Tuesday, June 05, 2007

the twain can meet - BJP and MOSLEMS


Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Close this window

The BJP and Muslims: The twain can meet

Sudheendra Kulkarni

New Delhi, June 5: Nothing worthwhile in life is ever achieved without risks. When I wrote in my column last week that 'there is an urgent need for both the BJP and Indian Muslims to change their attitude toward each other', I was suspected and slammed by change-resistant sections on both sides.

One Muslim reader, describing this suggestion as 'self-delusion', since the “faultlines” between the BJP and Muslims “run too deep”, cautioned Muslims against supporting a party which would marginalise them under its “Brahminical supremacy”.

A Hindu reader wrote: “For God’s sake, don’t preach (Mahatma) Gandhi’s ways and means to the BJP to win over the Muslims, unless you want its early death. They can’t succeed where Gandhi himself failed miserably.”

The BJP faces no threat of extinction. It will continue to remain a major party in Indian politics. But will it be able to govern India without significant support from—or at least significant non-opposition from—Muslims? There are no-changers in the party who say, “We are used to sitting in the opposition in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. We are sure to get a majority on our own some day, when we succeed in creating a sufficiently large Hindu votebank.”

Organiser, the RSS weekly, actually ran a special issue on March 25 titled ‘Is Hindu Vote Bank Feasible?’ Happily, it did not answer the question with a categorical ‘Yes.’ There are many in the BJP, as also in the RSS itself, who have their feet on the ground and realise the impossibility, and undesirability, of this project.

Hence the need to explore new ways to bridge the gap between the BJP and Muslims without compromising on nationalism. I feel convinced that this is possible. “But,” many Muslims ask, “what about the RSS?” A valid question. Nobody should have the illusion, as I once had, that the BJP can decide on this issue on its own, without the Sangh’s concurrence.

The BJP-Muslim equation cannot change unless the RSS determines that this change must be pursued with conviction, consistency and vigour. Shedding one’s illusions helps, because when one’s quest for Hindu-Muslim unity is rooted in realism, the chances of progress are better. But it is equally important that Muslims, as well as well-meaning secularists in non-BJP parties, should shed their ignorance and prejudice about the RSS.

The RSS is one of most misunderstood and maligned organisations in India — just as some Muslim bodies, and Islam itself, are. One can have legitimate differences with some of its thoughts and attitudes. However, painting it as an organisation guided by visceral hatred towards Muslims is a falsehood that has shaped the attitude of most Muslims and many Hindus.

I recently had an occasion to expose this falsehood when I wrote, in the May issue of Seminar, a lengthy review of Jyotirmaya Sharma’s latest book, Terrifying Vision: M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS and India (Penguin). Golwalkar (1906-1973) headed the RSS for 33 years and is unquestionably its most respected ideologue. Read any “secularist” writing on Golwalkar and you will see him demonised in the way Sharma has: “For Golwalkar Muslims were enemies who had to be fought and defeated. He did not even consider Muslims civilised. They were barbarians and raakshasas or demons. Fanaticism and religious frenzy mark all his formulations.”

Is this portrayal rooted in truth? Hardly. I shall present three important references and leave it to the judgment of readers to decide whether Golwalkar was anti-Islam and anti-Muslim. I do so because of my belief that the process of changing the BJP-Muslim and RSS-Muslim equation can receive substantial support from his forthright views expressed in three interviews — to Khushwant Singh in 1972, when he was the editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India; to Dr Saifuddin Jeelani, a journalist and Arabic scholar in 1971; and to K.R. Malkani, also in 1972, when he was the editor of Organiser.

Read how Khushwant Singh introduces the Sangh’s supreme leader: “There are some individuals whom we start to hate without even bothering to know them. Guru Golwalkar comes first in my list of such persons.”

Khushwant Singh: What are your thoughts on Muslims’ issues?

Golwalkar: I have not the slightest doubt that historical factors alone are responsible for the divided loyalty that Muslims have towards India and Pakistan. Moreover, both Muslims and Hindus are equally to blame for this. Nevertheless, it is not right to hold the entire community responsible for the guilt of some people . . . We have to win over the loyalty of Muslims with love. I am optimistic and I believe that Hindutva and Islam will learn to co-exist with one another. (Emphases mine.)

Muslims to be “won over with love”? How is this approach different from Mahatma Gandhi’s? Yet, sadly, there are quite a few Pravin Togadias in the Sangh Parivar itself whose conduct betrays anything but love towards Muslims. No less sadly, the RSS is not doing enough to convey to Indian Muslims, clearly and unambiguously, that Golwalkar and Gandhi—and not Togadia—will guide its attitude vis-à-vis Indian Muslims.

In next week’s column, we will address the other two interviews and delve deeper into Golwalkar’s views on Muslims.


URL: http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=87710


Post a Comment

<< Home