Zafar Sareshwala

Indian businessman

Zafar Sareshwala is an Indian businessman, owner of Parsoli Corporation, and chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University.[3] A member of the strict Tablighi Jamaat branch of Islam, Sareshwala has gained considerable public attention for being a strident supporter and a close confidante of Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India.

Zafar Sareshwala in 2019



"Narendra Modi through the eyes of Gujarati Muslims, Christians and ...", 2013

Zafar Sareshwala recounting his 17 August 2003 meeting with Modi, interviewed by Madhu Kishwar for Manushi, Narendra Modi through the eyes of Gujarati Muslims, Christians and ... (29 March 2013).
  • See how Modi met us! He kept track of what time we arrived in the building and came to the elevator to receive us. I was really nervous about the outcome of this meeting. He shook my hand and broke the ice saying in Hindi: “Aayo yaar!” Inside, there was a jhoola (swing). He made me sit next to him on the jhoola. .... After hearing us out with patience, Modi said some of your points are valid but many are exaggerations. ... We saw the point because in contrast to the 2002 riots which lasted 3 days, the riots during Congress regimes used to go on for months on end with some of these earlier riots producing a far higher death toll. The police as well as the administration were thoroughly communalized. It was widely known that the BJP/VHP etc patronized Hindu dons while the Congress party patronized Muslim dons. ... We were touched by the fact that he listened very carefully and gave us proper answers. He had all the facts on his fingertips. We had thus far experienced that Muslims don’t get a proper hearing from any one. We experienced the riots of 1969, of 1985, 1987 and 1992. No chief minister had listened to us. All those were Congress Party chief ministers. They never talked to us. ...
  • So I sent an email. I was not apologetic about anything. I wrote plainly, "Yes we had fought Modi. But now we feel that we have exhausted all the battle options and realize nothing will come out of it. I will become a hero in the process but I don’t want to become a hero. Therefore, I want to meet Modi and ask him, what is your problem with Muslims?" He forwarded my email to Modi sahib. I am told at first Modi got very agitated saying 'Zafar Sareshwala has created so much gadar against me, led so many demonstrations against me.' But I think he must have also looked into my family background and found that we are good people. I had stated very clearly that we have no agenda. We just want to meet and talk about 2002.
  • Because at that time Modiji used to talk of Gujarati asmita [identity], I said to Mr[.] Modi you are a slightly diluted Gujarati than me. He said: How come? I replied: You know that I am an Ahemadabadi and Ahmedabadis by all accounts are the purest of all Gujaratis while you are from Vadnagar. You are a very impure Gujrati. He said: "Yes, you have a point."
  • Then we began talking of all the riots and asked him: what were you doing on the morning of 27 February 2002? Why did you not call your police and the army? Why did you not go to Juhapura? Why did you not visit refugee camps? The questions that the [Supreme Court of India-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT)] asked of Modi much later, we asked him all those questions that day.
  • Maulana literally made Modi stand in the dock. It is Modi's maturity that even after winning the election with a thumping majority, he listened to all of that.

Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. 2014

Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat.
  • It is not just Modi, but the entire Gujarati society has moved on, and is reconstructing a new equation with Muslims. After 2002, we took it upon ourselves to ensure that no Muslim child would be deprived of education simply because his or her family can not afford the fees or buy books. Many Hindus gave us money for it. For example, at the start when we sponsored a Muslim girl’s education in a medical college, one of my Hindu friends said that he will pay for that semester’s fee for the girl. That really boosted my morale and convinced me that humanitarian spirit is alive even in Gujarat. Those who say that there is a lot of Hindu-Muslim hatred in Gujarat are perpetuating a myth. That hostility stayed alive for some time after the riots. Even after 2002, once things settled down and the ice was broken, it is Hindus who extended help to Muslims to rebuild their lives. How much can the Muslims do alone?... Hundreds of Hindu families came for our daughter’s wedding. As the state is experiencing genuine social peace and security, inter-community relations have become far more relaxed. I tell my fellow Muslims, we also must take the initiative to promote social interaction. Muslims cannot continue to live in an alienated, insulated manner. We have not made much effort to familiarise our Hindu brothers about our culture....But today such social interaction has begun to take place all over Gujarat because the ruling party is not acting as a divisive force. It is providing a sense of security by upholding the rule of law. People don’t view each other with as much suspicion as they did when riots were engineered routinely.
    • Zafar Sareshwala, quoted in Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.350-352
  • People who go on and on about the 2002 riots, choose to forget that it was the culmination of an endless series of riots. The worst riots in post-partition India happened in 1969 in Ahmedabad; more than 5,000 Muslims were killed in that massacre. But because there was no 24x7 media, riots in those days went largely undocumented, so no one outside got to know of the 1969 riots. It was a small incident involving a cow but it led to a shocking outburst. At that time, Congress Party’s Hitendrabhai Desai was the chief minister while Indira Gandhi was in power at the Centre. During the 1969 riots, our office, factory, everything was burnt down.... Forget about punishment, not even a single charge sheet was filed after that massacre. The Jagmohan Commission report is there for everyone to see. Entire communities were wiped out, without a trace. Why are people not talking about those victims? Has anyone documented what happened to those 5,000 families? Another major riot took place in 1985 preceded by several smaller ones. It went on for months on end. Again, our factory and our house were set on fire. In 1985, Madhavji Solanki of Congress Party was in power in Gujarat and Rajiv Gandhi at the Centre. Between 1985 and 2002, people came to expect that after every 2-3 months there would inevitably be a riot. At one time, the curfew lasted 200 days. During the 1987 riots also, Amar Singh Chaudhury of the Congress Party was the CM. This was followed by riots in 1990. At that time too, Congress Party’s Chimanbhai Patel was the chief minister. Again, our factory was burnt down. In 1992 also, it was set on fire. Chimanbhai Patel was the chief minister even at that time.... The truth is that while the earlier governments remained indifferent; after each riot, the Hindus themselves helped the rehabilitation of Muslims. I always say that if the Gujarati Hindus were 100 per cent communal, the Muslims would have been destroyed long ago. It is because Hindus are not communal that Muslims continue to prosper in Gujarat. All those riots were politically engineered and the Congress Party was the prime culprit.
    • Zafar Sareshwala, quoted in Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat.
  • Please note that when we asked for a meeting with Modi he was not yet a hero but one of the most hated figures; he was called Milosevic, Hitler, and so on. Now, there is a long line of people waiting to meet Modi sahib and competing with each other to praise him to the skies, but at that time no Muslim was willing to approach him openly.... Here we were praying in anxiety about our first meeting with Modi, when bang came the first headline against me: “Zafar Sareshwala takes a U-turn on Modi.” The very same people who treated me as a hero earlier, now attacked me furiously. .... All hell broke loose when I issued a statement saying, “We welcome the visit of Narendra Modi, who is the democratically elected chief minister of Gujarat.” Suddenly, from a hero, I became a villain... Because I am a businessman, I could absorb the attacks on me by the anti-Modi lobby. But the poor Maulana, oh my God, he was branded as kaafir. Bahut zaleel kiya unko. He was humiliated no end!
    • Zafar Sareshwala, quoted in Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat.
  • As soon as he came to know that I had arrived, he got his secretary to call me and find out when I intended to see him. When I went to meet him, he said, “Tell me about specific problems of the Muslim community. Muslims don’t have to vote for us but they should at least get their work done from the government.”
  • An important aspect of this riot was that it was not as simple as BJP vs. Muslims or just VHP vs. Muslims. Many Congress workers were equally involved. Some of these workers have also been convicted. I personally know of many Congress workers who took an active part in the riots. ...The Congress knows it was complicit in riots. This is the reason why the Congress does not want to mention 2002 in Gujarat but they scream about it only on national television
  • We know what we want—shut down the Ministry for Minority Affairs; just give us our constitutional rights as ordinary citizens. The problem is that they do not give me my rights as an ordinary citizen and then they create the Ministry for Minority Affairs and give us a 15-point programme, which they have no intention of implementing. My message to the Congress Party is: Just give me my basic rights, as is being done by the Gujarat government; we want no special treatment.
  • Gujarat relief camps were far better run and the government was very cooperative. This is not to say that refugee camps can ever be a pleasant or comfortable place to live in. But, the government made arrangements for food, medical care, and all the rest better than most governments in India do. ... Neither Teesta nor Shabnam Hashmi has much time for them. Hundreds of thousands are still in those camps but do you hear any discussion in the media about those camps? They are already forgotten, but these same people keep ranting about the plight of Muslims in Gujarat relief camps even though those folded by mid-2002, within four months of the riots. .... But, the Gujarat government gave prompt compensation to families who suffered losses, including to those whose business establishments were destroyed. This may not mean much to wealthy Muslims but Rs. 1 or 2 lakh means a lot to the poor. The system put in place by Gujarat government was neither chaotic nor fitful.
  • Anti-Modi sentiment continues to be orchestrated by the media as the definitive truth, irrespective of of what the people of Gujarat or courts say. Positive developments about Gujarat are never covered by the media. All that I am telling you, I have narrated the same things to numerous journalists, including those of the prime time T.V channels, like Rajdeep Sardesai andSagarika Ghosh. But no one pays heed. You know how it is with TV channels; they trap you in their own questions. They only want to project those who abuse Modi. In 2007, in the heat of the very bitter elections-those were the “maut ka saudagar” days-NDTV called us for a special show against the backdrop of the Reliance refinery. When I went there, I was zapped. They had divided the participants into two distinct groups–one was supposed to be pro-Modi and the other anti-Modi. The cameras were going to roll in few minutes and there I was put in the pro-Modi group.
  • They never listen to people like me or Asifa Khan the way they listen to Teesta Setalvad even though unlike her, we have no personal agenda. The media prefers talking to those who have made commerce out of other people’s problems. I call such people merchants of misery. Our country would be far more peaceful, and inter-community relations would return to being amicable, if their shops would shut down.
Wikipedia has an article about: