RSS head Mohan Bhagwat (C) leaves after a meeting with the All India Imam Organisation chief Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, at a mosque in Delhi on Thursday | ANI
RSS head Mohan Bhagwat (C) leaves after a meeting with the All India Imam Organisation chief Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, at a mosque in Delhi on Thursday | ANI

Welcome RSS attempt at reconciliation with Muslim community

The first-ever visit of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to a mosque and a madrasa last week suggests a sincere purpose beyond reproach.

The first-ever visit of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to a mosque and a madrasa last week suggests a sincere purpose beyond reproach. In the past, he had made conciliatory remarks saying Hindutva without Muslims has no meaning. In the context of the Gyanvapi controversy, he had said, ‘you can’t go looking for a Shivling under every mosque’. But his maiden visit to Islamic institutions took the outreach to the next level. It cemented a late realisation that the entire Muslim community cannot be vilified for radical acts of a few and that national integration would be incomplete without representation of all sections of the population. He said as much at a meeting he had with five prominent Muslim intellectuals last month—former Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, former CEC S Y Quraishi, former vice chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah, former MP Shahid Siddiqui and businessman Saeed Shervani.

While politicians like Owaisi dissed it, calling the intellectuals rootless elite, the fact that they set up a talks table ought to be applauded. How else can knotty problems be addressed in a democracy? At the meeting, Bhagwat accepted their anguish at labelling all Indian Muslims as Pakistanis or jihadis. Likewise, he said calling all Hindus kafirs (interpreted by radicals as enemies of Islam) was not fair either. Bhagwat also articulated the perceived insensitivity from the other side to the cow, considered holy by Hindus. He had no patience for hotheads spitting venom like those in the controversial Dharm Sansads. Bhagwat was also emphatic that the Sangh was committed to respecting the supremacy of the Constitution.

The Sangh began grappling with the Muslim question at least since the early 1990s, as it realised that Muslims could not be wished away because of the sheer size of their population. The Muslim Rashtriya Manch was floated to platform nationalists within the community. But instead of approaching integration the way Gandhiji did, the Sangh first worked on unlocking Hindu majoritarian power. A few months ago, at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bidding, the BJP started reaching out to the poor Pasmanda Muslims to add to its vote bank.

Bhagwat taking the lead for rapprochement ought to be welcomed. But it will not be easy to contain firebrand VHP and BJP elements and their invectives like Babar ki aulad and abbajaan. If PFI that radicalises the youth needs to be parallelly crushed, so be it. Fostering communal amity is the only way forward for inclusive growth.

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