September 30, 2022

Eminent Muslims Call Upon RSS Chief

RSS leader's outreach to Muslims: Reconciliation or cooption? By Dr Ram Puniyani Recently five eminent Indian Muslim intellectuals - former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y.Quraishi, former Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, Gen Zameer Uddin Shah, former journalist-public figure Shahid Siddiqui and leading businessman Saeed Shervani, met the RSS Sarsanghchalak (supreme leader) Mohan Bhagwat. This meeting took place at their request in the wake of the Nupur Sharma episode when the insecurity among the Muslim community was worsening. They don’t claim to be representatives of the Muslim community. In their anguish, in the background of rising hate, marginalization, and use of bulldozers on mosques and madrassas, they shot off a letter to Bhagwat who met them after a month or so. Later Bhagwat also visited a mosque and a madrassa in Delhi. In their discussion the five Muslim intellectuals showed their anguish at Muslims being called jihadis and Pakistanis. Bhagwat, in turn, reportedly said that Hindus feel offended when they are addressed as 'kafirs' and when they see the slaughter of cows, which are sacred to Hindus. The five explained - according to some reports - that kafir is not a word meant for Hindus, and will urge the community to stop using this word for Hindus. They also offered that as far as they are concerned the total ban on cow slaughter was fine and the rule of the law should be abided by if such a law is made all over the country. Quraishi also dispelled Bhagwat’s notion that Muslims marry four times; his book (The Population Myth) brilliantly dispels the notion that Hindus will become a minority in India. Hopefully, Bhagwat will get time to go through his book and pass on the message of the book down below to Sangh Parivar, the fraternity of right-wing Hindu organisations. The step taken by both the leading Muslim citizens and RSS chief needs to be appreciated at one level as any dialogue process is most welcome at any time. Hopefully, Bhagwat will dispel the notion prevalent in the society that ‘Hindu khatre mein hai’ (Hindus are in danger) as the perception that the Muslim population will be overtaking the Hindu population is wrong. Genuine dialogue is one where both sides look at the arguments of the other side, mull over them and, if convincing, change their own stance on the theme. This is the outcome that one can expect from this meeting. The IMs do need appreciation for realizing the fact that it is RSS and RSS chief, are at the centre of the politics of Hindutva, and Hindu nationalism. Their plea is that they should not be addressed as Hindus, ‘Hindu Muslims’. Coming to being called Kafirs, they are right that Kafir stands for non believers, and the Muslim community should go by that. As far as beef is concerned though Bhagwat talked about it, will he explain why it is not an issue in Kerala, Goa and Northeast? Why did one central minister Kiran Rijuju state that he eats beef and another BJP candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from Kerala promised the electorate to provide better beef if he is elected? The major issues which were left out from the dialogue were the causes of insecurity of Muslims, the CAA; NRC and the bulldozer politics unleashed in some states. Is the intimidation being practised by some BJP leaders going to replace the rule of law as far as Muslims are concerned? If we go beyond the obvious we realize that though Bhagwat says Muslims and Hindus have the same DNA, and that Hindutva is incomplete without Muslims, will his cabal throw away the Savarkar formulation that India belongs to those who have pitrbhumi (fatherland) and punyabhumi (Holy land) here? Will Bhagwat dispel the notions that Islam and Christianity are foreign religions? The major factor for recurrent anti-Muslim violence is hate which is planted in the Shakha Bauddhiks (intellectual sessions in RSS branches). In these Hindu heroes, Rana Pratap, Shivaji etc. are presented as anti-Muslim; are glorified and Muslim kings are demonized. The Ram temple issue has been the biggest one where the wedges among communities have widened. The Ram temple issue is getting continued traction due to the resurrection of similar mosque or temple issues at Kashi (Varanasi) and Mathura. RSS has made a convenient arrangement whereby the ideology it propagates is made to seep down below through myriad of its organizations. In this, all ills of society are attributed to the Muslim invaders. The temple destructions, the forcible conversions and topics like this are made the foundations of ‘Hate against Muslims’, which in turn have led to the present scenario created in the country. The dialogue process has to make it clear that it is the path of Gandhi, the values of a national movement, which made India a nation. We are a secular, democratic nation where all religions have equal rights to live with dignity and honour. The values enshrined in the constitution have to be lived in spirit and not just for the sake of saying. RSS in its efforts to co-opt various marginalized groups, Dalits, and Adivasis, hase floated an organization that has been pushing down its version of nationalism through sustained work. It has also brought forward Rashtriya Muslim Manch to win over a section of Muslims in its politics. To add to it, lately, it has been talking sympathetically about Pasmanda Muslims, socially backward Muslim community- dalit Muslims. This is a brilliant emulation of the policy of ‘divide and rule’, which the British had implemented here to sustain their rule to break the Hindu- Muslim unity prevalent then. RSS is a massive organization, which has built up various national and international networks and infiltrated most aspects of India's social and political life. It needs to shift from cooption to reconciliation, where the victim’s pain and sorrow have to be understood. That alone can give peace and justice to society. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus are victims of majoritarian Muslim supremacists. These Muslim intellectuals are well-intentioned but they need to articulate the real causes of the suffering of Muslims in India, and the causes of massive hate against them. If they can put it across to this organization they will be doing a yeomen service to the Muslim community. Today the international image of RSS-BJP is emerging as a Hindu supremacist one where minorities are insecure, where identity issues are getting precedence over the issues of livelihood. RSS is the fountainhead of this politics; it needs introspection if it is serious about the process of dialogue and reconciliation.

