<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As thousands of people, mostly Muslims, gathered in the sweltering heat in a village school ground on Thursday morning for a “progress panchayat”, the Modi regime’s minority outreach programme, news of India carrying out surgical strikes across the LoC started pouring in.It was from Mewat that the government was launching its mission to reach out to minorities in 100 places, striving to change perceptions about it and the BJP, by chanting development.Addressing the gathering, minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said he had just heard about the surgical strikes. “There are forces which are enemies of the country and of peace in the world. Should not such forces get a befitting reply. Please raise your hands and tell me,” the minister asked. All hands went up.Naqvi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was committed to securing the country. “Every time the nation’s security is at stake, Modi will be standing by your side. Today, the country’s pride is Modi and you are his strength,” he said.The information about the surgical strikes had not reached everyone in the audience, most of whom were aware about escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. Naqvi said Modi’s vision revolved around security and progress of the country and sought the backing of the people of Mewat.In his address in Kozhikode, Modi had lashed out at the leadership in Pakistan but drawing a distinction from the people of the neighbouring country, stressed on socio-economic issues.Naqvi’s presence in the Meo Muslim dominated region, was aimed at sending a message that the Centre was serious about addressing their problems. Even as the BJP had swept Haryana, it had lost three assembly seats in the Mewat region.Underlining that the government’s focus was on development, Naqvi said the government will not allow any other agenda to eclipse it. “This is the first time the Centre is coming to you with promise of development. It happens generally only during elections,” he said and accused earlier regimes and “so- called political champions of secularism” of exploiting minorities.The Meo Muslims of Mewat, which had recently witnessed over beef in biryani and alleged rape of two women, are wary of Centre’s schemes not filtering down to them.Amidst posters saying “madad hamari, manzil aapki (our help, your destination)” with Modi’s life size image and qawalis on his government’s pet welfare schemes, BJP leaders tried to convince the crowd that it was a misconception that the party or its mentor, RSS, were against the minority community.The government, which is organising the programmes along with the state governments and minority leaders, is yet to decide on where to hold the panchayats in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh as it would refrain from doing so too close to elections. However, the message of the outreach was bound to reach the state, where the minority community has a nearly 19 per cent population.Though the party is looking at it as a long-term vision, it is hoping that the outreach would be a beginning in changing perceptions. The Prime Minister had set the tone of the approach of the government and the BJP towards Muslims at the party conclave in Kozhikode when he said they should not be treated as vote banks but at “your own”.