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An attempt to unite Imams and Pandits

   By Vijay Darda | 26-09-2022

RSS’ meetings with Muslim intellectuals are being held since the time of the fifth chief of the RSS, K S Sudarshan.

Vijay Darda

Everybody was in the dark about RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s outreach meeting with prominent Muslim intellectuals in Delhi’s Jhandewalan area last month until it became known recently. Prominent among those who attended that meeting were former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi, former lieutenant governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, former vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and former army officer Zameer Uddin Shah, former parliamentarian and journalist Shahid Siddiqui and businessman Saeed Shervani.

Interestingly, the day the news of that meeting became public through the media after one month, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat visited a mosque off Kasturba Gandhi Marg near India Gate. He had gone there at the invitation of Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, the head of the All India Imam Organisation and the two talked in private for about 40 minutes.

Subsequently, the RSS chief visited Tajweedul Quran Madarsa and interacted with the children there. According to some reports, Imam Ilyasi described the RSS chief as the ‘Rashtrapita’ or the father of the nation and ‘Rashtrarishi’ i.e. the sage of the nation in presence of the children. However, later he said that people have not understood his point properly. In reply, Bhagwatji said with humility that we are all children of the nation. Mohan Bhagwatji is indeed a person with liberal views. His thinking is progressive. He has also brought about several changes within the RSS organisation.

Naturally, politics was bound to heat up. Different views started being expressed. Somebody said why the RSS is missing the Muslims. A section of Muslims also got angry with Imam Ilyasi. Surely, Mohan Bhagwatji is the first RSS chief to enter a mosque or pay a visit to a madarsa and talk to the children, but the RSS has been interacting with Muslims for a long time. This process started at the time of the fifth chief of the RSS, K S Sudarshan.

In 2004, a meeting was also held at the India International Centre in Delhi. RSS has been in constant dialogue with Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind. In 2019, Maulana Arshad Madani and Rashtriya Mohan Bhagwat also met each other. Not only this, the RSS had given shape to an organisation named Muslim Rashtriya Manch around two decades back and it is mentored by Indresh Kumar. He also played a stellar role in arranging meetings with Muslim intellectuals last month and now doing so while visiting mosques and madarsas.

I am personally a firm believer in democratic traditions and I feel that if any initiative is being taken to establish brotherhood in totality between two communities, then it must be welcomed. We are all well aware of the current situation in the country. There should be no hesitation in saying there are people on both sides for whom extremism is a weapon. As a result, the mistrust between the two is getting deeper and this divide can be bridged only by understanding each other. Communication is very important in this process. Unless we meet each other and try to open the knots that have developed in minds, the problem cannot be resolved! I would like to mention here that the common perception about former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was that she would give preference to Muslims but it was not so. She also had cordial relations with the then RSS chief Deorasji and also with Bal Thackerayji.

Who can deny that this country belongs to Muslims as much as it belongs to Hindus, as much to Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, or Parsis, or those who believe in other ideologies and faiths? We all have to live together. There can be  differences of opinion but there should be no disharmony in a relationship. But today unity and harmony are replaced by distrust and discord. It is obvious that these conditions are not only bothering the common man, but also worrying the intellectually enlightened leaders. This meeting should be seen as borne out of that concern. By accepting the invitation of Imam Ilyasi and reaching the mosque, Bhagwatji has given out a message of cordiality.

According to the information that has emerged, the RSS chief asked Muslim intellectuals what is their opinion about cow slaughter and the word kafir? The intellectuals clearly said that no sensible Muslim ever uses the word kafir for any Hindu. When the issue of cow slaughter was discussed, intellectuals reminded the RSS chief that the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, had banned beef on the university campus. The intellectuals also said that there is no such issue that cannot be discussed!

It is to be hoped that the reconciliation process that Bhagwatji has initiated will help us to reach a peaceful conclusion. The world is in turmoil, why should we get affected by it? But for that, curbing violent thoughts is essential. In the words of Bhagwatji, why search for Shivling in every mosque? And Muslim organisations also have to think about why they should harbour in their community those misguided people who come out on the streets to protest against the action taken against terrorists. They are fringe elements and hence they can be marginalised. Not every Muslim should be treated as Pakistani! Keep in mind that it takes two hands to clap. One hand can only act as a slap. I fully agree with Imam Umer Ilyasi’s saying that if the Imam and the Pandit unite, the country will become strong.

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