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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 45 New Delhi October 27, 2018

Dussehra Message of the RSS Sarsanghchalak

Sunday 28 October 2018

by Irfan Engineer

The RSS Sarsanghchalak, Shri Mohan Bhagwat, urged the Central Government to bring in a law for construction of the Ram temple at the site where Babri Masjid once stood. Shri Bhagwat was addressing the customary Vijayadashami rally of the RSS. In the election year, the RSS seems to have shed its velvet gloves which Shri Bhagwat had earlier attempted to put on for an image makeover in order to widen its appeal when it had invited the former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, to address their trainees and in the three-day lecture series delivered in Vigyan Bhavan in September 2018. The RSS chief had surprised skeptics by taking a ‘soft Hindutva’ approach during his talks at the lecture series when he said that the temple should be built where Lord Rama was born and that the case was a matter of people’s sentiments and hence “should not be prolonged so much”. He had then said that the government should decide if a law was necessary to resolve the case. The transition from “government should decide” to “urging the government to bring in a law” has taken less than a month!

During the lecture series Bhagwat had attempted to strike an inclusive note, saying that the Sangh’s vision of a Hindu Rashtra did not mean it had no place for Muslims. On September 18, Bhagwat had said: “The day it is said that Muslims are unwanted here, the concept of Hindu Rashtra will cease to exist.” When Bhagwat says that the Ram temple in Ayodhya is “people’s sentiment”, who are the people and who are the non-people? Why did Bhagwat show readiness to include Muslims in his Hindu Rashtra and on what conditions?

With 172 million Muslims, according to the 2011 census, India has the third largest Muslim population in the world in any country after Indonesia and Pakistan. Pakistan is home to nearly 200 million Muslims. The Muslim population in India is larger than in the Arab countries. Although the Sangh Parivar members every now and then show their prowess by asking Muslims to migrate to Pakistan, that does not seem to be a practical solution. Such a large population cannot be thrown out of the country. This realisation on the part of Sarsanghchalak makes them offer another alternative—Hinduise the Muslims in order to include them within their Hindu Rashtra.

Muslims in the Hindu Rashtra would be accepted only if they are Hinduised. That means, culturally they would be Hindus even though they may be free to pray to Allah in the manner they desire. As it is, Hindus claim to worship 330 million Gods and Goddesses and a God by another name would not make any difference. Perform their life-cycle rituals pronouncing their Arabic mantras. However, they must not be allowed to be guided in their way of life according to the Qur’anic text or religious ideas. For example, the strong emphasis on justice and equality in Islam cannot be the guiding way of life to the extent it comes in conflict with the ideas of the way of life as propounded by the Sangh.

To be cultural Hindu would mean that firstly Muslims would have to sever all relations with Muslims outside the country. Their religious impulse should not come from outside the country. They should not regard or entertain any Islamic thoughts outside the boundaries of the country—be it Wahabi or Sufi or any jurisprudential or theological explication. V.D. Savarkar, the Hindutva ideologue, problematised the religious communities having their holy land or punyabhoomi outside the borders of the country. Golwalkar wrote in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined,:

“The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... In a word they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens’ rights.”

Secondly, the heroes of Muslims would have to be from India. Lord Ram must be the hero of all cultural Hindus, including Muslims—not the prophet of Islam or any other rightly-guided Caliphs or lineage of Imams for the Shia community. Therefore the insistence that Hinduised ‘Muslims’ must willingly surrender the parcel of land termed as Ram Janmabhoomi by the Hindu supremacists. All Hindus, including the Muslims, should believe that Lord Ram was born there and further believe that there was a Ram Janmabhoomi temple there which was demolished on orders of Babar and the Babri Masjid was constructed there. Justice lies in not following the law of the land and awaiting judgement of the Supreme Court of India on the title suit but adoring Lord Ram, if not worshipping him, and supporting the construction of Lord Ram’s temple. The Muslim Rashtriya Manch, owing its allegiance to the RSS, has already declared Lord Ram as their Lord.

Besides Lord Ram, Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva, and all the 330 million Gods and Goddesses should also be the heroes of Muslims and if their mosques are constructed on the land which the Hindu supremacists proclaim to be their birth-places, such mosques should be demolished and the parcel of land surrendered to the supre-macists for construction of the temple of the Lord whose birthplace they proclaim to be. The proclamation of belief is sufficient and Hindu belief cannot be subjected to any scrutiny—either academic or even in the court of law. The Sangh Parivar’s proclamation of belief is sufficient proof of the fact of belief and no head-count or survey or poll need to be carried out to establish the fact of belief.

