The social outreach by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, including his recent meeting with a group of Muslim intellectuals and visits to a mosque and a madrasa, is a welcome development and must be followed up with a sustained inter-faith dialogue in the interests of maintaining communal harmony. Notwithstanding the sceptical voices over the utility of […]
The social outreach by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, including his recent meeting with a group of Muslim intellectuals and visits to a mosque and a madrasa, is a welcome development and must be followed up with a sustained inter-faith dialogue in the interests of maintaining communal harmony. Notwithstanding the sceptical voices over the utility of such an initiative, it is important for the leaders of both communities to reach out to each other at a time when there is a growing communal polarisation in the country. There is a need to address the pain points, remove misunderstandings and foster a better appreciation of the core issues affecting the two communities. The message that emanated from Bhagwat’s meeting with Muslim leaders — including former Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi and former vice chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah — is reassuring. His assertion that Hindutva is an inclusive concept in which all communities have equal room and that the country can progress only when all sections remain united is a good starting point to carry forward the dialogue process. The RSS, the ideological fountainhead of Hindutva, has been traditionally somewhat vague about its commitment to the Constitution and several of its ideological co-travellers have been openly speaking about changing the Constitution to establish Hindu Rashtra. This has created a sense of unease and fear among the minorities. It is a welcome sign of introspection that Bhagwat made it clear the Constitution is sacrosanct and the entire country must abide by it.
His maiden visit to Islamic institutions reflected the good intent of the outreach that will help in spreading the message that the entire Muslim community should not be vilified for the radical acts of a few individuals and that national integration would be incomplete without representation of all sections of the population. In the past too, the RSS head had made conciliatory remarks saying Hindutva without Muslims has no meaning. In the context of the Gyanvapi controversy, he had famously said, ‘you can’t go looking for a Shivling under every mosque’. The Sarsanghchalak’s prescription that Indianness is synonymous with inclusivity signals a clear departure from the usual formulations emanating from the Sangh stable. The language of inclusion, openness and constitutional supremacy possibly indicates a sense of realisation within the RSS leadership about the need to align itself with the modern and diverse India that is increasingly interlinked with global trends. By asserting that the RSS does not seek to establish Hindu Rashtra without Muslims as that would defeat the very idea of Hindutva, Bhagwat has tried to reset the Hindutva worldview in order to expand its social base and gain wider acceptance. The message of reconciliation, peace and harmony is essential now as Muslims are gripped by an increasing sense of insecurity in the wake of their marginalisation in several areas.