It had all the trappings of a perfect setting for RSS Sarsanghchalak, Dr Mohan Bhagwat to observe that the DNA of all the Indians was the same and they cannot be differentiated on the basis of religion. “There cannot be any dominance of Hindus or Muslims; there can be only dominance of Indians,” he further observed.
The occasion was the Muslim Rashtriya Manch organised book release function, the venue was poll bound UP (Ghaziabad) with a sizable Muslim population and the backdrop was the Centre seemingly speeding up the exercise to conduct elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim majority (erstwhile) state of India.
This apart Dr Bhagwat’s subsequent observation that the Muslims of India should not get trapped in a cycle of fear on account that Islam was in danger in India and that those indulged in lynching were against “Hindutava”, was quite reassuring and a welcome step. For a backgrounder the Muslim Rashtriya Manch, an affiliate of the RSS, was found by its senior leader Mr Indiresh Kumar who at one point of time was in charge of Jammu and Kashmir.
Expectedly, there were immediate political reactions from Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and the Left parties questioning the motive behind Dr Bhagwat making such observations centring Muslim community. Given the fact that the focus has been on the community for the last decade or so but for wrong reasons leading to a strong sense of insecurity with issues and incidents such as lynching (on the pretext of issues related to bovine animals) and “love jihad” further adding to the fear, these reactions were but natural when UP is headed for assembly elections.
The RSS chief has on many occasions in the past expressed similar views focusing the Muslim community. Given the fact that the RSS’s core agenda is focused on “Hindu Rashtra” and “Hindutava”, his latest observations on “common DNA” and assuring the Muslims to come out of fear, have to be viewed and analysed separately. Nevertheless, there is certainly no case of jumping to the conclusion and out rightly rejecting his views on a very sensitive matter. His views, which have naturally given rise to many questions and doubts, have to be carefully weighed and understood.
His reassuring comments that neither the Muslims be fear stricken nor believe that Islam was in danger or that there could be dominance of Indians in India, and not Hindus or Muslims, need to be carried forward in letter and spirit. If the trappings of the function are any indication, these views seem to have been expressed with Muslim population of Uttar Pradesh in mind.
It is important that such message of reassurance by RSS chief should reach the Muslims and other minority communities. But it is much more important that the message is conveyed in proper context to the Sangh’s rank and file including its political affiliate BJP. The rank and file has been trained to think and act in a particular way with an overbearing “Hindutava” agenda and minority bashing.
Is Dr Bhagwat through expressing words of reassurance for Muslims seeking to change this thinking if not the agenda? There is no doubt that the RSS has a well-oiled, well-trained and disciplined (to obey the orders of the high command) cadre. It will be interesting to see whether the spirit of his views percolates down to not only the RSS cadres but also to the leaders and cadres of the BJP without which his observations would be meaningless and only serve or not an electoral purpose. There are no indications as yet on any change on the ground in RSS thinking after Dr Bhagwat’s focused views on the minority community
How would his these observations conform or not with former RSS chief and its top ideologue M S Golwarkar’s views on nationalism particularly “dharmocarcy versus democracy”?
There is a need to view Dr Bhagwat’s latest observations in the light of his earlier oft-repeated views on the same issues. In a statement published in sections of media on December 26, 2019, he had said that India’s salvation will not happen through politics and political leaders but through good society and “Hidutava”. Speaking at a function on the day in Hyderabad he had significantly said that “Sangh regards the 130 crore population of India as Hindu society, irrespective of their religion and culture”.
Similarly, on another occasion, as reported by the PTI on October 2, 2019, Dr Bhagwat had said that “India is a Hindu Rashtra, that it is a fact of life and it cannot be altered even if everything else changes.” It is another matter that he had on that occasion portrayed RSS as a “flexible and liberal organisation, underscoring the need for change according to desh, kaal, paristhiti (country, time and circumstances), and keeping distance from any ideology”.
This in fact is the core of RSS’s ideological plank and what Dr Bhagwat observed at the Ghaziabad function has certainly come as a surprise. In trying to reassure the Muslims mere words would not suffice. He will have to follow it up by not only taking all wings of the RSS into confidence and bring them on the same page on their outlook towards minority communities, but should explain how these views fit-in in the core thought of the RSS. It will be truly reassuring if that really happens.
The second part of his observation that DNA of all Indians was the same is neither new nor surprising a wee-bit as it is in consonance with his earlier views and that of his predecessors that Hindus and Muslims have common ancestors. Historically that might be correct but politically and in diversity like India such a statement has the potential of increasing the gulf and insecurities rather than capping the current volatile societal situation.
Nevertheless, it is in the national interest that Dr Bhagwat’s observations are not summarily rejected but debated that includes the Sangh Parivar. These were certainly not off-the-cuff remarks made by him and that too in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is all gearing up to fight the assembly election in the midst of construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya.
As stated above a follow up action on the part of the RSS chief would help clearing more doubts in the minds of not only the Muslims but also the vast majority of secular populace. It would be naive to think that Dr Bhagwat’s RSS would shun or dilute its core agenda, but it can certainly be modified in line with the multi-culture, multi-lingual diversity of the country.