The Muslim influence of Mohan Bhagwat and the logic of commitment


Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Mohan Bhagwat’s recent speech to Muslims welcomed Muslims, reaffirming the first principles of the Indian Constitution – equality of faith, inclusion and accommodation. He also established a common ground for Hindu-Muslim unity based on three fundamental principles common to Hindus and Muslims in India: homeland, tradition and ancestors.

Bhagwat’s speech was an attempt to allay fears over two emerging narratives – that “Islam is in danger in India” and that “the Sangh is against minorities”. If the misguided followers heed their leader, it will be much easier to dispel such apprehensions.

Prior to Bhagwat, RSS Deputy Secretary General Krishna Gopal pointed out that Indian Muslims, with a population of over 160 million, have nothing to fear, while noting that other minority communities, far fewer, feel safe in India.

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Why is there a debate about the “fear” of Muslims in the first place? For Indian Muslims, this question perhaps deserves another question: is the idea of ​​minority and majority a simple quantification of numbers?

Muslims in India have never been in the majority throughout history. But their political power has been incredibly disproportionate to their numerical limitations. For example, in the British colony of Hyderabad, the Muslim population was around 12%. But Muslims did not see themselves as a minority as long as political power manifested itself through empowerment through affirmative action in employment, bureaucracy, and other instruments of the state.

In a constitutional democracy driven by good governance and individual freedom, minority and majority should not be an estimate of numbers, but rather an estimate of empowerment. In line with this reflection, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech to the Muslim community during the WBU’s centenary celebrations last year, chose the empowerment variables – women’s education, economic empowerment, employment and entrepreneurship.

Indian Muslims realize the value of peaceful coexistence and composite culture. They understand that dividing national borders on the basis of religion has no sanction in Islam, which is a value system for shaping the soul, not a tool for political empowerment. Pakistan’s dependence on Islam as the basis of national unity could not come to its aid and save it from division in 1971. Even in the Arab world, one language, one civilization and one religion communes among its inhabitants could not create “national unity”.

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The founding fathers of the Constitution were aware that India’s distinctive identity lies in a paradox – while no nation seems to be so truly made, geographically, for unity as India, it also has so many potential for disunity. And between the poles of unity and disunity lie pitfalls – misinterpreted history, partition, and alien domination. The solution to negotiating the traps lies in the ideals of unity in diversity, religious tolerance and composite culture.

Bhagwat stressed the importance of dialogue in promoting national unity. Interestingly, he downplayed the role of politics in promoting unity and suggested that politics may be hostile in this regard. “There are works that politics cannot do … Politics cannot become a tool to unite people but can become a weapon to distort unity.”

The first criticism, questioning the sincerity of his remarks, came from the political class, Asaduddin Owaisi attributing “Hindutva thought” as the reason for the atrocities against Muslims. Notable reciprocity of the olive branch of Bhagwat with Muslims came from the vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Tariq Mansoor, who not only urged Muslims to reciprocate, but also suggested that the ‘UMA is a platform for this engagement.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, 19th century social reformer and founder of WBU, in his quest for a “Muslim” university in colonial India, illustrated the value of working on a reform agenda in which “the political demands should not be hampered by emotional idealism ”. Whether Muslims choose “emotional idealism” or “commitment requirement” will affect their fortunes.

Mohammad Nasir is Assistant Professor of Law at Aligarh Muslim University

Opinions expressed are personal

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