During the interactive exchange between the RSS ideologues and the Muslim intellectuals, the historic keynote address on November 3, 2016 at the Pusa Institute Guest House by Dr Krishna Gopal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh think-tank (in the presence of Dattatreya Hosbale and Indresh Kumar), was not only an eye-opener, poignant and but path-breaking as well.
It appeared as against the prevalent perception that RSS is anti-Muslim, the reality was otherwise; that the RSS is not against Muslims. Most of his speech meant that. The RSS invited 116 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals from across the country to open their hearts out and have a frank debate on how Muslims and the RSS can share the common grounds despite honouring their differences as India needs this confluence to lead the world.
Muslims’ understanding of the RSS: Being born and a resident of the old Delhi’s walled city Shahjahanabad area of Ballimaran (an area with very high density Muslim population), I grew up hearing a lot of diatribe and rant against the RSS and the Jana Sangh, that these establishments were after the jugular of the Muslims and that their sole agenda was the annihilation of the Muslim community. I trusted the same.
In 1967, it surprised Muslims of old Delhi, rather left them aghast when Anwar Dehlvi, a social worker and writer, chose to represent Jana Sangh from Jama Masjid area as a Metropolitan Councillor which he repeated in 1972 and remained till 1977 — the sole Muslim to have won twice as the Jana Sangh candidate who had fought on the “Deepak” (lamp) symbol.
It was a very bold decision by Dehlvi and he began a tradition of the Muslims coming under the fold of the Sangh. At that time Jana Sangh was considered to be an untouchable as far as Muslims were considered. Dehlvi was given a ticket owing to his proven mettle in the field of activism and community service as well as his affinity to Atal Behari Vajpayee, the RSS pioneer and pillar. He won the seat with a huge margin as Muslims voted him being a worthy candidate.
Planted media’s RSS disparagement and Bala Saheb Thackeray: As per the tainted picture projected by the secularist media and leftists, the RSS, to the Muslim community, is a hard-core Hindu militant pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim socio-political outfit, vying to destroy and demolish their mosques the same way as the Babri Masjid, force them to follow the Shaivite traditions and Sanatan Dharma, slamming whatever half-opened doors of cooperation upon them, branding them as terrorists and pro-Pakistani ISI agents besides repeating a Gujarat pogrom in the BJP-ruled states besides umpteen other allegations.
As per the pseudo-secular media, the late Bala Saheb Thackeray was considered to be extremely opposed to the Muslim community to the extent that it was attributed to him that he told to either go to Pakistan or ‘qabristan’ (graveyard).
Once I had to interview him in 1998 for The Times of India. I went to his Mumbai Matoshri residence where he was found sitting with a group of Muslims. The moment he saw me, he said, “You think I am anti-Muslim! See these Mumbai Muslims are with me and for the last fourteen years, I have been funding their Ijtema (huge Islamic religious gathering) with an amount of Rs twenty lakh each year. I am a better Muslim!” Though the media presented an anti-Muslim face of Bala Saheb, he was very compassionate to Muslims of his constituency till he lived.
Understanding the roots of the RSS: My best understanding of the RSS comes through Prof Rakesh Sinha, Indresh Kumar, and Seshadri Chari of the Sangh. While conveying their views in the media on umpteen issues, they also try to build bridges by complying with unity in diversity. In their ideology they are committed, in their sincerity, they are unmatched and in their approach they are honest. So are the other RSS ideologues like, Nand Kumar, the media coordinator of the RSS and Ram Madhav, the BJP spokesperson.
Indresh Kumar maintains that Muslims are brothers and the RSS wants to treat them with equality. Besides being firmly cemented in their ideological roots, they revere all the other religions and their followers in the same way that this verse in the holy Quran states, Lakum dinokum, waley yadeen, meaning, you follow your religion and we follow ours. It means there is no bone of contention.
Basically, Muslims have been voting against the BJP because of the defilement and sullying by the Congress and the other so-called secular parties that it is the most dangerous party for the Muslims and once in power, would obliterate Muslims from the Indian canvass. This tarnishing, planted and pitched media jargon by the pseudo secularists against the RSS heavyweights like Golwarkar, KB Hedgewar, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Veer Savarkar, resulted in Muslims’ blind rejection of the Sangh — poor politicking! Even if the RSS has the slightest of hate or feelings of rejection against Muslims, these have to change into acceptance to bring them into the main stream as there is no way out since such a huge multitude can’t be annihilated.
Thoughtless Sangh revulsion will harm the Indian diaspora: As a layman, I have always maintained that Muslims must give their mandate to a politician who is good and can deliver the goods. Truth is that in politics nobody must be considered untouchable. Unfortunately, the so-called secular parties inculcated in Muslims a tendency to vote for a candidate who has the calibre of defeating the BJP candidate. It appeared to me that they voted for the Congress en bloc as if Allah had asked them to do so or that the holy Quran or Hadith had instructed them to do so. This thoughtless anti-Sangh revulsion against the BJP candidates was rather a detrimental decision as the BJP used to win and naturally being derided down earlier, these candidates ignored the Muslim areas.
A Muslim woman as RSS worker: Lubna, a staunch, niqab (veil)-wearing and a practising Muslim joined the RSS in 2014 and did not find anything contradictory to Islam or Muslims or any other religion.
“They are really doing good work for India and protecting its culture, which includes a blanket ban on mass conversions to any religion. I feel fortunate that I joined the RSS and lot of my misconceptions are gone. Hindus and Muslims need to bridge communication gap and misunderstandings that plague both communities,” stated Lubna.
Similarly, Farah Faiz, a Supreme Court lawyer and an expert on triple Talaq stated that she was very impressed by the organised social and philanthropic work of the RSS and that she never found anything anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim while she had interacted with the leaders and workers of the RSS.
