Mohan Bhagwat and Indian Muslims

The Silence of the Mountain and the expectations of Muhammad

Mohan Bhagwat

Just a week after the chief of the All India Imam Organisation, Dr. Imam Umer Muhammad Ilyasi described Mohan Bhagwat, the Sarasangh Chalak of the mighty RSS as “Rashtra Pita” (father of the nation) exhibited confidence that the man has equal respect for all cultures, further avowed that both Bhagwat and he had decided to keep the nation above all other considerations etc, the RSS chief declared in a meeting hosted on the occasion of Navaratri, that the eating of meat leads to “tamasic” – devilish-  tendencies and hence one should abandon or restrict eating meat. On Dussehra Day, October 5, the traditional Vijayadashami rally saw the RSS chief again waxing eloquent on population control.

Now, this comment displayed a contempt not merely against ‘beef eaters’ read Muslims but also against the whole meat eating community as a whole, which, by the way, constitutes more than 80% of ‘Hindus’ themselves. In a way, the comment is a re-statement of the supremacy of a narrow, Brahminical culture which considers (one form of) Brahminical vegetarianism as the ‘superior culture’ and, by inference, meat eating as inferior. In a way the RSS supremo is therefore quite unabashedly advocating racist supremacy of Brahmins over the rest of the Hindus, besides non-Hindus.

Still, we find of late, a section of the Muslim elite and a section of Muslim clergy displaying an incurable infatuation towards the RSS Supremo. They have found him reasonable, a person who can understand the anxieties of the Muslims. They even attribute secular meanings to his words and silences and continue to give credence to some of the RSS’s own rather hypocritical efforts.

A month before this meeting with the Imam, five eminent leaders including former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung,  SY Quraishi, former chief election commissioner, Zamiruddin Shah, former Lt General (retd) from the Indian army and

Vice Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor, Shahid Siddiqui, former MP and philanthropist along with Saeed Shervani, business magnet met Mohan Bhagwat for an hour in a closed door meeting.  

This closed door meeting was not open to the public and neither the RSS nor those who met the RSS supremo disclosed immediate details. Subsequently however, over the last month both SY Quraishi and Najeeb Jung have given many interviews and written articles around the meeting. In a nutshell, these interviews told us that the meeting, was the initiative of this motely group of eminent people, who wanted to convey the anxiety and insecurity of the Muslim community through a dialogue with the RSS supremo. The group feels they were successful in making him realise the fallacy of insidious propaganda around the growth of Muslim population and the hidden intimidation the community suffers when the whole Muslims are branded as ‘Jihadis’.

In response, on the other hand, the group said the RSS supremo expressed how Hindus feel offended when every Hindu is called a ‘Kafir’ and how every Hindu is hurt when a cow is killed for meat. The group conceded that both issues could be attended to since Kafir is an Arabic word for non-believer and could be avoided entirely. Cow eating is not an essential religious practice and existing laws against beef eating can take care of the hurt feelings of Hindus feeling etc. The group felt that the meeting was most fruitful and admired the RSS supremo’s simplicity and punctuality. They believe that this conversation would reach its logical end and the RSS supremo would reign in his organisation .

But the RSS itself has said nothing, neither about the purpose nor the outcome of these meetings from their side. The attitude of the RSS is summarised in the reply of a RSS functionary to a news agency when he said RSS supremo meets many people when he is in Delhi and hence did not attach any significance to such meetings. On the Dussehra day speech some reference was made to some Muslims apologising for the ‘violent reactions’ of Muslims to former BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma’s statements on Prophet Mohammed at Udaipur and Amravati,

On the other hand Sheshadri Chari, another ideologue of the RSS and the ex-editor of its mouth piece the “Organiser”, in an article in “The Print”, has opined that such meetings are neither new nor unusual. He even stated that the second Sarvasanghachalak of the RSS, MS Golwalkar also used to meet the Muslims. This tradition has been continued on and off by others also. The purpose of such meetings is to influence the Muslim leaders to “de-Arabise Indian Islam”.  And inspire them to be nationalist etc.

In a way, this is true. The RSS has launched Muslim Rashtriya Manch – MRM- under the dreaded RSS leader Indresh Kumar in 2002 itself to pursue their agenda of promoting ‘nationalist Muslims and Indianisation of Islam’. Bhagwat himself has met non-Hindu leaders prior to the 2019 general election. This was in 2018 at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan where he lectured on the tenets of the Hinudtva for three days. In that meeting he declared that Hindutva and the RSS is wrongly understood and Hindutva is incomplete without Muslims.

Again, at a book release program in 2021, Bhagwat declared that Hindus and Muslims in India are of same DNA and those who opt for lynchings etc are not true Hindus because tolerance is the hall mark of Hinduism. Also that Hindutva is not about religion but civilisation and nationalism etc. Even then, many Muslim intellectuals and a section of clergy opined that the RSS is changing and was becoming inclusive. But immediately after the 2019 elections an all-out attack on the Muslims and their identity was unleashed by both the BJP government and the so called fringe elements with the full support of the same Supremo.