September 26, 2022

Leicester Calling | Mukul Kesavan


" The symmetry of the responses of the Pakistani and Indian high commissions to the recent communal violence in Leicester neatly illustrates the evolution of the Indian State under the Bharatiya Janata Party."

September 24, 2022

Diversity: Basis of India's Unity:Fraternity

What can Unite India: ‘Hindu Spiritualism or ‘Unity in Diversity’? Ram Puniyani Sudheendra Kulkarni, ex-aide of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in his piece (‘Reach out for Bharat Jodo’, IE, September 12,) while welcoming the Yatra, is critical of the yatra for it not being based on Hindu Spiritualism. As per him Hindu Spiritualism is the basis of India’s unity. He also commends RSS for popularizing the same. He harps that Swami Vivekanand’s main understanding for ‘Bharat Jodo’ was spiritualism, and its mainstay was Hinduism. Kulkarni forgets that the mainstay of Vivekanand’s India was, ‘India has Islamic body and Vedantic Mind’. That mother India is based on ‘diversity of religions’ was inherent in his formulation. Vivekanand’s central passion of ending of the caste system and eradication of poverty (His concept of Daridranayan) is missing from Kulkarni’s narrative. Kulkarni is totally off the mark when he says that RSS pracharaks and Swayamsevaks have done enormous work to honour and popularize the cultural and spiritual sources of India’s unity and renaissance than Congress leaders. We need to introspect what is the cultural and spiritual sources of India. RSS has been harping on Islam and Christianity being foreign religions. This is in contrast to what Gandhi, the tallest embodiment of Indian spiritualism, had to say. Gandhi’s understanding of foundations of India’s heritage and culture are outlined in this quote, "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), and “Apart from Christianity and Judaism, Hinduism and its offshoots, Islam and Zoroastrianism are living faiths” (of India) (Gandhi’s collected works, Volume XLVI p. 27-28. The RSS vision of India is totally exclusionary at all the levels in contrast to the visions of Vivekananda and Gandhi, the narratives which majority of Indians uphold. As far as Indian renaissance was concerned it ran parallel to freedom movement and beginning from Jotirao Phule, Savitribai Phule to Ambedkar, social reform process was ushered in. Gandhi’s Yatras from 1933 against untrouchability were the major component of this process of Indian renaissance. During this crucial period of Indian renaissance; RSS and its workers were singing praises of the ‘golden past’ when Manusmriti was the law, and precisely for this reason they opposed the Indian constitution for long time. One concedes Kulkarni’s point that Congress has committed many mistakes in following the path of Indian Constitution and secular values which emerged during freedom movement. Still to say that it ignored the interests of Hindus is travesty of truth. Industrialization, irrigation, promotion of education-research institutions were the core on which people of all communities, Hindus included, progressed. What Kulkarni seems to be hinting with ‘ignoring interests of Hindus’ is probably related to Congress not taking up the issue of Ram temple or Holy cow or Love jihad, which are presented as central concerns of Hindus by the RSS and its fellow travellers. It is these issues which are fracturing the ‘fraternity’ which was so painstakingly built by freedom movement. Our Constitution, the representative document drafted by people of all religions was the best expression of secular policies which developed here. It did not single out the spiritualism of religion x or y to be the basis of India’s secularism. Kulkarni accuses Congress for not opposing the anti-secular, supremacist and separatist interpretation of Islam by Muslims for vote bank politics. He is being one sided here. As a section of Muslims presented separatist version of Islam so did Hindu Mahasabha-RSS also presented the separatist version of Hinduism. Muslim league did present a separatist version of Islam-Pakistan similarly Hindu Mahasabha-RSS also presented separatist version of Hinduism as Hindu Nation, Hindu Rashtra. We need to recognize that the separatist version of Islam, Muslim League was not supported by majority of Muslims, as separatist version of Hinduism was not accepted by majority of Hindus. It will be worth its while for the likes of Kulkarni to go through the work of Allah Baksh Sumro’s ‘All India Azad Muslim Conference’ and ‘All India Momin Conference’, who opposed the demand for partition and Pakistan. These sections actually represented the majority of Muslims. National movement also was supported by majority of Hindus, who did not support the concept of Hindu nation. Within Congress itself the stalwarts like Maulana Azad, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and horde of tall Muslim leaders stood to oppose the politics of Muslim League and demand of partition. Incidentally the role of ‘British policy of divide and rule’ in ‘Bharat Todo’ (Partition of India) operation was the central factor in the painful partition of the country. Gandhi and Maulana Azad stood tall to oppose the Hindu separatism (we are a Hindu nation) of Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and, Muslim separatism of Muslim league. Kulkarni is on the dot when he says that we face a threat from ‘one man autocratic rule’. He needs to be reminded that whenever the sectarian nationalism, the one being promoted by RSS; takes over, autocracy follows. As far as reforms among Muslims are concerned; again Kulkarni has a point. As Hindus should be taking to Hindu Code Bill in its original form, the other communities also should follow. In situations where minorities are the major victims of violence and are being discriminated against, reform becomes difficult. Anyway we need to think as to how to promote reforms among Muslims in the backdrop of the cases where the rapists and murderers of Muslims (Bilkis Bano) are garlanded and treated with sweets! Just mouthing Hindu spiritualism, Kulkarni’s key to Indian Secularism, will not promote fraternity. In contrast the ‘Unity in diversity’, the foundation of Indian freedom movement so beautifully put by Nehru, ‘Ganga Jamuna Tahjeeb’ (culture) is what will unite us, the teachings of likes of Kabir and Nizamuddin Auliya will bind us solidly and the likes of Gandhi and Maulana Azad need to be guiding our attempts for Bharat Jodo!

