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Who will be benefitted by ‘political iftar parties’?

As the holy month of Ramadan is about to end, politicians in India are marking the occasion, to gain some political mileage through it. Be it, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis attending Shaina NC’s (BJP spokesperson) Iftar Party or West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attending Iftar party in traditional Muslim attire and every other party is busy hoisting iftar party just for political gains, forgetting its significance. Star studded these parties can earn the good will of celebrities but underprivileged Muslims still sit in queue in front of mosque for few morsels.

Iftar means, ‘break the fast” it is the evening meal when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset. For Sunnis, it is at the time of the call to prayer at the evening prayer while for Shias, it is after the evening prayer. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is taken right after Maghrib time, which is around sunset. Traditionally but not mandatory, three dates are eaten to break the fast in emulation of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, who broke his fast in this manner. Many Muslims believe that feeding someone iftar as a form of charity is very rewarding and it was practised by the Prophet Muhammad. In Bangladesh, a wide variety of foods are prepared to break the fast at Maghrib time. Traditionally, this is held at a regional or village mosque for those who have or will be performing the evening prayers. At the mosque, a mosque buffet is prepared by the local residents at which all are welcomed to break their fast together.

In India, almost every Muslim stops to rejoice for a few minutes following the iftar sirens and adhan. Preparations for iftar commence hours before, in homes and at roadside stalls. The fast can be broken by eating dates or drinking water, if the former is not available. In places like Hyderabad, people break their fast with Haleem because it has a rich taste and is quite filling. In southern states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Muslims break their fast with nonbu kanji, a rich, filling rice dish of porridge consistency, cooked for hours with meat and vegetables. This is often served with bonda, bajji, and vadai. Vegetarians of other communities are given a dish called surkumba, which is prepared from milk. It is mainly done in certain parts of Karnataka.

In northern states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, Muslims break their fast with family and friends, with most Mosques also arranging free ‘iftar’. Typically, the fast is opened with fresh dates, cut fresh fruits (sometimes served as chaat) and fruit juice along with fried dishes like samosas, pakodas etc. The spread of ‘iftar’ can be grand sometimes with dishes varying from vegetarian to non-vegetarian dishes and a variety of juices and sherbets. Iftar usually is a heavy meal and is followed by a light dinner before the night (isha) prayers and the taraweeh prayers.

Mumbai BJP is all prepared for fully loaded iftar party but the BJP in centre has given the politically-loaded iftar parties in the capital the cold shoulder. The approach of the party’s new national leadership marks a shift away from the policy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who often employed Congress-like tactics to reach out to Muslims.

Unlike several former prime ministers starting with Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has neither hosted an iftar feast nor attended one. He stayed away from President Pranab Mukherjee’s iftar party last week, and so did other BJP ministers, barring Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla. Neither Heptulla nor BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has ever hosted a political iftar party. Iftar is nobody’s constitutional or political duty to hold a roza iftar. It is a purely religious and personal matter like breaking a Navratra fast. It is not a political event.

BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain, who has been organising lavish iftar feasts for some15 years, did not host one this Ramzan. He said he had begun the practice on Vajpayee’s advice, but he had no particular reason for breaking with it this year. Atalji organised an iftar feast after our (BJP) victory in 1999 and then told me that from now on, you host it every year and I will join it. Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna introduced iftar parties as a demonstration of a leader’s commitment to secularism that a paradigm shift has taken place. In the old BJP, Vajpayee’s “secular” acts were balanced by celebrations like Murli Manohar Joshi’s Deepawali Milan.

Vasundhara Raje, Chief Minister of Rajasthan, hosted a grand iftar feast for over 1,300 invitees at her official residence in Jaipur. Functionaries of the Anjuman Dargah Sharief (of Moinuddin Chishti) presented her with a chunri. Raje held iftar parties in her earlier (2003-2008) term as well. On this occasion she appealed for brotherhood and unity: “If our language, blood, eyes are the same, then how are we different?”

BJP units in Maharashtra and Punjab organised iftars, as did units in Karnataka, Bihar and West Bengal, which were attended by Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, and state BJP chief Rahul Sinha respectively. State units in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, however, did not organise iftar parties. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar invited JD(U) and RJD members to his residence for Iftar party, while Uttar Pradesh government celebrated the evening at Raj Bhawan in Lucknow. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh on Sunday targeted the Congress and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, saying ‘pure politics’ was being played in the name of Iftar parties. Mamata Banerjee not attending the Iftar party of Sonia Gandhi. Let me put this, in perspective, these so called secular parties have nothing to do with the religion or respect towards religion. It is purely politics through iftar party.

Anyway, let them enjoy the parties, politics has its own timing to play. Only Allah can tell who will be benefitted with it, as far as Muslim appeasement is concerned.

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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