Maulana Azad and Hedgewar in Wardha
Though I had heard a lot of vitriol being poured against the RSS, however, didn’t get to listen anyone from the establishment vouching for the wiping out of Muslims. Quite interestingly, in 1934, it was in Wardha, Maharashtra that Hedgewar had met both Gandhi and Maulana Azad separately and both of whom wanted him to join the Congress. He refused. When Azad asked him to support Congress for nationalism and freedom struggle, he said that Congress was a political platform and he wanted to go in for cultural nationalism through his devoted swayamsevaks (workers).
When Azad asked him whether it was Hindutva that he termed cultural nationalism, Hedgewar stated that Hindutva had nothing to do with religion as it was an inclusive way of life taking all the Indians together. Enthused at that, Azad told Hedgewar that he too shared the same sentiments.
Hedgewar appreciated Azad: Though born in a predominantly Hindu environment, Azad was bold enough to propagate nationalism to Muslims at variance with the prevalent political consciousness based on communalized politics. Maulana Azad told Hedgewar how he coalesced with the endogenic creativity, the Vedantic vision of many parts of truth with the Islamic doctrines of Wahdat-e-Deen (unity of religion) and Sulah-e-Kul (universal peace). Hedgewar appreciated and suggested Maulana to work with him separately as he couldn’t have worked with him in the Congress owing to some very sharp ideological differences. Maulana being the true son of India and of the Congress as well, stated, “Dil milein ya na milein/ Hath milatey rahiye!” (Whether our hearts share the same wavelength or not/ Let’s keep shaking hands throughout!). A day is bound to come when Muslims and the RSS will be — two hearts and one soul! Maulana is revered without really being understood because to a large bulk of people, he has been reduced to a noble “totem” of the political breed called the “nationalist and liberal Muslims.” Azad remains a shining example of the fusion of the rationalist heritage of Islam and the compassionate heritage of India.
RSS serves Muslims and others alike: I am reminded of the sad tragedy of the mid-air crash of the Saudi and Kazakh aeroplanes over Charkhi-Dadri near Noida in which most people were the ones going for the Haj pilgrimage. Their bodies fell in the fields and for many nights, the relatives of the dead, mostly Muslims, went to that area, for identifying the bodies and luggage. They were helped by the dedicated workers of the RSS and Shiv Sena who provided these people with bread and butter, tea, milk and blankets. It is this kind of philanthropy that the RSS people indulge in. Interestingly, no Muslim organisation like the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind or Jamat-e-Islami were there.
Arif Mohammed Khan on RSS: Muslim scholar and an ex-minister, Arif Mohammed Khan, in his address at the same meeting expressed that he too carried a baggage of the stained impression of the RSS unless he was able to be at close quarters with some of the leaders of the organization during his stay with them in the jail during the infamous Emergency in 1975-76. He stated that he gelled very well with K Sudarshan, Mohan Bhagwat, Rajju Bhaiya and other Sangh members. These, according to his version, happen to be people of character who live and die for their ideology. Nevertheless, what was of paramount importance was that these people, despite being firm in their Vedic commitment gave full regard and respect to the holy Quran and other Islamic scriptures, told Arif. “They are all well-meaning people and never hurt the other people’s religious and social sentiments.”
Dattatreya’s RSS A, B, C, D…: Attending some sessions of Dattatreya Hosabale, the RSS ideologue, gave me a clear insight into the RSS psyche. He carries an enlightened mind that opens new avenues of debate, dialogue and discourse on issues of national and global consequences. He is a perfect listener who ideally combines his head and heart while making his assertions. According to Dattatreya, the RSS ABCD stands like this — ‘A’: Amity is better than animosity, ‘B’: Benignity is better than barbarism, ‘C’: Compassion is better than cruelty and ‘D’: Dialogue is better than deadlock. In fact, the few RSS meetings this author has attended, he found the spirit same as stated here. Not one office bearer of the RSS spoke against Muslims. Nevertheless, there is no harm to Muslims as such by the RSS, of course, a lot of good talk is there; however, no positive action till date has been seen.
Re-think on Modi by Muslims: Muslims must desist from putting Modi in the dock as the Prime Minister as not only the highest honours from the governments of Saudi Arab and Afghanistan were bedecked upon Modi but Gujarat has been riot free for the last fourteen years. In the World Sufi Conclave at Vigyan Bhavan, Delhi, he vouched that Indian Muslims are peace loving and follow Quran in the right spirit and that the ISIS will not find a constituency in India.
Modi shirks mere tokenism of just wearing the Muslim skull cap but believes in action sans lip service. When he gave away a huge package to the kite-makers of Gujarat, released funds for the Skill India project, promoted girl-child education and gave away LPG cylinders under the Ujjwala Yojana to the poor, he didn’t state that he was helping the Muslim “minorities” but the needy and deserving. Since the Muslims are most needy and poorest, they benefited the most.
The need of the hour: According to Dr Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed, an academician cum political analyst, chairman of Interfaith Harmony Foundation of India and the author of ‘Sangh Parivar and the Indian Muslims’, the need of the hour is to create room for a dialogue with the Sangh Parivar. Common grounds have to be discovered. He supports Modi’s slogan of taking one and all together to dizzy heights of progress. Khwaja maintains that Modi is rendering the cause of communal concord without any labels.
Finally, the rider is that deadlock simply adds to confusion and contradiction. RSS and Muslims have to agree on a common minimum/ maximum programme in order to gel well so that India is on a fast track of development to fulfilling the dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Muslims and the Sangh should together generate space for the accommodation of each other’s sensitivity. Dialogue is the essential ingredient to creating that space.
Dr shahid Akhter conducted the program and given the welcome speech.
By Firoz Bakht Ahmed