September 21, 2022

Subhash Chandra Bose's Vision of India

Misrepresenting Subhash Chandra Bose's philosophy By Ram Puniyani Sep 21, 2022 Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose While inaugurating the statue of Netaji Subhash Bose on September 8 in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that had India embarked path shown by him, India would have progressed much better, that he has been forgotten, and now (with Modi's rule) his vision is being brought back. Modi claims his governance is showing the imprint of Netaji’s policies. To begin with what was Netaji’s vision of economic growth? He was a socialist who believed in planning as the bulwark of the nation’s prosperity. After he became the president of the Indian National Congress in 1938, one of the major steps he took was to bring forth the importance of economic policies. He wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru, offering him and urging him to accept to head the proposed National Planning Committee, “Hope you will accept the chairmanship of the National Committee. You must if it is to be a success.” Nehru in turn not only accepted the offer of his close ideological friend but carried it forward in independent India. Along these lines, Nehru set up the Planning Commission which steered the economic development of the country. It is only in 2014 with Modi came to power that this Commission was scrapped and replaced by Niti Ayog with a different set of goals. As far as economic planning was concerned it was Nehru who took forward Bose’s vision while Modi has reversed the same. Bose-Nehru saw the role of public sector institutions in the shaping of our economic prosperity, which is currently being undone. There were differences between Bose and the major leadership of Congress on the issue related to the anti-British struggle. Bose wanted to seek an alliance of Germany-Japan, going by the dictum, ‘Enemy’s enemy is a friend', while the majority of Congress leadership under Gandhi wanted to launch an anti–British agitation. In a way his seeking Japanese support was disastrous. Had Germany-Japan won the Second World War, India’s slavery to Japan would have been inevitable. Bose believed in Indian pluralism As far as India’s rich syncretic heritage is concerned, Gandhi as the greatest Hindu saw all the religions as Indian religions and drew from their moral values. Nehru in his own way upheld Ganga-Jamuni Tehjeeb (syncretic culture) and made this the central understanding in his magnum opus ‘Discovery of India’, which turned into a must-watch Shyam Benegal’s ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’. Bose was also a strong proponent of pluralism in Indian culture. Bose in his “Free India and Her Problems” writes, “With the advent of the Mohammedans, a new synthesis was gradually worked out. Though they did not accept the religion of the Hindus, they made India their home and shared in the common social life of the people – their joys and their sorrows. Through mutual co-operation, new art and a new culture were (sic) evolved ….” And also that, “Indian Mohammedans have continued to work for national freedom.” In order to uphold the rights of minorities, he conceptualized a new State where “religious and cultural freedom for individuals and groups” should be guaranteed and no “state religion” would be adopted. While the ruling Hindutva ideology sees Islam and Christianity as "foreign religions" and developed this ideology into misconceptions and hate against Muslims and Christians, the understanding of Gandhi, Nehru, Bose and most leaders of the freedom movement revolved around seeing the diverse religions as a point of welcome and strength to the nation. Bose’s actions were testimony of the