Hindu Rashtra does not mean it has no place for Muslims. The day it is said that Muslims are unwanted here, the concept of Hindutva will cease to exist” — this statement by Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat asserting the Sangh’s philosophy in favour of universal brotherhood and the cardinal principle of unity in diversity has grabbed the attention for all the right political reasons, especially at a time when the country is closely awaiting its crucial 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Post BJP’s enthroning into the power, with the rise in violence against the minorities in different parts of the country by the Cow vigilantes, RSS, the ideological parent of BJP, has always been the single point of attack for endorsing an anti-Muslim sentiment. Addressing on the second day of the Sangh’s three-day conclave, Bhavishya Ka Bharat — An RSS Perspective, being held in the national capital, the RSS Sarsanghchalak Bhagwat ruled out all the allegations made by the opposition parties. He clarified, “RSS is not anti-minorities and doesn’t propose to change the framework of the Constitution.” He highlighted that the RSS nurtures unification in the society, stays away from electoral politics, and never instructs its volunteers to favour any political outfit — however, he stressed that swayamsevaks (volunteers) are not forbidden from joining political parties.
Pramod Bapat, RSS communication head for the Konkan region told Afternoon Voice: “First of all, we need a proper definition of the word ‘secularism’ and ‘Hinduism’. RSS is working for the Hindu unity. If the term ‘Hindu unity’ comes under secularism, then we are secular too. Jawaharlal Nehru had hatred towards the Hindu community and he had always criticised them. BJP is already an inclusive political party with members from all communities, castes, creeds, and religions. Policies, costumes, and programmes can differ from time to time but not the ideology.”
Indian ‘right-wing’, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary volunteer organisation RSS was always well known for its efforts in making India a Hindu Rashtra. The Sangh even openly opposed the Indian Constitution in 1947 and was also against the inclusion of the word “secular” and the reservation system in India. While a majority of the Indian Muslim community hold both RSS and its sister organisation Sangh Parivar liable for hurting and demoralising their sentiments, they also condemn the Sangh for spreading false propaganda like Love Jihad pushing BJP’s political agendas.
BJP MLA Atul Save said, “BJP is not shifting its stand from Hindutva to inclusiveness. In elections, we need the support of all communities whether it is Dalit, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and others. If we want the majority of the votes, we have to work for all the communities and take them together. While Sangha Parivar is working for the Hindutva, BJP as a political party works for all the communities.”
While on one hand, BJP President Amit Shah calls for Congress-mukt Bharat, Bhagwat is calling for a united India, and the Prime Minister’s (who once refused to wear Muslim skull cap) presence at a gathering of the Dawoodi Bohra community at the Saifee mosque in Indore suggest an attempt by the Bharatiya Janata Party for an image makeover before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan state polls.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Kumar Ketkar asserted, “RSS is an educated illiterate outfit. Both Modi visiting a mosque and Bhagwat’s recent statements signify the inclusiveness of neither BJP nor RSS. If BJP and RSS want to portray themselves as inclusive outfits, I would rather suggest both of them to visit the Gujarat refugee camps where the Gujarat riot victims reside and understand their situation than attending conferences in New Delhi. All these activities by both the RSS and BJP are nothing but drama.”
Days after Modi’s visit to the mosque, Vishwa Hindu Parishad general secretary Milind Parande attacked the Prime Minister saying, “We will have to ask why he went to the mosque. Anyone who wants to be in politics in this country will have to think of the interests of Hindus, irrespective of the political party to which one belongs.”
Even the Union cabinet’s decision to make the practice of instant Triple Talaq a punishable offence through an executive order after the draft law failed to pass in the Parliament, is also seen as a step towards lightening BJP’s ‘conventional’ anti-Muslim image by wooing the Muslim women sentiments. Under the proposed law, ‘Muslim men who end their marriage using instant divorce, or talaq-e-biddat, will now face a jail term of up to three years and a fine’.
Shiv Sena MLC Anil Parab stated, “The statement from RSS chief and the PM visiting mosque in Indore show that BJP has its eye on the Muslim votes. Both RSS’ and BJP’s stand for inclusiveness is just for the vote bank but not an ideological shift.”
Keeping no stones unturned to ensure victory in upcoming polls, the Prime Minister is trying to reach out to various religious leaders coming across from various communities to challenge the so-called ‘secular’ opposition parties. However, political experts question the consistency of the ideologies of the political parties and attacked the political outfits for their ‘anyhow’ attempt to win elections when it approaches closer. They believe that BJP’s attempt to change its shade from Saffron to Green might not act fruitfully as the atmosphere of mob lynchings and cow vigilantism targeting the Muslims had a larger impact on the community and their trepidation for PM Modi will require more time and efforts to shed.
Sanatan Sanstha spokesperson Chetan Rajhans expressed, “No political party has any strict ideology. Political parties only want to be in power. Since RSS is the maternal ideologue of BJP, its stand on any issue and statements will be politically favourable for BJP.”