Right-wing leaders including, Savarkar, had said that converted Muslims cannot be accommodated into the Hindutva-fold.
This is the final part in a two-part series. You can read the first part here
Earlier this month at a Kolkata event, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat once again tried to locate and define the Muslims of India in a provocative manner. Expressing his opposition to the recommendations of the Sachar Commission Report, Bhagwat said Muslims in India must realise that their forefathers were Hindus, who eventually converted to Islam.
Bhagwat has made such comments earlier as well. The last time the Muslims were reminded of their forefathers was a year ago during the ghar-wapsi debate.
There is no doubt that the majority of South Asian Muslims are converts. This is not a profound statement because by this logic, except Prophet Mohammad, all Muslims of the world are converted as their forefathers embraced Islam at different historical moments.
However, the connection Bhagwat establishes between converted Muslims and Sachar Report is a deliberate attempt to mislead and obfuscate. Does it mean that Muslims are marginalised because they are converted? Or, does it mean that ghar wapsi (the reconversion of the converted Muslims) would be the ultimate way to deal with the economic, cultural and educational backwardness of Muslims? Is reconversion the pre-condition upon which the Indian state would extend special support to the backward Muslims?
The Hindutva leaders never spell out their stand on the converted/backward Muslims, and for that matter, all non-Hindu minorities. As a result, there is no clarity about the placing of converted Muslims in the much celebrated “cultural nationalism” of RSS.
Bhagwat’s comment is not entirely new. Savarkar in his 1923 book Hindutva, also talks of converted Muslims and Christians. In his opinion, even a converted Muslims cannot be accommodated into the Hindutva-fold.
He says: “Some of our Mohammedan or Christian countrymen who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited along with Hindus, a common Fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture — language, law, customs, folklore and history — are not and cannot be recognized as Hindus. For though Hindus than to them is Fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a Holyland… Their holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine.”
The contradiction in Savarkar’s argument is that Hindu religion should not be treated as the decisive criterion to determine the Hindutva of any group of people; however, when it comes to converted Muslims and Christians, their belief in holy places of worship is treated as a principle to evaluate their patriotism.
Despite the fact that M. S. Golwalkar was very critical of Savarkar and his conception of Hindutva, he adheres to Savarkar’s framework. In his view, Muslims, Christian and Communists are the three main internal threats that India faces. According to him: “Muslims must realise that we are all one people and it is the same blood that courses in our veins. …they are only Hindu converts…the problem can and must be solved by Indian Muslims owning the country and its ancient culture as theirs.”
The converted Muslims are seen here as Hindus by blood. But, Golwalkar, like Savarkar, does not believe that the ‘pure Hindu blood’ criterion would be able to solve the problem. In his opinion, converted Muslims, like the other “racial” Muslims, must prove their loyalty towards Hindus and India.
This formulation is self-contradictory in two senses. (a) If the converted Muslims are actually the “poor Hindu victim of forcible conversion”, why should they be a subject to any “loyalty test”? (b) Is the natural “purity of Hindu blood” not capable of erasing the impact of ideas such as Islam even now?
Jan Sangh’s stand
Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS), a political party, however, offered a practical way out to this ‘Muslim question’. The party’s official manifesto of 1951 says: “Jana Sangh considers them (Muslims) flesh of our flesh, the blood of our blood. …It looks forward to their disassociating foreign ways from the tenets of their religion. They are welcome to worship the Islamic way. They are expected to live the Bharatiya way.” (The Organizer, 29 October 1951)
This emphasis on the Bhartiya way eventually led to a full-fledged idea of Indianisation. The 1957 manifesto of the BJS, for example, identifies Indianisation as one of the main objectives. It says: “For the preservation of national unity…Jana Sangh will take the following steps: (a) Creating a feeling of equality and oneness of Hindu society by liquidating untouchability and casteism (b) Nationalising all non-Hindus by inculcating in them the ideal of Bhartiya Culture”. (BJS, Party Documents, p. 104)
It is clear that Savarkar, Golwalkar, BJS and even Bhagwat make a clear distinction between Hindus and non-Hindus. A born Hindu, in this framework, would naturally qualify as a patriot; while non-Hindus would have to be Indianised (read Hinduisation!).
This is the reason why all Muslims are asked to demonstrate their loyalty — they have to sing Vande Mataram, change their names, remove verses from the Quran to make it Indian, and celebrate India’s victory over Pakistan in cricket match.
Yet, they won’t become Hindu/Indian/patriot, primarily because the loosely worked out definition of Hindutva by the RSS is apprehensive about the outcome of Indianisation itself.
Hilal Ahmed is the author of “Muslim Political Discourse in Postcolonial India: Monuments, Memory, Contestation”. He is also an associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.