May bode well for Kashmir

Mohan Bhagwat’s Muslim Outreach
May bode well for Kashmir

B L Saraf
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat recently met with Imam in latter’s Delhi house and had an hour long interaction with students studying in a nearby Madrassa. In August, some prominent Muslim intellectuals like MY Quraishi former CEC, Najeeb Jung IAS Rtd , former LG of Delhi, Major General Zamir Uddin Shah former V C of Aligarh Muslim University, Shahid Siddiqui a journalist and Sayeed Sherwani, the hotelier (G5 for short) had called on Sarsanghchalak and, reportedly, had a fruitful interaction with him. In the aftermath of these meetings, Sunil Ambekar-RSS publicity in charge told media “RSS has been having a continuous dialogue with Ummer Assad Ilyasi. Even his father used to interact with former RSS Chief K S Sudershan.” He further said that Sangh is having such meetings as a continuous “Samvad” with various sections of the society. The G 5 latter on clarified that they did so in their individual capacities and not as representatives of the Muslim community.
The discerning observers feel that of late the RSS has been conducting itself in a manner which will refurbish its image in a positive manner and enlarge the organization’s socio/political arena- with due regard for the minority’s sensitivities. These events have more than one meaning. Apart from what is apparent on the face of it that Sangh has opened up its channels to the Muslim community, meeting G5 and the Imam separately Sangh has made it clear that it wants to have engagement with all sections and shades of opinion of the Indian Muslim community . While the G5 may be a motley group of ” progressives /liberals “- who espouse an inclusive cause in the overall Indian context – which many Muslims are not enamoured of – the Imam , on the other hand , represents the core which finds favour with most of them .
Writing in a national daily some days back, the former NSA in UPA 11 and Governor of W Bengal advised Rahul Gandhi to shun the tendency of being always critical of RSS and concentrate more on other issues. The learned writer feels that RSS has now acquired a great deal of respectability cutting across socio political sections of the nation. The Organization is here to stay – indelibly ingrained in the socio -political mind space of great many countrymen. R SS too seems keen to shed some of its baggage – which at least in the perception of some Indians – carries a sectarian weight.
The media in charge of the Sangh is right when he says that the recent interaction of its Chief with Muslims is the continuation of a process which started a couple of years back. In 2021, speaking in an event ‘Hindustani First ” organized by Muslim Rashtriya Manch in Gaziabad UP Mohan Bhagwat said that those who indulge in lynching are against Hindutva. That there may be differences in worship and lifestyle but Hindu and Muslims are one -not different and our belief should be to live together to strengthen the nation. Mohan Bhagwat added that we live in democracy which does not permit dominance of one religion over the other “dominance has to be of Indians.” In the wake of Gyanwapi Mosque controversy the RSS Chief called upon countrymen to shun the tendency to see a Shive- ling underneath every Masjid. Indeed, a huge statement from a person who matters most in the current political scene of the country and is heard with respect, by all .
While RSS Chief obliquely admonished those in the majority community who indulge in lynching, he told common Muslim not to get “trapped in the cycle of fear that Islam is in danger.” Mohan Bhagwat referred to the Constitution many a time during his address to emphasize the point that the document nowhere talks about Hindus only. It is a remarkable that the RSS Chief has sought to downplay the religious divide and foreground national identity together with emphasis on rule of law. This is an acknowledgement of multiculturalism that defines idea of India.
The RSS Chief may do well to advise its cadre and other members of the family not to press too hard for reforms in the Muslim community: keep away from Hijab and Common Code controversy for the time being. The more we press these issues more repulsive the community may be. Today Muslims in India may be for the Hijab, the day is not far off when urge for such reforms will come out within. Example of Iran is before us. In the wake of custodial death of Mahsa Amini, a young girl , arrested by the morality police for taking of the head scarf, thousands of Iranian women , undeterred by the raining bullets, are in the streets cutting hair and burning head scarves in protest against Hijab dictate.
Some observers tend to read Bhagwat’s move in the context of electoral challenges the BJP is likely to encounter in 2024. Some analysts would like to put this statement in the contextual frame of evolving strategies. Because, for variety of reasons, many liberal Hindus and a significant section of middle class, who voted for PM Narendra Modi in the national elections, held so far, are shifting preferences. Besides that, the RSS would not like Muslims to align en block with opposition parties in 2024 parliamentary elections and upset the BJP’s apple cart. Whatever be the reason, Mohan Bhagwat’s words and actions are welcome as they will help restore much needed sanity, tolerance and a sense of accommodation within the society. It may rein in fringe elements with the majority community and, also, inhibit the misguided elements in the minority community from falling prey to the extra -territorial machinations.
The RSS’s opening up to the Muslims in the mainland will surly have a salutary effect on the psyche of Muslims in J&K, where they live in absolute majority. This will be good for the nation and bode well for the beleaguered State. It is as important for the communities to shed prejudices, keep channels of mutual dialogue open and avoid polarizing rhetoric.
(The author is Former Principal District & Sessions Judge)