riots and tried to reach out to Muslims,” he said, and added, “I have personal equations with Sharif.”
Sharif had attended Modi’s swearing-in-ceremony on May 26 after being invited by Modi. He had also visited the Jama Masjid and met Bukhari after attending the swearing-in.
Bukhari has a penchant for making news for all the wrong reasons and shifting loyalties. Three days ago, he was attacked while offering evening prayers inside the mosque.