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On RSS reassurances to Muslim, deeds matter more than words

Javed Anand writes: Bitter past experience reveals the yawning gulf between the utterances and promises of the RSS and its affiliates on the one hand, and their performances on the other.

Written by Javed Anand |
Updated: September 18, 2021 7:22:52 am
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (File Photo)

Respected Shri Mohan Bhagwatji, Namaste!

I am encouraged to address this missive to you because, taken at face value, some of your recent statements on the Hindu-Muslim paradigm sound like soothing music to some Muslim ears. Among other things, you have proclaimed that the DNA of all Indians is the same; that Hindutva is inconceivable without Muslims; that if any Hindu says Muslims should not remain in India, he is not a Hindu; and that those who do lynching are going against Hindutva. You even say that India is a democracy where there can be no question of Hindu supremacy.

Perhaps, such sweet sentiments coming from none less than you, the current high priest of Hindutva, did bring tears to some Muslim eyes. But with due respect, bitter past experience reveals the yawning gulf between the utterances and promises of the RSS and its affiliates on the one hand, and their performances on the other.

In January 1993, BJP stalwart L K Advani promised Muslims that his party “will protect their lives and they will enjoy equal justice.” In March 1995, the then chief minister of Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel, stated that “Muslims have nothing to fear under BJP rule… You will see how well we treat Muslims and other minorities under our rule.” On the eve of the 1996 general elections, BJP president Advani extended a “guarantee” to every Muslim, “security, justice, equality and full freedom of faith and worship…. no BJP government will tolerate any dilution of this guarantee.” And, in June 1997, Advani promised “a riot-free, violence-free, discrimination-free India” once the BJP comes to power at the Centre.

“Muslims are flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood,” the then BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, had declared in 2001. A year later, gruesome violence was inflicted on Muslims in Gujarat under the watch of the then chief minister, Narendra Modi, and Union home minister, LK Advani. Modi was hailed by the Sangh Parivar for having established the “first successful laboratory of Hindutva”.

And what should one say about more recent times? The Prime Minister of India, a proud former pracharak of the Sangh Parivar, promises “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”. However, in the last seven years, Muslims have been repeatedly taunted, humiliated, hurt, incarcerated on bogus charges and lynched under the watch of the RSS-blessed, BJP-led governments at the Centre and in several states. You say that Muslims have nothing to fear in India. The reality is that very many Muslims (and Christians) today feel increasingly alienated, insecure and afraid.

In the decades prior to BJP-rule, commission after judicial commission of inquiry appointed by governments to probe into riots in their states indicted the RSS and its affiliate bodies for stoking communal conflict and violence. To cite just one example, the report of the Justice Venugopal Commission on the 1982 Kanyakumari riots involving Hindus and Christians observed: “The RSS adopts a militant and aggressive attitude and sets itself up as the champion of what it considers to be the rights of Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to teach the minorities their place and if they are not willing to learn their place, to teach them a lesson”.

You say that your recent remarks are nothing new, that this is what the RSS has stood for in over 90 years of its existence. Is that so? The RSS and its affiliates proclaim Hindutva as their ideological bedrock, a term coined by V D Savarkar in 1923. According to Savarkar, India rightfully belongs only to Hindus whose fatherland (pitrubhoomi) and holy land (punyabhoomi) are located within its geographical boundary. Simply stated, like Jinnah, Savarkar subscribed to the “two-nation” theory and so did the RSS. According to “Guru” Golwalkar, the second and till date the most revered Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, India’s freedom from colonial rule in 1947 was not real freedom because it was founded on a “perverted concept of (territorial) nationalism” where citizenship was not religion- or culture-based.

On the face of it, your recent statements sound like good news, Bhagwatji. But when you claim that this is exactly what the RSS has stood for since its birth, the claim defies both reason and lived experience. You maintain that the solution to the problem of Hindu-Muslim conflict lies in dialogue, not discord. Agreed. You also rightly maintain that polite conversation will not do, what is needed is honest talk. Well said, Bhagwatji. Allow me then the right to some khari khari baat.

The claim that what you say now is what the RSS has always stood for is no honest talk. Would you not sound a bit more credible, perhaps, were you to claim that the RSS of 2021 is not the same as the RSS of Hedgewar and Golwalkar? Next, please drop the pretence that the RSS is not interested in politics, that the continuing targeting of Muslims with hate speech and violence by sections of the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal have nothing to do with the RSS. Anyone can see this charade of the Sangh Parivar for what it is — a convenient, opportunistic, cynical division of labour.

Forget all else, here’s an idea that I guarantee will win you Muslim hearts and minds. Deeds, you will agree, speak louder than words. The RSS, with its vast network, rightly claims to have its swayamsevaks in every nook and corner of the country. The RSS maintains that its workers never indulge in violence. In which case here is the simple idea: Direct your swayamsevaks, Bhagwatji, that the next time there is any violence against any Muslim anywhere because of his/her religion, your footsoldiers should be the first to stand by the victim, ensure that he gets justice and the culprits get booked. Do this honestly and consistently for a year or two Bhagwatji and I am sure you will no longer need to pow-wow with select “Muslim intelligentsia” in five-star hotels. The grateful Muslim masses will come running to you of their own accord.

Yours hopefully.

This column first appeared in the print edition on September 17, 2021 under the title ‘Words and deeds’. The writer is convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and co-editor, SabrangIndia online.

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