The hero of the Hindus, including Muslims, should be, for example, Pushya Mitra Shunga who assassinated the last Maurya Emperor, Brihadrath, and usurped his empire. Thereafter he eliminated Buddhism and re-established Brahminical hegemony of the Peshwas, who established a caste-based hierarchical social structure and oppressed Dalits and women. Emperor Akbar, known for his catholicity, cannot be the hero of Hindus. The religious impulse of the Muslims must come from the Hindu heroes, Hindu culture and Hindu traditions and customs. Muslims should sing the glory of, and practice yoga and suryanamaskar and work for the protection of the cow and its progeny.

Thirdly, culturally, a Muslim should be indistinguishable from a Hindu. S/he should appear, behave and talk like a Hindu and not do anything that displeases any Hindu, for example, call for prayers from the mosque through loudspeakers. Their dress cannot be in accordance with their understanding of their religion—face veil or purdah/burqa/abhaya are all to be discarded.

The family and personal affairs between two Muslims should be governed by Hindu traditions and customs and not by laws and traditions drawn from their religion for the sake of uniformity and unity. They must similarly mistreat the women in the family. Bhagwat, in one of his speeches, said that there is an implied contract in marriages wherein husbands agree to earn livelihood and wives ‘agree’ to take care of the kitchen, children and home. If a wife does not perform her part of the contract, husbands are free to resort to remedies available to them. He, at another occasion, called upon Hindu women to produce at least four children for the nation.

The call for Hinduisation of Muslims is nothing but establishing the hegemony of elite Hindus—the section which controls levers of power within the community and controls the social, religious and educational institutions. The elite are by and large drawn from the Brahmin community but not confined to only Brahmins. It includes some Sanskritised sections of backward castes. Hinduisation of Muslims is nothing but another name of ‘ghar wapsi’ or conversion of Muslims to Hinduism.

Muslims and their Contribution to Indian Culture

If only Bhagwat and the Hindu supremacists had bothered to look carefully at the Muslim community they would find the rich contribution of the community to the diverse Indian culture. Many classical musical gharanas are Muslim and traditionally pay obeisance to Goddess Saraswati when they give any performance. The Muslim rulers patronised Indian classical dance. Wajid Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh, was a great classical dancer himself.

The Sufis have contributed richly to Indian spirituality. Many of Baba Farid’s compositions are included in the Guru Granth Sahib—the sacred text of the Sikh community. Many Sufis translated Hindu sacred texts—Vedas, Upanishads, other sacred texts of Hindus—Ramayana and Gita into Persian for the world to understand and benefit from these texts. Saint Kabir as well as Sufi Saint Bulle Shah call upon the believers to undertake introspection of one’s conduct and control one’s base feelings of desire, jealousy, fear, greed, anger etc. to be nearer to God. Both through their compositions said God is love and in removing the sufferings of humanity—God is not in temple and mosques.

The dress Muslims wear are not Arab robes. The clothes they wear are traditional clothes worn only in India—whether it is kurta, churidar, saree, paijama, mundu or lungi. They talk only Indian languages—Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Assameses, just to name a few of them.

Muslims also follow the caste and gotra traditions, customs and restrictions, influenced by Hindu traditions and cultural practices. Social stratification among Muslims in India is broadly divided into three Ashraf (upper castes), Ajlaf (OBCs) and Arzals (SCs). Islam did not make them give up the caste-based stratification.

It is a fact that Islamic thoughts and jurisprudence do influence the religious impulses of the Muslim community; however, such an impulse is no more or no less than those of other Indians. Even Hindus are not cut off by the borders and their understanding of religion is influenced by religious thoughts from the entire world, including from Hindu citizens of foreign lands.

Let us not divide our heritage along religious lines or any other lines as our heritage is the common heritage of humanity received from all sources. Let us test the goodness of our heritage on the lines of how inclusive they are and how much they contribute to the greatest common goodness. Bhagwat and the Hindu supremacists draw divisive lines on the common heritage in order to perpetuate the hegemony of the elite and the powerful. We cannot serve the nation by rejecting selectively our common heritage. Such a project is only to impose the will and power of the elite on the rest of the society. That is not the order desirable by the rule of law and our Consitution.

The author is the Director, Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), Mumbai.

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