Once again making a statement that could court controversy, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on 6 September called on Muslim leaders to take a firm stand against fundamentalism. “Islam came to Bharat with invaders. This is a historical fact, and it is necessary for this to be stated as such. Sensible leaders of the Muslim community must oppose extremism. They will need to speak up firmly against fanatics. This work will need long term effort and patience. It will be a long and tough test for all of us. The sooner we start this effort, the less damage it will cause to our society,” Bhagwat said.
The sarsanghchalak‘s remarks came at a meeting organised in the city by a Pune-based organisation called Global Strategic Policy Foundation. The audience comprised mainly of Kashmiri students, retired defence officials and RSS members.
The meeting took place amid a debate in the country, including within the Muslim community, on how Indian Muslims should respond to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Poet and song-writer Javed Akhtar’s remarks last week drawing parallels between the RSS and Taliban have triggered a controversy, with a local BJP leader in Mumbai demanding that he apologise.
The theme of the meeting Bhagwat attended was “Nation First, Nation Above All”.
One of the speakers at the meeting, Chancellor of Central University in Kashmir Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (retd), said that the organisers had planned the meeting quite a while ago, but the issue had become topical in the light of the developments in Afghanistan.
The hotly debated “DNA” theory came up again in the course of Bhagwat’s speech. “Hindus and Muslims in India share the same ancestry. In our view, the word Hindu means motherland, and the culture that we have inherited from ancient times. The term Hindu… denotes every person irrespective of their language, community or religion. Everyone is a Hindu, and it is in this context that we see every Indian citizen as a Hindu. The faith of another will not be disrespected here, but for that we should be thinking not of Muslim dominance but of India’s dominance. For the country to progress, all have to work together,” the sarsanghchalak said, reiterating a theme that he speaks about often.
And then Bhagwat dropped a bomb, suggesting Islamic extremism was a figment of imagination of some people. It was actually British propaganda!
Kerela Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who participated in the meet, emphasised the importance of respecting diversity and pluralism. “Wherever in the world diversity was destroyed, civilisations have vanished, while only those where diversity was preserved prospered,” he said.
“Bharatiya sanskiriti does not consider anyone an ‘other’, because everyone is considered the same,” he said.