same. While naming his army, he used the Urdu word "Azad Hind Fauz" rather than any Sanskritized word. So much similar to what Gandhi thought. If one goes through the who’s who of Azad Hind Fauz, one will not only see the Rani Jhansi regiment with Laxmi Sehgal as its head, there were Shanwaz Khan, Sehgal and Dhillon coming from different religions. It was conscious planning on the part of the diehard, deeply secular Bose who fashioned his army along these lines. Nehru's regard for Netaji The government in exile that he formed was also named similarly Arzi Hukumat Azad-e-Hind. Mohammad Zaman Kiani and Shaukat Ali were his close confidantes. Col. Cyril Stracy was another such confidante. This was the rooting of fraternity which is being totally undone. Wounds are being inflicted on our bonding across religions, where anti-minority actions and statements are to the fore and religious minorities, not only Muslims but even Christians, are being relegated to second-class citizenship. Despite his differences with Indian National Congress on the path to be pursued, he remained very respectful of the Quit India movement and called upon Veer Savarkar and Mohammed Ali Jinnah to participate in the movement. It is another matter that today's ruling elites' ideological mentors Savarkar and Golwalkar not only opposed the Quit India movement but also bowed to the British and helped them in their war efforts. We are living in strange times. Those in seats of power are trying to gain legitimacy and credibility from those whose ideas and principles they have been totally opposing through their deeds in the current time. The incidental projection that Nehru did nothing to keep alive the memory of Bose is false to the core. Nehru not only adorned the lawyer’s coat to fight the cases of war prisoners of Netaji's Indian National Army (INA) but his offering regular support to Bose’s daughter who lived abroad should also be remembered as a token of the esteem which Nehru had for his great friend and comrade, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

India: What will happen at Gyanvapi ? ... Hindutva tactics on Mosque to Temple & response Varanasi District Court order transforms Gyanvapi mosque into a disputed site

At Gyanvapi, the law feeds into BJP’s political imagination

Hilal Ahmed writes: It is important to remember that the Gyanvapi dispute is not going to recreate any new secular-communal type political binary. It will be accommodated as a part of the ruling party's ongoing narrative.

Written by Hilal Ahmed
Updated: September 21, 2022

The Varanasi District Court order has legally transformed the Gyanvapi mosque into a disputed site. The court has accepted the legal claim made by five Hindu women for the “restoration of Darshan, Pooja, Aarti, Bhog and performance of rituals at the principal seat of Asthan of Lord Adi Visheshwar and of Goddess Maa Shringar Gauri”.

It is true that the Gyanvapi dispute is not entirely new. It has a long and violent history. The recent verdict, nevertheless, has given it a completely different direction. The conflict can no longer be described as a politically-motivated mosque/temple dispute. It has now acquired a legitimate legal overtone, which is going to contribute significantly to the emerging political discourse.

The conversion of the Gyanvapi mosque into a disputed site, broadly speaking, underlines three very important political aspects.

First, the status of the Gyanvapi mosque as a functional religious place of worship has important political significance. Unlike Babri Masjid, which was a non-functional and almost abandoned structure, Gyanvapi is a living mosque. It is open to Muslim worshippers and they are allowed to use it for performing namaz five times a day.