Now history seems to be repeating itself. For example, some news reports suggest that Bhagwat, during his much-publicised visits to Madrasas and the Imam, gifted a copy of the Bhagwad Gita to the Madrasas and them asked to make the students become acquainted with the Gita along with Quran. Could this be considered, for some intellectuals, a grand gesture of suggestion to make students aware of all religions instead of only their own?

No. Because the RSS run thousands of schools where only the Gita is taught and no mention of either the Quran or the Bible is made. Not only that, in BJP ruled Karnataka, where the government and the High Court denied girls the custom of sporting the Hijab along with the school uniform as an affront to secularism, the state has also declared its intention of introducing the Bhagavad Gita as part of its moral education curriculum. The justification is more annoying – That the Gita is above all religions and a great text with a code of moral conduct. Incidentally, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar declares, in his “Krishna and his Gita” the text being a “philosophical Justification of the Counter Revolution” and the “Manu smriti with vivid details”. Thus Bhagwat’s offering Gita to Madrasa is nothing but another act of defining India as a Hindu Nation and the Muslim, a community obliged to follow the Hindu.

Even the Sheshadri Chari’s alibi of de-Arabisation of Indian Muslim smacks of blatant Hindutva Fascism loaded with sweet words. What within Islam is that is Arabic which the RSS wants to Indianise? And what is Indianisation other than Hinduisation/ Brahminisation?

The Dargah culture is prevalent among Indian Muslims. In fact this is true Indianisation of Islam for that matter. The Islam of the Dargah is localised and further flourished by imbibing the local culture of the subaltern Hindus. Thus in the dargahs like Bababudan Dargah in Karnataka the religiosity, theology and the practice at the shrine is a mixture of original Islam and the local culture of the Hindu/ Shudra peasantry. The meat food was served for the devotees who came for the Urus.

However, neither the RSS nor its affiliate Hindutva outfits consider the Dargahs (or Sufi Islam for that matter) as the confluence of two traditions but as the cultural annexation of Islam over the never existent Hindu deity. The harmonious Indianisation of the Islam is considered as the historical invasion which should be set right. So where is the Indian Islam located within the Hindutva Project?

Even the NEP policy and its  position papers  prepared to redesign the National Curricular Framework, the present Prime minister and his counterpart in the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat  speeches, both personages oft declare that India has “suffered” under 1200 years rule of colonisers and that this history of the ‘Invaders’ should be re-written. Thus, Indian Islam is completely taken out of the Indian History and students are now taught that any aspect or form of Islam is ‘foreign’ and only the Hindu, that is the Brahmin is Indian and by extension, also superior.

In fact this is a project of Hindutva which Golwalkar stated without mincing words in his “We Or Our Nationhood defined”. Golwalkar writes and says:

“ The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must loose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least, should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country.”

Thus when Bhagwat says that Hindutva is not about Hindu religion he is making mockery of the idiocy of his audience. In fact, the RSS’s Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) baithak (meet), held in Ahmedabad in 2022 says in its annual report, that :

 “There appear to be elaborate plans by a particular community to enter the government machinery. Behind all this, it seems that a deep conspiracy with a long-term goal is working. On the strength of numbers, preparations are being made to adopt any route to get their demands accepted.”

Thus the constitutional right of every Indian community to get representation within democratic structures of governance, to get educated and obtain government jobs by Muslims is being criminalised by the RSS and is projected as a conspiracy against the country. One is reminded of “UPSC jihad” controversy raked up by the Sudarshan channel a year ago. While its proponent Suresh Chavanke was ridiculed then as the fringe element, the source of that “knowledge” is the official resolution of the RSS headed by Bhagwat.

By that logic, one should conclude that when Bhagwat met Qureishi, Jung and other eminent citizens who served the Indian State in high positions, Bhagwat was talking to UPSC jihadist. Within the Karnataka State Assembly, the speaker and the many cabinet ministers of the BJP government went on record saying that in few years Bhagva (saffron) flag would become the official national flag. There is no more fringe elements outside the core after 2019. The de facto existence of Hindu Rashtra in India is also gradually becoming de jure year after year.  

The discrimination against the Hijab and judicial sanction of the same, the state introduction of Gita, The attack on the Azaan, Masjid, trade and business of Muslims, legislations like CAA, NPR/NRC, the almost unanimous support to abrogation of article 370 in Indian Parliament, the state recognition of the murder of a ‘Hindu’ as ‘anti-national’ and the killing of a ‘Muslim’ as ‘just a crime etc’, are but de jure declarations of the Hindu state.

Yet, sections of the Muslim clergy and some Muslim intellectuals are of the opinion that the RSS supremo could be their saviour. This is not just illusion but also a suicidal obsession. Instead, meeting and inter-acting with masses of Muslims and Hindus and forging unity against the RSS’ brand of Brahmanism could help in finding the real way out of the impending danger.

*Views expressed are the author’s own. The author is an activist and freelance journalist who was also a columnist for Gauri Lankesh’s publication.

Other pieces by Shivasundar:
Bharat Jodo pragmatism of the Congress & illusions of the progressives
Adani’s capital Modi’s power in Sri Lanka
Modi’s eight years: Eight acts of shameful disgrace
How a state suffocated by Saffron got a new breath from Blue
Never Ever Forget



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