What is the issue ‘Hindu- Muslim Ties’ or RSS Concept of Nationalism?

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

Ram Puniyani

Sudheendra Kulkarni’s (SK) article “Bhagwat’s Glasnost in RSS-Muslims Ties is Welcome but who will rein in Modi-Yogi’? (Scroll, July 13, 2021) is unable to go to the roots of the issue as he analyses Mohan Bhagwat’s speech. Bhagwat was releasing a book The Meeting of Minds: A Bridging Initiative. This is the title of the book by Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed. The function was organized by Rashtriya Muslim Manch, an affiliate of RSS. On this occasion Bhawat said “Dialogue alone can be a solution… A person is not a Hindu if he says Muslims should not live in India…Those involved in mob lynching is against Hindutva.”

This is a very soothing sentence and likes of SK are seeing a hope that RSS is changing, the way Russian communist party with Gorbachov in the leadership talked Perestroika and implemented Glasnost. SK quotes Ram Madhav, the RSS-BJP leader, who in one of his articles stated that the process of change in RSS under the leadership of Mohan Bhagwat is underway based on the observation to which he is privy as an insider.

This was in 2018 when in the series of lectures in Delhi Bhagwat not only read the preamble of India’s Constitution but also affirmed his faith in secularism and socialism. SK reminds us that Madhav wrote that it is glasnost moment for RSS, and Kulkarni affirms that “Any unbiased observer of the RSS, who listens to Bhagwat’s full speech, would know that he is trying to break new ground with the Indian Muslim community. This deserves to be welcomed.”

While he is welcoming Bhagwat for the call of dialogue and building bridges he himself does not go to the roots of the problem. Author of the book Ahmad did diagnose the problem correctly at some level. As per SK Ahmed expresses the anguish of Indian Muslims…without mincing words. In the case of communal riots, Muslim property worth “thousands of crores of rupees is lost and destroyed”, and yet “proper FIRs are not registered”. And further a “majority of perpetrators and perpetuators of violence, looting and rape go scot free”. In contrast, Muslims “exercising their constitutional right to protest are severely penalized, killed in police firing, mass arrests made and personal recoveries fixed for the losses accrued to public property. Where is the fair play?”

If this is the problem baying at our face us; who will be parties having dialogue to sort it out? Who represents the Muslims of India? Muslims are not uniform community. Hindus are not a uniform community. Apart from regional differences there are also the inner denominations among Muslims as well as Hindus. Politically before partition if there was Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanting to have a separate country, Pakistan, there was also Allah Bakksh who organized a massive convention in Delhi to oppose the demand of Partition of the country. At political level it was Gandhi whom majority of Hindus followed. Another Hindu, Nathuram Godse was also a Hindu, who was RSS trained pracharak, who killed the greatest Hindu of twentieth century.

SK presents as if problem is between Hindus and Muslims. A political problem is being looked at through the lens of religion. Problem during freedom movement was that the Indian nationalism represented by Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Maulana Azad was opposed by the Hindu nationalism propounded by Hindu Mahasabha and RSS on one hand and Muslim Nationalism represented by Jinnah and company on the other. I will not delve much into Muslim Communalism which was running parallel, but after partition has got deflated.

The battle between kings was not for religion they were for power and wealth. The ethnic conflicts between Shias and Sunnis or between Shaiva and Vaishnav had another logic altogether. Politics in the name of religion begins during the colonial period. As the social changes due to modern industries (formation of working class and industrialists-businessmen), modern education and social reforms (abolition of Sati, education for dalits and women) begin due to which the section of society which was privileged (Landlords and kings) started feeling marginalized and resorted to politics in the name of religion. They also presented ancient period as the golden period. Ancient period was the period when the birth based hierarchies were structural part of society.

 It is very important to understand the roots of origin of streams which prefix their nationalism with religion. These are basically feudal classes; feudal landlord-clergy combination which was opposed to the changes where birth based inequality was being practically challenged. In India initially these Muslim and Hindu segments were together but soon they separated, forming Muslim League on one side and Punjab Hindu Sabha, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS on the other. They did not participate in anti colonial struggles or social reforms for equality. There may be few exceptions thrown in here and there like Savarkar working against untouchability and against temple ban for dalits.

Coming to Hindu nationalists, RSS, it developed a training module for young boys as per which we have been a Hindu nations from times immemorial. We had a great and happy society. All castes were equal and women had glorious place in society. With invasion of Muslims and later by Christians, the society was tormented; Muslim kings spread Islam on the strength of sword, destroyed our temples, imposed jizia and our women were subjected to molestation.

During their intellectual sessions where the battles between Akbar-Rana Pratap, Shivaji-Afzal Khan are  given religious twists. Hindus are shown to be tormented by foreign rulers. The picture is projected of villainous Muslim kings and noble Hindu kings. This is what forms the root of Hate for Muslims. This hate is the root of violence. The Muslim Communalism also did similar things in spreading hatred against Hindus and communal violence was the result. To cut the long story short by such indoctrination lakhs of Swayamsevaks and thousands of Pracharaks have been trained and they are working in different areas of society. There is a long list of organizations affiliated to RSS, and their core DNA is this ideology, ‘hate-Muslims-Christians, glorify the past’.

