Gandhi told a gathering of leaders of different parties and Muslim groups here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the RSS were dividing the country both on religious and caste lines.

"It is easy to divide the people but rather difficult to unite them," he said at an Eid Milan reception hosted by Jamait Ulema chief Maulana Arshad Madni on Monday night.

The event was attended by leaders of political parties including Ajit Singh (RLD), Shard Yadav (JD-U), Sitaram Yachury (CPI-M), Atul Kumar Anjan (CPI), Ashuk Malik (Samajwadi Party) and Sanjay Singh (AAP) as well as heads of Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat Ahle Hadees, Muslim Majlis Mushwarat and the Barelvi sect chief Maulana Tauqeer Reza.

At least a dozen Congress leaders from Uttar Pradesh were present at the meeting besides Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is in-charge of the state. Gandhi said a division of the secular vote had helped the BJP to consolidate its political gains.

"If we have to defeat communal forces, we need to get united," he said, addressing Ajit Singh and the others. Maulana Arshad Madni of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind said his party would never allow "communal and fascist forces" to change the country's secular character.

He said his organisation had strongly opposed the 1947 partition of the country. "We opted for secular India and will not allow this country to change its secular and democratic fabric."Shard Yadav said an overwhelming majority of Indians was secular.

"But it has been observed that the secular vote gets divided, benefitting the BJP and its affiliated parties."We need to float a broad based front to arrest the growth of communal forces," he said.

Ilyas Malik, former General Secretary of Muslim Majlis Mushwarat, said he hoped that secular minded parties would come together in Uttar Pradesh to defeat the BJP in assembly elections due next year. He indicated that a groups of Muslim leaders would initiate a dialogue with all secular groups to bring them together.

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