By Dr Aslam Abdullah
The news is that five Muslims had a spontaneous meeting with the head of the Rashtriya Swayam Sangh (RSS) in August at the organization’s headquarters in Delhi. Among the Muslims were the former Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Lieutenant General (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Shahid Siddiqui, and businessman Saeed Shervani. Two of them have already given selective information about the discussion contents.
Reliable sources suggest that the meeting was not spontaneous. On the contrary, it was well-planned with the explicit intention of giving legitimacy to the RSS politics and rhetoric and paving the path of the third term BJP government.
Several diplomatic channels and bureaucrats were in negotiations with Muslim participants at the non-official initiative of RSS leadership. In addition, Washington sources have confirmed that the state department was in contact with the RSS leadership, urging them to dialogue with Muslims. During the last three years, the US diplomatic channels have worked closely with several Hindu intellectuals to bring the RSS and Muslim leaders together. Most of these meetings have been off the record and secret.
Neither the RSS nor the Muslim leadership explained what happened in the meeting. However, the contents may become known after some time as officials at the RSS headquarters recorded the event. We understand that the RSS leader brought up three main issues of concern.
1. Growing Muslim population in India
2. Cow slaughter by Muslims
3. The use of the term Kafir to describe Hindus.
The Muslim participants raised the issue of stereotyping all Muslims as Jihadis or people with dubious citizenship.
Anyone who knows the history of RSS and its style of work would understand that Bhagwat was not honest in outlining his plan and that Muslim leadership was unaware of the organization’s history and role in promoting an upper caste version of India.
The issue of Muslim population growth is a false one. For thousands of years, Indian Hindus were never in the minority. Nor will they decrease in numbers compared with any religious community during the next few thousand years. What Hindutva is concerned about is the declining number of Hindu upper castes. The RSS views the rise in Dalit, tribal and backward communities as a threat to Brahman-dominated faith. To perpetuate the myth of Brahma-sanctioned upper caste superiority, the Hindutva promotes the idea of Muslims overtaking Hindus and subjugating them.
Goa, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Pondicherry, Kerala, Arunachal, and the other Seven Sister States & West Bengal; are the places where there are no restrictions on cow slaughter. The ban in Kashmir came to an end in 2019. The beef exporters in India are upper caste Hindus, and the primary consumers also come from all sections of Hindu society.
The term kafir has a contextual reference. It is not a derogatory term. In historical context, it referred to those who rejected Prophet Muhammad as the messenger of God. In its ideological connotation, it refers to those who reject the Quran and its authenticity, and in its linguistic sense, it means those who deliberately try to hide the truth. It is up to RSS to decide which category it places upper caste Hindus. The Quran prohibits Muslims from using derogatory terms to describe non-Muslims.
Dialogue as a sincere effort to iron out differences is a welcome move, but if it is for deception and buying time to promote a hate-based plan, it is a dangerous weapon.
The RSS is a secretive organization. It has no constitution, but it despises India as a secular state. It does not claim to be a religious organization, yet, it speaks on behalf of Hinduism. Furthermore, it does not disclose its budget and donors; still, it uses the government channel to trace the funding of other NGOs. Moreover, its message to various castes of Hindus is different from the rhetoric of its top leadership.
Its leaders play the card of one big family to the people worldwide. Still, at the grassroots level, its workers promote the notion of upper caste superiority based on their holy book Manusmirit, which describes a large segment of humans as untouchable and impure. They project Islam, Christianity, and Sikhism as an existential threat to Casteism, an essential component of their faith.
Those who met the RSS chief to open a dialogue between Muslims and Hindutva may have had good intentions, but they lacked the expertise to discuss issues of genuine concern to India. Moreover, they are naive to believe that the RSS is honest in seeking the welfare of Muslims of India. How can you trust an organization whose leaders have openly advocated violence and hatred against religious minorities and believe in a caste hierarchy that defines human beings as pure and impure by birth?
The Muslim participants played the RSS game by joining them in initiating a process to provide legitimacy to Hindutva hatred against religious minorities and promote it as a norm in the new India.
They were the least concerned about India’s real issues under Hindutva rule. They did not challenge the RSS on its betrayal of the Indian constitution.
It is the fundamental issue that grapples the country at present. Everything revolves around that. The Hindutva militant organization is not deceptive about the governing document of the republic. It wants to change it based on its commitment to Manusmirti. The dialogue is a facade to pave the way for a Brahman-dominated rule under the title of Hindu Rashtra, to reduce religious minorities to non-citizen status. Despite what the organization claims, they have a grudge against most religions.
Theologically, they view Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism as faiths challenging the notion of Hindu upper caste superiority. Islam and Christianity as foreigners in their ideas, but, more importantly, their egalitarian theology is a constant threat to the concept of racial and religious superiority by birth.
Dialogue is necessary for better understanding. However, it requires honesty, parity, and expertise.
Unfortunately, the Muslim participants in conversation with the RSS were like mice trapped in a cage with bobcats running over them. They were no match to the Machiavellian politics the RSS is known to play with its faith. The RSS entertained them to create the impression that it cares for India’s religious minorities. The statements issued by some of the Muslim participants endorse the apprehension that the Hindutva achieved what they wanted.