As RSS began its initial leaders talked bluntly against Muslims, Christians. They glorified laws of Manu; opposed Indian Constitution and Tricolor. This indoctrinations latest addition is the propaganda that Hindus are in danger due to deliberate attempt by Muslims to increase their population. This has been ably countered by the facts presented by S.Y Quraishi in his book ‘Population Myth: Isla, Family planning and politics in India’. The National fertility rate is 2.2 and Muslims fertility rate is 2.6, but is showing a rapid decline during last couple of decades. In Muslim majority states the fertility rate is lower than states like UP, Bihar and UP. Still Quraishi’s book will be rusting in the library and the ‘Hum Do Hamare Do, Who Panch Unke Pachis’ (We two our two: They Five their twenty Five) will rule the social common sense.

After Bhagwat became Sarsanghchalak in 2009, RSS has been part of Ram Temple campaign, he himself asking the Muslim community to give up the land for Ram Temple and there are already rumblings about Kashi and Mathura. Now he is talking about lynchings, when nearly hundred innocent Muslims and dalits have lost their lives. We saw Shambhulal Regar brutally killing Mohammad Afrazul on the issue of love jihad. His silence all through was very eloquent. In a way it is this violence which is the outcome of Hate and leads to polarization; giving strength to its electoral progeny BJP.

BJP’s coming to power has further increased the number of Shakhas of RSS. The work in shakhas has been aided by their meticulously conducted long trainings, giving this Hindu nationalist ideology to the trainees, who are the backbone of Hindutva politics, of BJP, VHP, Bajarang dal and innumerable such organizations. To add to the phenomenon the Godi media, IT cell, fake news, and section of social media have heightened the degree of hate in the society.

So in that sense what is happening or is being orchestrated is the logical outcome of the seeds of indoctrination which have been sown over a period of time. India has seen people of different religions coming together to get independence. The roots of dialogues between different religions have been part of our Bhakti-Sufi traditions and cultural syncretism which we see in our society. The dialogue is needed between the concept of nationalisms, the one represented by Gandhi-Nehru-Patel on one side and the one represented by Savarkar-Hedgewar-Golwalkar on the other.

It is to the credit of Bhagwat that he is using the language which is very palatable. Words sound good but it is deeds which count in social matters. Modi-Yogi are not aberrations of Hindu nationalism, they are the logical outcome of what has been propagated through multiple mechanisms to train the swayamsevaks and Pracharaks. One knows Yogi is not from RSS stock, but he his wavelength is similar to that of what Hindu nationalism has been propagating and practicing.

One appreciates the good intentions of SK to have dialogue; one agrees with Bhagwat that discord does not work. Breaking new ground with Muslim community is very crucial and important, agreed. Can it be done when anti Muslim sentiments which are being propagated and encouraged and not talked about! Take the recent case of Corona and Tablighi Jamaat. What role did Bhagwat’s ideology play to combat the propaganda against Muslims? Take the case of CAA-NRC, the insecurity caused to crores of Muslims,  Bhagwat is defending this unnecessary move, which has created massive insecurity among Muslims in general!

History has seen amity as well as discord no doubt. If we attempt to go a bit deep we will see that poor dalits felt closer to Muslins at social level. Even in the matters of power it was the nobility, Hindu and Muslim which ruled. Here Gandhi’s understanding of Indian history needs to be brought to the fore to replace the existing Hindu versus Muslim elaboration of history by RSS. Gandhi writes in Hind Swaraj “The Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu. Each party recognized that mutual fighting was suicidal, and that neither party would abandon its religion by force of arms. Both parties, therefore, decided to live in peace. With the English advent, quarrels recommenced.

 . . . Do people become enemies because they change their religion? Is the God of the Mohammedan different from the God of the Hindu? Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal? Wherein is the cause of quarreling?”

Where are we standing today? Author of the book Ahmad, SK and Bhagwat are talking at a level which ignores the deeper causes of the violence. Discord is not among the religious communities; conflict is between two streams of Nationalism, Indian nationalism on one side and Hindu nationalism on the other.

In the spirit of dialogue and positive words which Bhagwat states what is missing is direction to undo the hate which has been propagated so far. SK with all his noble intentions should have remembered what Sardar Patel’s Ministry of Home put out after the murder of the father of the nation, “violence sponsored and inspired by the Sangh claimed many victims — the latest and the most precious to fall was Mahatma Gandhi himself”. Surely SK’s criticism though valid does not take into account the prevalence of hate and its reasons in society.

The methods RSS are strange. Its subordinate/affiliate organizations are trained to fulfill different components of the march towards Hindu Rashtra. On one day Mr. Bhagwat says that those who ask Muslims to leave India are not Hindus, the next day Suraj Pal Amu who asks Muslims to leave is promoted to be the BJP spokesperson in Haryana. The person who invites the slogan of ‘Goli maro’ is promoted from Minster of state to Cabinet minister. RSS thinker Rakesh Sinha in an interview to Dainik Jagran openly says Christian missionaries should leave India.

One needs to understand that Bhagwat’s words are more for the sake of consumption and gaining credibility in the changing times while its age old agenda remains the same. Dialogue should be done to urge upon the Bhagwat’s organization to adopt the values of Indian nationalism of Gandhi-Nehru-Azad-Patel, and reassure minorities that the Hate and consequent violence against them will be condemned and halted. The large mass of Muslims, battered and ghettoized, as Ahmad points out; should follow the values of Allah Baksh, Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and the principles of Indian Constitution in due course.


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