On Tuesday, yoga guru Baba Ramdev became the first non-Muslim cleric addressed the annual convention of Islamic seminaries under the guidance of Islamic organisation Jamait-e-Ulema Hind at the historic seminary in Deoband, about 500 km from Lucknow, which is known for its sweeping influence over majority of Sunni Muslims in the country.
Union Home Minister P Chidamabaram, Union Communications Minister Sachin Pilot, All India Muslim Personal Law Board senior vice president Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and Swami Agnivesh were also present at the occasion.
Over 40,000-odd Maulanas gathered for the convention.
While Chidambaram sought to reassure Islamic clerics and scholars that the "United Progressive Alliance government was committed to protecting the rights of minorities", Baba Ramdev emphasised on the need to promote communal harmony.
As the country's first home minister to have addressed an Islamic gathering in Deoband, Chidambaram took off by praising the role of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind in India's freedom movement and nation building.
"We all know that it was among the first Muslim organisations, which opposed the tyrannical rule of the British Empire and the two-nation theory aimed at dividing the nation. It has since Independence worked tremendously for the uplift of the Muslims residing in India," he said.
He also said the government was working towards "building a just, humane, progressive and a civilised society".
Praising the teachings of Islam, which denounces all kind of violence, Chidambaram said, "We can not view Islam as an alien faith. It's a matter of pride for us that all major religions including Islam co-exist peacefully on this soil."
Stressing that pluralism should be the basis of the nation's strength, the home minister condemned communalism and urged Islamic scholars and Muslim leaders to help build a forward-looking nation and foster peace and communal harmony.
Echoing similar sentiments Baba Ramdev said that the unity between Hindus and Muslims was the strength of the nation. "It was high time people realised that 'Ishwar' and 'Allah' were two names of one and the only God," he said.
Stressing on the need to promote yoga, he dispelled misconceptions. "Mind you, yoga is not related to any religion nor was there any underlying idea behind it to promote any religion," he said, adding, "Yoga is a physical exercise to keep your body and mind fit."
The yoga guru also gave a demonstration of his most popular 'pranayam' exercises -- 'Kapalbhati' and 'Anulom-vilom'.
Swami Agnivesh drew applauses from the crowds when he talked about banning liquor.
Among the 25 resolutions passed at the meet was the Maulanas' opposition to reciting 'Vande Mataram', homosexuality and terrorism.
They also demanded reservation of jobs for Muslims and implementation of recommendations of the Sachar Commission and Rangnath Misra Commission, while seeking a new legislation to equate communal violence with terrorism.
The convention also passed a resolution to oppose creation of a Central Madrasa Board, proposed by Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal.
Urging terrorists and Maoist extremists to lay down arms, the Islamic clerics assured them of taking up their cause.
"If terrorists and Maoists agree to give up violence, they are welcome to join us and I would like to assure them that we will fight for them," Maulana Masood Madni, convenor of the meet told the gathering.