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Did the British make ‘Hindus and Muslims fight’? Deconstructing statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat

There is no geographical variant of Islam. The Quran is the Quran and the verses contained in them that promote war against Kafirs are just that - it is time that we are honest about this fundamental truth rather than accepting tropes about how Indian Islam is "different"

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat today delivered a speech at an event called Rashtra Pratham – Rashtra Sarvopari. The little snippet that was reported by ANI received widespread criticism on social media for furthering the same “trope” that has next to no foundation in reality. Speaking in Mumbai, Mohan Bhagwat said that it was the British who made Hindus and Muslims fight by creating misconceptions.

Bhagwat further said that the British told Muslims that they will not get anything if they decide to live with Hindus and that they were ‘extorted’ to demand a separate nation. Islam, they said would disappear from India but nothing of the sort happened.

The RSS Sarsanghchalak said that both communities have to walk together to take the country forward. “The basis of our unity is our motherland and glorious tradition. The ancestors of Hindus and Muslims living in India were the same,” he said. Bhagwat said, “From my point of view, the word Hindu is a symbol of motherland, ancestor and heritage of Indian culture. ‘Hindu’ is not a caste or linguistic noun, but it is the name of a tradition guiding the development, upliftment of every person of nature. Whatever it believes, irrespective of its language, creed, religion, it is Hindu and, in this context, we consider every Indian citizen as Hindu”.

From what is reported in the media, it would indeed seem like the RSS chief is disregarding the strife that existed historically and essentially, charting the dissonance solely to what the British said or did, instead of the inherent supremacist ideology of Islam.

However, there were other, crucial points made by the RSS chief that the media seemed to have ignored. Before talking about the strife created by the British, Bhagwat said, “Islam came to India with invaders. This is history & should be told in that manner. Sane Muslim leaders should oppose unnecessary issues & stand firmly against fundamentalists & hardliners. The more we do this at earliest, the less damage it will cause to our society”.

Mohan Bhagwat assured that there will be no disrespect to Islam, but for that, one will have to think about the dominance of India and not that of Islam.

It is to be borne in mind that the RSS Chief was addressing a seminar that was meant for Muslim intellectuals, scholars and leaders. At this gathering, from the full statement that has not come to light, it seems rational for Mohan Bhagwat to acknowledge the fact that Islam is indeed a faith that exists in India not naturally but because of the invading barbarians, however, Indian Muslims cannot as a group be tied to the crimes of the Mughals. The onus is indeed on Muslims to realise that their cultural roots are also ‘Hindu’, so to speak, and therefore, they need to be thinking about the supremacy of India that is Bharat and not the faith of Islam.

The statement that perhaps stirred the hornet’s nest was limited to Bhagwat talking about how Hindus and Muslims would have perhaps never lived in constant strife had the British not sowed the seeds of doubt. The statement, in itself, disregards the violent nature of Islam itself that leads to acrimony and almost renders the Muslim population, or at least large parts of it, incapable of surviving with Hindus – incidentally, a theory on which the partition was demanded and snatched, eventually.

In 1983, Sita Ram Goel, the stalwart Hindu scholar wrote, “As one reads the scriptures of Christianity and Islam with a morally alert mind, one starts getting sick of the very sound of word ‘god’ which word is littered all over this literature like dead leaves in autumn. The deeds which are ascribed to or approved of by this God are quite often so cruel and obnoxious as to leave one wondering that if these are the doings of the Divine, what else is there which is left for the Devil to do”.

While his criticism of Islam might be harsh, to move forward as a society one has to acknowledge the root of the problems at ails that society instead of draping oneself, out of cowardice or benevolence, with a cloak of wilful ignorance. In Islam, there are several verses that talk about the supremacy of one God – that is an indisputable fact. It is also an indisputable fact for those who are not completely ignorant that Islam ordains that Kafirs – those who refuse to submit to the will of Allah – are ones that need to be converted or killed (brutally so).

Surah 3 (Ali ‘Imran) Verse 151 says, “We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down [any] authority.1 And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers”. Verse 101 clearly says, “Indeed, the disbelievers are ever to you a clear enemy”.

Surah 21 (Al-Anbya) Verse 98 says, “Indeed, you [disbelievers] and what you worship other than Allah are the firewood of Hell. You will be coming to [enter] it”.

