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Opinion: Mohan Bhagwat’s Muslim Outreach Is Big – But Will It Matter? – Unblendednews

Opinion: Mohan Bhagwat’s Muslim Outreach Is Big – But Will It Matter?

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Mohan Bhagwat is the most ‘political’ RSS chief after Balasaheb Deoras. If Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was quintessentially an organisation man, M S Golwalkar was more of a missionary; Balasaheb Deoras was a rebel within the Hindutva fold: a non-practicing Swayam Sewak who left the RSS for eight years due to differences with Golwalkar, and a hard-core political individual. It was Deoras who saw potential in the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement, aggressively pursued with the full might of the RSS, at a time when BJP was oscillating between the Gandhian Socialism of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Integral Humanism of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. Without the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the BJP would not have accomplished what it has.

Not many people outside the RSS know that Deoras, after becoming chief of the organisation, advocated that the RSS should open its doors to the followers of the other religions like Islam and Christianity. He was told by the top leadership of the RSS “This is not what Hedgewar envisioned when he founded the RSS; if he feels so strongly about that, he should start his own RSS”. Many years later, the RSS did open its membership for Muslims and others; much later, it also sponsored the Rashtriya Muslim Manch to reach out to Muslims and neutralise their apprehensions that the RSS is anti-Islam. Therefore, in that context, what Bhagwat is preaching today is not new, it is in continuation with the Deoras line of thinking. 

But Bhagwat has walked a few steps further than Deoras. At an event in Mumbai yesterday, attended by Muslim intellectuals, he said,“Hindus and Muslims in India share the same ancestry. In our view, the word Hindu means motherland, and the culture that we have inherited from ancient times. The term Hindu… denotes every person irrespective of their language, community or religion. Everyone is a Hindu, and it is in this context that we see every Indian citizen as a Hindu. The faith of another will not be disrespected here, but for that we should be thinking not of Muslim dominance but of India’s dominance. For the country to progress, all have to work together.” On the surface, it appears that Bhagwat, in a way, is trying to redefine Hindutva; theoretically, he is challenging Golwalkar’s basic premise and pushing Hindutva away from Savarkar’s interpretation of history. His definition of Hindutva is much closer to Swami Vivekanand’s who talked about a cohesive, strong and organised Hindu society but one that should live in complete harmony with Muslims in India. Bhagwat, in 2018, had said, “Hindu Rashtra does not mean there is no place for Muslims. The day it becomes so, it won’t be Hindutva. Hindutva talks about one world family.”

Bhagwat’s insistence that there is place for Muslims in the Hindu Rashtra is antagonistic to the Hindu Rashtra as envisaged by Savarkar, Golwalkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the three sources of RSS ideology. Savarkar, like Jinnah, advocated the two-nation theory. In 1937, Savarkar declared, “India can’t be assumed to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary, there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Muslims, in India.” On this issue, Babasaheb Ambedkar found no difference between him and Jinnah. He said, “Strange as it may appear, Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both agree and not only agree but insist that there are two nations in India – one the Muslim nation and the other Hindu nation.”

Golwalkar, like Savarkar, was not an original thinker, he was inspired by the Hitler’s ideology of fascism. In 1939, he wrote in his book, We, or Our Nationhood Defined, (this book was later disowned by the RSS) “…there are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. That is the only sound view on the minority problem.” This statement very clearly underlines the fact that Golwalkar was contemplating throwing Muslims out of the country. Deen Dayal Upadhyay did not disagree much with his ideological mentor except on one point and that is that seven crore Muslims (that was the population of Muslims then) living in India is a reality and they can’t be removed. So, a formula for the co-existence must be evolved. 

Bhagwat goes much further to say that without Muslims, Hindutva can’t be imagined. By this logic, he negates the basic premise of the “Two-Nation Theory”. In his opinion, Hindus and Muslims are not the foundation of two distinct nations but one. They have the ‘same ancestry’. Unlike him, Savarkar had declared Islam and Christianity foreign religions, whose holy lands existed outside India, and so their loyalty to the nation was suspect. He acknowledged that most of the Muslims and Christians were at one time Hindus, but…”since their adoption of the new cult they had ceased to own Hindu sanskriti as a whole…their heroes and their hero worship, their fairs and their festivals, their ideals and their outlook on life, have ceased to be common with others.”

One can argue and object that Bhagwat’s is a much-nuanced position as he says that everyone living in India is ‘Hindu’ irrespective of religion. But let’s not forget that unlike Golwalkar, he has not uttered a word which can be interpreted to mean that he wants Muslims to be thrown out of the country or treated as second-class citizens without any civil rights as Golwalkar says in his famously-disowned book; rather, Bhagwat recognises the fact that Muslims have a role to play in the nation-building process. He said in Mumbai, “The faith of the another will not be disrespected here. For the country to progress, all have to work together.”

These are bold words at a time when Muslims are termed ‘termites’ by the second-most powerful leader in the country, Amit Shah. Hindutva leaders are calling Muslims “anti-nationals” and “pro-Pakistan” every day. Their patriotism is questioned in every discourse. Bhagwat is speaking on these lines at a time when the process of the ‘otherisation’ of Muslims has reached an industry-level, when there is an attempt to remove and erase every symbol and memory of Islam.

Now the moot question is if the RSS chief is opposed to the ‘otherization’ of Muslims, then why is so much venom spread by the followers of RSS ideology? I am not talking about foot soldiers, I am more upset about the role played by the BJP MPs and MLAs, their Chief Ministers and ministers in states and at the Centre. Cabinet ministers exhort people to shoot Muslims, MPs call them rapists and abductors of Hindu girls; in the garb of restraining “Love Jihad”, anti-Muslim laws are being made and Muslims are booked mercilessly under sedition and UAPA (anti-terror) laws. If Bhagwat is out to correct the mistakes of the past and is trying to reposition the ideological foundation of Hindutva, why are such incidents on the rise? Every election brings with itself more poison. His own government at the centre does not seem to make any serious effort to restrain such tendencies. 

It is ironical that on one hand, Bhagwat talks about Hindu-Muslim unity, and at the same time, the RSS supports leaders like Yogi Adityanath. If Yogi is the poster boy of the RSS, Bhagwat should forget about being taken seriously by the Muslim community. I give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he might be serious in his endeavour and he is seriously trying to change the theoretical boundaries of Hindutva, but for that to happen, he has to control his army, which at the moment appears unrelenting. I won’t risk saying that the RSS has changed, and that it no longer follows its leader i.e. Mohan Bhagwat. This can only happen if somebody else has taken over the organisation and he is just the titular head. 

(Ashutosh is Author and Editor, satyahindi.com.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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