Achieving Hindu Muslim Amity: Challenges Ahead by Dr Ram Puniyani

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Mohan Bhagawat, the Sarsanghchalak of RSS, made the statement about Islam not being in danger in India, that discord does not work and there is a need for Hindu Muslim dialogue to achieve peace in the country. His statement that ‘a person is not a Hindu if he says that Muslims should not live in India…those involved in mob lynching are against Hindutva’ , gave lot of hope for those who look forward to a  society where inter faith harmony should lay the foundation of societal ethos and lay the foundation for progress of the society.

Interestingly he at the same time said that many from his organization may criticize him for appeasing the Muslims by such statements. Backing up on this major lecture of his he went on to support CAA and NRC and the move of Assam and UP Governments to bring in population control bills. The CAA has been criticized as discriminatory by many including the UN.

It is undoubted that intercommunity relations need to be built on the foundations of trust and mutual respect. It was Gandhi who put life into the prevalent inclusive Indian nationalism by his elaboration of ‘India as a Nation in the making’ will be inclusive. He was successful in mobilizing all the religious communities into Indian national fraternity because he did not base his nationalism on religion, “In India, for whose fashioning I have worked all my life, every man enjoys equality of status, whatever his religion is. The state is bound to be wholly secular”, and, “religion is not the test of nationality but is a personal matter between man and God, and,” religion is a personal affair of each individual, it must not be mixed up with politics or national affairs” (Harijan August 31, 1947)

During medieval times also Hindu Muslim amity was reflected in the syncretic culture and the highest point of this was reflected in Bhakti-Sufi traditions, which saw humanism as synonym with morality of religion, the aspect of religion which was the foundation of their life work. Communal violence, the superficially visible part of communal politics, begins with British policy of ‘divide and rule’ where the History is given a religious twist; kings are seen through the prism of religion. It is this version of history which communal organizations, Muslim League on one hand and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other picked up. This version of history created discord, hate and violence.

During colonial period the communal streams not only remained aloof from freedom movement and accompanying social reforms, they also drilled in the communal view of history among their followers. The communal streams had roots in the declining, but not totally finished sections of society, the landlords and clergy. The reforms were in the form of abolition of Sati, education for dalits and women. These aimed at challenging and abolishing the hierarchical values of the society.

While communal streams were parallel to each other during colonial period, they do have changed the nature post independence. RSS set up its shakhas, Shishu Mandirs and later media, social media and IT cells in due course. In contrast to Indian national discourse of Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Maulana Azad, the narration in these offshoots of RSS have been consistently spreading hate against Muslims-Christians.

Post Independence while Hindu communalism, presided over by RSS through it multitude of organizations and managed by thousands of Pracharaks and lakhs of volunteers, has become dominant. It has ensured a social understanding which regards this nation being Hindu nation from times immemorial, Muslims being foreigners, Muslims kings destroying our temples, converting Hindus by sword, being polygamous and producing lots of children, eating beef, being violent and so on. Post independence violence as demonstrated by Khawaja Iftikar Ahmad’s book, “The meeting of minds-A Bridging initiative’ (Which Bhagwat was releasing when he made this speech) has hurt the Muslim community in a severe way.

Islam is not in danger for sure but Muslim community has been a major victim of the violence, lynching and propaganda against them related to terrorism, polygamy and what have you. We need to recognize that today there is no equivalence between Hindu and Muslim communalism. Muslim community has been ghettoized, which is the fallout of the processes described by book released by Bhagwat.

Bhagwat’s statements are on two tracks, on one side the pleasantly sounding and appealing calls for dialogue and on the other calling for CAA-NRC, population control. The first ones give the hope and the latter reinforce the fear which is gripping the minority community. The real culprit of violence and the processes which follow lie in the Hate which has been manufactured against the religious minorities. The offer of dialogue can be genuine and welcome if it is accompanied by changing the training module of Shakhas and schools being run by Bhagwat’s organization.

We can’t expect love and amity among the communities if the thousands, lakhs of workers trained in the divisive ideology are the core workers working in practically all spheres of social life of the country. Will this biggest organization look into the type of things which are being put into the thought processes of young boys? Forget this; now the talk is on the change the history pattern in schools, the pattern which is already the cannon fodder of the black caps and khaki shorts (now brown pants)?

The language of moderation is welcome, but it has to be accompanied by the narrative which built our country through anti Colonial struggle. The narrative of Gandhi in ‘Hind Swaraj’ and Nehru’s ‘Discovery of India’ do give us the foundations on which love and amity can be built in the country. The present hate has to be replaced by a version of history where celebration of diversity is the root of our understanding. The currently prevalent ‘othering’ of minorities has to be replaced by the teachings of father of the nation.

Surely if Bhagwat is willing to substitute the sectarian version of Indian history being instilled by his organization in myriad way, dialogue will be meaningful.

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Disclaimer: Achieving Hindu Muslim Amity: Challenges Ahead by Dr Ram Puniyani - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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