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by Kashif  and Pervez Bari for Indian Muslim

Bangalore, Feb 22:  A massive turn-out exhibiting show of strength and solidarity of the underprivileged and the marginalized sections of Indian society at the public meeting here on late Saturday February 17 evening to mark the conclusion of the three-day Empower India Conference pumped the spirits of one and all involved in the mega event.

All roads led to Shaheed Tipu Sultan Nagar in Palace ground wherein delegates from all over India and specially Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka converged in the most disciplined manner to leave the Bangalore district and police administration spell-bound with no untoward incident reported, howsoever small it may be. According to a rough estimate over 50,000 people assembled and dispersed quietly without disturbing anyone including the police. The organizers and about 2000 voluntary force worked to perfection as the public meeting went through with precision as planned out making happy to the hilt one and all present on the occasion.

The highlight of the meeting was the participation of Hodari Abdul-Ali, Afro-American social activist and journalist who has converted to Islam, and Alan Hart, the British journalist specializing in West-Asian affairs, among the distinguished speakers who addressed the overflowing assemblage. E M Abdurahman, general secretary of PFI, delivered the welcomed address while A M M Shafi, PFI treasurer, proposed vote of thanks.

The audience consisting largely of young men from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu roared and clapped in resonance lapping it all as speakers after speakers built a rapport with them leaving an impression on their heart and mind while addressing them. In keeping with the linguistic composition of the crowd, speeches were made in Kannada, Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil and English.

E Abubacker, chairman of Popular Front of India (PFI) that organized the historic event in South India, in his presidential address while emphasizing the need for creating a broad-based alliance of all oppressed sections, including the minorities, dalits and backward classes, to ensure equal share in the development process, clarified the distinction between "Hinduism" and "Hindutva".

The meeting passed nine resolutions, including a demand for rebuilding of the Babri Masjid, reservation for Muslims in jobs and educational institutions, united resistance to the "saffronisation of Bababudangiri", "equitable sharing of Cauvery waters" and naming the Bangalore airport after the 18th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan.

At the outset of the programme the great Indian sub-continent poet Allama Iqbal's "Sare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara" was rendered filling the hearts of everyone with patriotism.

Moulana Mohammed Wali Rahmani, secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, cited findings of the Sachar Committee report to say how large chunks of the minority community had been alienated from the mainstream.

"The report is a mirror that shows the country its true face," he said.

Delivering the keynote address, Hodari Abdul-Ali said the assault on civil liberties in the U S had resulted in the formation of broad coalitions. He called upon Indian Muslims to build alliances with other groups such as dalits in the "interest of equality and true democracy".

"In terms of coalition building, I encourage you to reach out to the good-hearted Hindus who are against racism and the caste system. Find issue of common concern and work with them," Hodari advised the assemblage.

He pointed out that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States and especially among African-Americans. He pledged to make a concerted effort to help inform people in the US about the growing efforts here in India to bring about justice for the Muslims, justice for the dalits, and justice for the people in India who face discrimination.

Meanwhile, Alan Hart said that he had unlearnt many stereotypes about the oppressed classes in the course of making a film on global poverty.

Hart said when he asked a very poor woman what she most wanted in life, she had told him, "Education for my children so they don't have to live like animals as we do." The poor woman had opened his eyes to the truth that access to formal education is the key to the development of the potential of each individual.

Gowri Lankesh, chief editor of Lankesh weekly K M  Shareef, president of KFD, Abdurahman Baqvi, president of NDF,  Moulana Syed Kaleemullah Rashadi, state executive member of KFD, M Ghulam Mohammed, state executive member of MNP also addressed the gathering.

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