This Muslim visibility did not pose any challenge to Hindu religious practices and rituals performed at various associated ghats around the Gyanvapi mosque complex in the past. Banaras has always been a multi-religious city and it has never been possible to think of it in purely Hindu religious terms.

The recent developments, however, have transformed the Muslim presence in the city, especially around the Ganga ghats, into a problem category. The Kashi-Vishwanath corridor, which aims to ensure easy movement of pilgrims and devotees between the ghats and the temple, has defined the urban landscape from an overtly Hindu perspective. There is no imagination of a functional mosque in this framework. There are designated routes to visit the temple; while there is no special arrangement for the Muslim worshippers.

This new urban landscape has the potential to exclude Muslim presence in two ways. In a highly volatile anti-Muslim environment, it is very easy to envisage the existence of an Islamic place of worship inside a temple complex as a symbol of Hindu slavery and victimhood. At the same time, the history of Islamic iconoclasm, especially associated with Aurangzeb, also finds a hospitable space in this urban configuration. The proactive claim that contemporary Muslims celebrate the acts and deeds of Muslim rulers gets legitimacy in this schema.

The second aspect of Gyanvapi politics is inextricably linked to the Babri Masjid case, especially the legal closure of the dispute. Two kinds of arguments are made in this regard. On the one hand, the scope of the local land disputes related to the places of worship is redefined in a broad civilisational framework. The inevitable clash between Hinduism and Islam as incompatible civilisations is evoked to establish a link between Babri Masjid and Gyanvapi mosque. It is alleged that Muslim rulers demolished Hindu temples primarily for religious purposes. In other words, Islamic religious practices are responsible for Hindu vulnerability.

There is also a site versus structure argument. It has been claimed that the Gyanvapi dispute might be solved by evoking the formula adopted in the Ayodhya case. It is worth noting that the Supreme Court made a distinction between the site or the land and the built structure in the Ayodhya case. The site was given to Hindus to build a temple; while alternative space was given to Muslims to reconstruct a new mosque. It is suggested that a similar arrangement could be made in the Gyanvapi case as well.

This brings us to the third specific aspect of Gyanvapi politics. It is important to remember that the Gyanvapi dispute is not going to recreate any new secular-communal type political binary. Hindutva as a form of nationalism has already emerged as the hegemonic narrative of politics. Non-BJP political parties are not in a position to take up the issue of the Gyanvapi mosque for any electoral adventure. They do not have the courage to take a principled position based on historical sensitivity and political pragmatism.

It certainly gives a political advantage to the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents the Varanasi constituency in the Lok Sabha. He has taken a special interest in the redevelopment of the Kashi-Vishwanath corridor project. The Gyanvapi case, in this sense, fits well in this schema.

However, this is not as simple as it appears. The BJP and RSS are fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages associated with the Gyanvapi issue. Narendra Modi’s December 2021 speech is very relevant in this regard.

Inaugurating the Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor he did not make any controversial or direct statement on the Gyanvapi dispute. He did invoke the ever-conflicting images of Aurangzeb and Shivaji in this speech; yet, he was conscious enough to avoid any direct reference to the mosque. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has also been very categorical about it. He has argued that the legal process, in this case, should be respected by all parties.

The Gyanvapi dispute, it seems, is not going to be the central thematic concern for electoral politics in near future. It is likely that the opposition might not find any electoral potential in it. The BJP, on the other hand, will try to accommodate the legalisation of the Gyanvapi issue in its broad Hindutva-centric development narrative.

The legal proceedings, in this case, will contribute to existing political imaginations, arguments and claims.


The writer is associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi


source URL: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/hilal-ahmed-gyanvapi-law-feeds-into-bjps-political-imagination-8162270/

UK: Mob violence in Leicester, police make 47 arrests ; Hindus and Muslims make joint appeal for harmony | PTI report (September 21, 2022)

Why are mobs fighting on the streets in Leicester, UK?

Leicester violence: According to media reports, trouble started after the Aug 28 India-Pakistan cricket match and escalated over the weekend. Police, the local MP, and community leaders on both the Hindu and Muslim sides have called for calm.


UK police make 47 arrests in Leicester; Hindus and Muslims make joint appeal for harmony


September 19, 2022

Hindu-Muslim Scuffles Lead to Heightened Communal Tension in UK's Leicester | thewire.in

 "They were coming past our mosques, taunting the community and physically beating people up randomly," reportedly said Majid Freeman, a local of Belgrave Road in the eastern part of Leicester.