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RSS may remind Muslims of their Hindu ancestry, but will never truly accept them

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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.

Savarkar’s thesis

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.

Golwalkar’s opinion

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.

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  1. RSS or other Hindu fundamental groups do a fundamental mistake. They consider all Hindus and Muslims as homogeneous communities of India. In reality they are not, we are a multicultural society and so heterogeneity is the beauty of our democracy and identity. RSS tries to construct a false identity, a constructed identity of Hindus and Muslims and so on. Hard to do. Dr. Hilal Ahmed, although a very erudite researcher, a well known face and author of many books and articles with reputed publishers, forgot this point to analyze, which I have heard from him and later I started studying on the homogeneity debate. Muslims in India are discriminated groups, Sachchar Committee and various human right groups have proved the fact. But we have developed a tendency to see Muslims with the definition of RSS etc. One important point needs to be mentioned here, RSS etc do not tell us the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva. Hinduism is a way of Life, a religion and so on, but Hindutva is an ideology followed by these Hindu sectarian groups. and from here these groups, by making these these two diverse concept as one tries to construct a false identity of fellow religionist and ‘others’. My Ram vs their Ram, to take an example. Follower of Hinduism will always worship Ram Darbaar or the idol of LordRam, Goddess Sita, Laxman, with Lord Hanuman, this Lord Ram is also known as Maryada Purushottam. But in 90s, the new identity of Lord Ram was constructed with bow and arrow in his hand, long and open hair, an Angry Ram. This Ram is RSS’s or VHP’s Ram, but certainly not my Maryada Purushottam. They have divided our deities just to construct a fake identity of Hindus to construct a false identity of Muslims to inject this in the body politic of Hindus. Their idea of Religion, nation, secularism, multiculturalism etc is very narrow and that does not fir for our largest democracy. The topic written here is relevant; those who are saying what so and so has said in so and so time is not relevant today, they are actually self-satisfying individuals, the individuals who simply do not understand the danger these groups are posing to our nation and democracy. I love reading the work of Dr Hilal Ahmed, it gives us to think beyond what he has written and also if we read his work without any pre-occupied concepts in our mind, we will have a logical reply to all our queries. Readers, Please avoid traditional myths and open your locked minds. A humble request

    • Read your comment particularly about the ‘new ram’. All hindu gods have weapons in their hand but hindus forgot what is the meaning in it. Bhagwat gita was preached on a ‘war field’. These things are not developed by rss and parivar. There are ideological, philosophical meanings in that. Hindu doesn’t believe in ‘organisational strength’ in history and they paid a price for that. Ahimsa and shanti was later used by hindu gurus for justification of slavery and cowardness. That is why sangh was formed and blessed by bhagwan. It is not a reactionary organisation with any vengeance to invaders. Dharma should prevail and for that dharmi is essential. Hindu society can solve all its problems and challenges once it is organisied and united. Sangh is born with such a mission and show a way to world and make again bharat vishwa guru.

  2. FYI n understanding:

    There is no word like Hindu to describe any religion. The word hindu was coined by Persian migrants who named the tribals who they come across in the Indian penensula.

    The indian peninsular was once upon a time a mosaic of many kingdoms n rulers of diverse sizes n ideologies. Due to the favorable climatic conditions cross migrations from all sides of peninsula was the regular features.

    In fact the peninsula was the playfield for the neighboring regional diverse communities. There used to be always infighting among the local tribes, until the Moghul rule came to bring them together with normalcies as one nation under one rule of law.

    Many of the tribals commenest prayers was in form of idol worshipping. The idol in Persian is called Hindi n hence the identity. In fact the idol worshipping was more to do with Vedic ideologies which was followed by many indeginious tribals of india.

    They do not have any word called hindu or Hindi in any of their literature or holy books. It was the name given by the Moghuls who respectfully institutionalize for demographic reasons all those diverse idol worshippers as Hindus.