There are several such verses in the Holy Quran that urge Muslims to wage a war against “non-believers”. These are not verses that have been concocted by the author, but some of the 26 verses that Waseem Rizvi, a Muslim himself, listed as those that promote Jihad against Hindus. The rest of them can be read here.

Now, when we believe that Muslims of India follow “Indian Islam” and share the “culture” of Hindus, we assume that there is a different version of Islam itself that Indian Muslims seem to follow, or at least, ought to follow. However, Islam is the same everywhere because the “word of God” is one, sacrosanct and remains unchanged for Muslims everywhere – Indian or otherwise.

There is no geographical variant of Islam. The Quran is the Quran and the verses contained in them that promote war against Kafirs are just that – it is time that we are honest about this fundamental truth rather than accepting tropes about how Indian Islam is “different”, somehow, or the far more idiotic explanation given once on television – that Hindus of India are not the “non-believers” being spoken about in the Quran at all since Hindus of India are actually “believers” (no idea what that means).

This is not to say that Muslims individually cannot choose to reject the hardline approach and follow the spirituality of religion instead of the militant aspects of it. But, the nature of Muslim separatism and the constant conflict the community exists in, stems from their own faith and not from the inducement or incitement of others. The partition that tore India apart was summarily a product of the two-nation theory espoused by the Muslim community at the time where they claimed that Muslims form a nation of their own since their culture, religion and way of living is distinct from Hindus.

During the provincial elections in 1946, it is an undisputed fact that Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Muslim League which had stirred up religious passions with its demand for a separate Islamic State at the time. In total, 87% of seats were won by the Muslim League in India in 1946. The Muslims who stayed back and could not move to the “land of the pure”, away from the unclean Kafirs, joined the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) promising to preserve the vision of Jinnah in India.

The Moplah massacre, Direct Action Day, Naokhali massacre, the countless temples desecrated, Hindus slaughtered, women raped and the religious hate is a part of history. The letter that Jogendra Nath Mandal wrote to Liaquat Ali Khan, is a part of history. The fact that despite joining hands with the Muslim League and helping in the formation of Pakistan, he came back after seeing the blood of fellow Hindus flow like water by Jihadist hate is also a matter of history.

Coming back to what Mohan Bhagwat said, the anger, to a large extent, is understandable. Hindus have got the short end of the stick for the longest time and have been forced to accept their own persecution. Not only have Hindus been forced to accept their own persecution, but a systematic attempt has been made by every successive government to mollycoddle a violent minority that exercises unbridled street-veto to make the state submit to their whims. The violent minority has often complained, whined, rioted and blackmailed the state. The complacent majority, along with the state and those elected to protect us, cajoled, begged, gave in, submitted. This process was seen not just during the partition but has played out ever since.

While the state submitted, the Hindu majority has largely endorsed that submission with fervour. Whether the submission is a product of cowardice or Gandhian brainwashing is hard to tell. Through the ages, while a section of Hindus have dared to speak up and stand up against the tyranny of a violent minority, a large part of the Hindu community has given in to the idea that the minority is violent because they are disgruntled with the submissive majority, not because they are inherently a violent minority the world over.

The criticism that is coming Mohan Bhagwat’s way is because the section of Hindus who are vocal have had enough, and that is certainly understandable. Often, I get there too and wonder how these tropes help us in the civilisational war. However, there are two things to consider before we lose our minds.

Firstly, Mohan Bhagwat was talking to a congregation of Muslim scholars and intellectuals. It is a reality that certain Muslims, even if few in number have to be reasoned with. Mohan Bhagwat said that Hindus and Indian Muslims, owing to their shared heritage, have to keep the interest of the nation above that of religion. Specifically, Indian Muslims need to keep the interest of the nation above the supremacy of Islam.

Secondly, while the statement itself could be a trope to appeal to sensible Muslims, I personally and I am sure a lot of Hindus have lost the optimism that such statements could bring about even semblance of harmony, given the post-2014 events – the Delhi anti-Hindu riots being a prime example. However, there exists a large section of Hindus who would still find merit in Gandhian statements of peace and harmony. For that to change, for that fundamental deracination of the Hindu population to change, the Overton Window will have to be shifted by those Hindus who are willing to speak the truth, not by a social organisation that is doing as much as they possibly can in their own capacity – even if they fall short and are considered intermittently “soft” on the narrative. It is the people who need to ensure that the truth is normalised. That the cowardice is dispelled and that the Gandhi in us is replaced by Sita Ram Goel.

 

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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