(Secular Perspective March 16-31, 2014)
Rajnath Singh, the BJP president while addressing the Muslims on 25th February 2014 sought to bridge a trust deficit between his party and Muslims by saying that he was ready to apologize for any mistakes committed by the party in the past and urged the community to give his party at least one chance. Singh’s political secretary Sudhanshu Trivedi clarified that “The BJP president said if Muslims feel that wittingly or unwittingly, there have been mistakes on our part, he is ready to make amends.” While campaigning during the state elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, in rallies addressed by Narendra Modi, burkhas and skull caps were distributed to signify that Muslims too were attending the rally and would vote for the BJP. Will the Muslims be wooed by such insincere moves? The BJP leaders appear to reach out to the Muslims as elections approach, not to address the needs of minorities nor make any attempt to understand them, but to confuse the Muslims about intentions of the BJP. Their objective is to mobilize Muslim votes if possible and ensure that they (Muslim votes) do not get consolidated against the BJP in any case.
Hindutva ideology always considered the Muslims and the Christians as aliens and foreigners as their holylands are outside the geographical area of “Akhand Bharat”. The saffron party’s attitude towards the Muslims and Christians is reflected from the slogans their cadres often shout on the streets like “pehle kasai; phir Isai” (first the Muslims and later on Christians will be taken care of during the riots.) They further stigmatized Muslims as terrorists, violent and aggressive, practicing polygamy and breeding (sic) so rapidly that they would outnumber Hindu population. Aggressive stigmatization of Muslims leads to periodical outbreak of communal violence and ghettoization of the community. 40,000 innocents have been killed in communally targeted violence since independence. In order to stigmatize Muslims as terrorists, the security agencies had a free hand in Gujarat to periodically murder Muslims youth and after killing them proclaim them to be terrorists killed in encounter. Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jehan are a few examples of this. Some of the slogans against Muslims are so unparliamentary that they cannot be reproduced here. Yet Rajnath Singh is not even categorically accepting that it made any “mistake” by following Hindutva ideology.
Politically, the BJP opposes every move of the government to ensure inclusion of marginalized groups, particularly the minorities and to ensure that they too have equal opportunities. Modi claimed that his secularism meant India first. When only certain sections of the society are in a position to grab opportunities because they are socially privileged, proclaiming India first policy would work to the advantage of the privileged (e.g. majority community, upper castes and males). India first privileges the corporate sectors which are grabbing the resources of the country like the 2G spectrum, coal and mining, water, environment and have become millionaires unjustifiably enriching themselves. The marginalized sections, like the dalits, adivasis, women and minorities continue to be excluded and denied their fair share in opportunities and common resources of the country as mandated in the directive principles of the Constitution.
The BJP in the past has often opposed any measures that afford religious minorities their cultural space and cultural specificities. For example, they are opposed to separate family (or personal) laws on bogus ground that it breeds separatism in minorities. They have opposed any encouragement to Urdu language. BJP’s political project is to obliterate cultural diversity and homogenize culture by imposing upper caste culture and turning the state into guardian of upper caste culture – what they call as cultural nationalism. Thus making saraswati vandana and teaching of Bhagwat Gita, yoga compulsory in the schools where BJP rules. Series of stringent anti-cow slaughter legislation and campaign against inter-religious marriages falsely accusing such marriages particularly of Hindu women with Muslim men as a conspiracy to out populate Hindus.
The BJP is opposed to cultural diversity and particularly against protecting the cultural space for minorities. It has never stood for security of minorities and never raised a tiny figure against discrimination of minorities in jobs, education, government contracts, bank loans etc. which has resulted in their backwardness. This has now been well documented by the Sachar Committee report and other studies.
The BJP has also demanded in the past that the Church and Islam should “Indianize”. What does Indianizing mean? Muslims in India are as diverse as believers of any other religion are. They speak the same language as other Indians like Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Konkani, Gujarati, Kutchi, various dialects of Hindi, Marwari, Kashmiri, Urdu, etc. They eat the same food that people of the region eat and by and large wear the same dress and even follow the same customs and traditions and participate in the festivals of believers of all religions. For lack of space here, we are not going into instances and other details. Volumes have been written on shared culture, customs and traditions between believers of all religions. The famous Poet Iqbal called Lord Ram as Imam-e-Hind. Mazhar Jana Jana, the Sufi saint termed Ram and Krishna as Prophets of Allah and Saint Nizamuddin would begin all his mornings by singing bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) of Ram and Krishna. When he saw a Hindu woman performing surya namaskar (worshipping sun), he told his disciple Khusro that she too was worshipping Allah! Baba Farid Ganj-i-Shakkar composed all his devotional songs in Punjabi and many of them are included in the Guru Granth Saheb, the Scriptures of Sikh community. The Church too embraces rituals and culture of the people of India which it calls acculturation. What more can one expect? Muslims and Christians in India are so Indianized that they even follow the caste system, which they should not!
By calling upon to “Indianize” Islam and Christian Church, the BJP and RSS want two things – 1) The Church and the Islamic Madrasas should be cut off from the rest of the world, to insulate themselves from any religious thoughts and theology from “outside” in this global age and time, while Hindutva would continue to be global and receive its life blood and funds from Hindus who have become citizens of US or European or other countries.
2) Muslims and Christians should accept Hindu supremacy. These “foreign” religions have equality as its foundational concept and universality in its approach. The bhakti saints like Mirabai, Kabir, Ravidas, Tukaram, and many others belonging to the Siddha, Nath, Tantra traditions too propagated equality and universality. Hindutva on the other hand is based on notions of race and nationalism which privileges the already privileged. RSS and BJP’s prescription for the Muslims and Christians is that they too should accept the concept of race and nationalism and hierarchies of privileges according to the “race” or “nationalism” one belonged to. The then RSS Sarsanghchalak K S Sudarshan addressing the meeting of RSS sponsored Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) on 24th December 2002 wondered “as to why Muslims in India accepted the minority status when they belonged to this land by birth and shared the same culture, race and ancestors with the Hindus?” Concept of race and ancestors is alien to the Constitution as well as Hinduism of Kabir, Islam and Christianity! Indresh Kumar, the Margdarshak of the MRM prescribed the path of Muslims and Christians embracing Hindu nationalism or in other words, Hindu supremacy. Indresh Kumar wants the Muslims to realize this as the spirit and soul of India and promised the Muslims that all barriers would vanish if they did so. It is not Islam or Christianity that needs to Indianize as may be evident from the foregoing. It is the RSS and Hindutva ideology that needs to Indianize and give up Hindu supremacist positions of race and embrace the Constitutional morality of equality of all citizens irrespective of caste, gender, creed, race, religion, language or place of birth.