    Many of the tribals worshiping was very flued and got changed as they deem necessary to the changing rulers. India penensula never was one country or rule of law. There used to be always infighting among the variable tribal kingdoms conquering each other.

    The many of the Big or small tribal kingdoms/rulers were the followers of Buddhism or Jainism and the Vedic or idol worshiping was the basis of their commened beliefs.

    The Moghuls reforms or governance clubbed all such tribes including Muslims as one community to bring about a sort of normalcy for their balance rule of law as one nation. This was the main crux of existences for the Moghul rule for centuries as one nation.

    When the imperial forces came they found the Moghul community steadfastness the only sensitive link bounded them together. They created many methods and ways to break the Moghul strongholds.

    The RSS was among such ideologies created by the imperial forces to crush or divide the Moghul empire and eventually they were successful.

    Therefore RSS concept of Hindutva was totally an ideology created by the imperial rulers who as part of divide and rule policy used such ideologies to ferment divisiveness in the societies which were once upon a time a closely knitted Moghul societies irrespective to caste creed n religiosities.

    During the national freedom struggle period the communal (RSS) forces sided with the imperial forces to crush it. But in the end the victory favored the indian freedom struggle who eventually got the desired independence for the whole of india once again together.

    Therefore RSS concept of hatred against fellow Indians is diplorable n not good for India as one nation. In fact RSS was responsible for the division of India which created Pakistan. Such hateful ideology should be eradicated once for all from India.

  3. True, majority of Indian Muslims converted from Hinduism to Islam – what s wrong in it? Whether their ancestors were Hindus or Muslims or had some other religion doesn’t affect their belief. Outside India, thousands of recently converted Muslims live with their non-Muslim families. They are accepted in both communities, Muslim and non-Muslim. I fail to understand why this becomes such a touchy issue in the Indian context.

  4. The Sikhs are not entirely left out of this hinduisation debate, because inspite of being an indegenous relugions, the RSS makes regular and sustained efforts to wean them away from their unique identity. To a small extent, Jains & Buddhists also fall in the same category, but because Sikhs maintain a distinct outward identity of beard and turban, therefore, inspite of being lauded for their role in fighting the expansionism of the moguls, and their stellar role in the independence struggle and the later Indo-Pak wars , they any not truly nationalist. Hence the RSS’s efforts to wean them away to core Hinduism.

  5. Why should RSS accept them? Whucj other faiths have Muslims accepted and welcomed? Not one.

    Did Jews accept Nazis? Why do then Hindus have to accept their historical murderers?

  6. Really? I would like to know all the acts of terrorism they have committed. Can you help me with that information please?

  7. Does Hilal Ahmed have no other job? Whether true or not, the article is irrelevant. Who cares about what Savarkar, Golwalkar or even Mohan Bhagwat say about muslims? Let them have their opinion. The truth is, Indians are truly secular and other than in some patches in the Hindi belt nobody cares what religion one is following. I am a religious Hindu, but I have many Muslim friends, and it doesn’t matter to me one bit whether Muslims acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus or not. Most Indians are like me. I don’t know much about RSS, but I’m not sure whether they are anti-Muslims. If they are, it is still ok, as long as they keep to issuing statements–we can ignore them, just as we ignore the Owaisis. If they ACT against non-Hindus, be assured Mr Ahmed, there is enough goodness in this country to counter that. In short, don’t waste time paying attention to what Savarkar said in 1923.

    • I think you are talking about this goodness what Hilal Ahmed has written?? Correct me, if I am wrong, if we stop analyzing, criticizing, questioning, the very goodness you are talking about will be eroded, This is the beauty of our democracy.

  8. The RSS is a terrorist group and should be outlawed by the government. Their insane attitude toward other religions is totally against what it means to be Hindu! They deserve to go away forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Really? I would like to know all the acts of terrorism they have committed. Can you help me with that information please?

    • Applying the same standards, Catholic church should be declared a pedophile organization. For the horrors committed by the Catholics in the name of inquisitions, Catholic church deserves be to disbanded for ever.

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