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Minorities cannot live at the mercy of RSS
By Asghar Ali Engineer

Recently RSS advised minorities, especially Muslims that their safety depends on the goodwill of the majority community. Such statements by themselves do not create any goodwill among minorities. It almost amounts to veiled threat. All secularists and leaders of minority communities including Christians have rightly condemned this resolution passed at the Bangalore session of RSS

In fact all the communities should have each other’s goodwill. The safety and security of the country depends on harmony among all the communities. That is self evident. However, no community, whether in minority or majority can insist that its security depends on the goodwill of the other community. All communities and all individuals have equal rights according to the Indian Constitution. Every Muslim has as much rights as every Hindu. And according to the Constitutional theorists these rights do not accrue at the generosity of the Constitution makers but they are inherent rights, inherent in individuals as human beings.

It is strange when world is recognising cultural and religious plurality the RSS is rejecting it and going backwards. The West had not known cultural and religious plurality until the first half of twentieth century but when migration began from ex-colonial countries of Africa and Asia to western countries, they (the western countries) began to recognise cultural and religious plurality. The western constitutional theorists not only recognised religio-cultural pluralism but also accorded them equal rights. Let the RSS theorist note that Indians in countries like U.K. or USA or Canada do not live there at the mercy or goodwill of majority of those countries but live there as of their constitutional rights accorded them after they became citizens of those countries.

The rights accorded to Muslims and other minorities in Indian Constitution are no way conditional on goodwill of any community. These rights are absolute in every sense of the word. The Constitution makers like Nehru, Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Sardar Patel and others were well aware of the modern constitutional theory and the theory of inherent rights as individuals and hence they framed the Indian Constitution accordingly. The Constitution makers were not religious or cultural bigots as to make rights or security conditional on anyone’s goodwill.

The RSS which talks of Indian culture, is not aware of the fact that India was always home to various religions and cultures. West accepted plurality, as pointed out above, only recently whereas India was plural in every sense of the word for centuries. India did not owe its plurality to only those who came from outside i.e. Jews, Christians and Muslims, as repeatedly asserted by the RSS but also from within India there has always been plurality, both cultural and religious. In fact there never was one religion or one culture in this country. India has never seen religious or cultural homogeneity in its known history.

It is also not a settled question as to who is Hindu and who constitutes majority community. The word Hindu was hardly used in religious sense in India until 18th century. It were British rulers who began to use word Hindu in religious and homogenous sense. In fact during the first census in 1872 the census commissioner divided Indian population among Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and others. The census commissioner had hard time defining ‘Hindu’ in religious sense. The census commissioner’s report makes very interesting reading as far as the discussion on the concept of Hindu is concerned. He had very tough time defining it.

The word ‘Hindu’ in religious sense is a construct of the British rulers who wanted to divide India into religious communities to create animosity between them to make it easier to rule over them. Religious identities in India were never the principal identities of people. It is caste, linguistic and regional identities, which were principal identities, not the religious identities. Religious identities were far from being uniform. Each religion was divided into several sects and sub-sects and these were basis of autonomous communities.

Also, religion was never an important factor in medieval feudal politics. Land relations and class were far more important factors than religion in feudal politics. Religion was made an important factor only in colonial period, as religion was far more emotionally divisive than land relations or class. It was again during colonial period that the concept of religious majority and minority became important. 

This divisive concept on the basis of religion was countered by our freedom fighters and Congress leaders by adopting secularism. Thus secularism was our only guarantee for unity and integrity. The RSS leaders on the one hand, and Muslim Leaguers, on the other hand, were not happy with the concept of secularism. Both rejected it. The RSS was never comfortable with the concept of secularism. It is not even today. Time and again they have denounced it as ‘western concept’ not in keeping with the Indian cultural and religious ethos.
In fact the Sangh Parivar has always denounced secularism. The BJP began to call Nehruvian model of secularism as ‘pseudo-secularism’ and ridiculed it as amounting to ‘appeasement of minorities’. Throughout eighties the BJP attacked Nehruvian secularism though while merging with the Janata Party in 1977 they had accepted secularism and ‘Gandhian socialism’ and had taken pledge at Gandhi’s Samadhi to this effect. Since they wanted to come to power with the help of Janata party they accepted secularism without questioning it. But when they went out of power and separated from Janata Party they began attacking secularism. Is it not sheer opportunism. And the Sangh Parivar acts on advice from the RSS. 

Since the RSS rejects Nehruvian model of secularism which is the Constitutional secularism also, it talks of ‘Hindu majority’ as hegemonic and minorities at the mercy of the hegemonic majority. 

In fact this concept is totally undemocratic. Religious majority and religious minority are a different category from political majority and political minority. We have firmly rejected the concept of separate electorate for the same reason. Religious minority has some safeguards in the Constitution only to the extent of preservation of its religion and religious identity. Politically it may be part of political majority or political minority. The Indian Muslims have always been voting for secular parties, which, constitute political majority either in the Centre or in the states. Though a religious minority they have always been part of political majority.

The Indian national Congress firmly rejected the concept of two nation and it was this notion which resulted in division of this country. The two- nation theory came into being because of this attitude on the part of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS that religious minorities should be at the mercy of religious majority. It is a well-known fact that Vir Savarkar had propounded two -nation theory before Jinnah did in the Ahmedabad session of Hindu Mahasabha in 1938. 

We have entered a period of globalisation. Today no nation is mono-religious or mono-cultural. Due to economic migrations all nations are becoming pluralistic and hence pluralism is called a post-modern concept. All religious and cultural minorities are enjoying equal constitutional rights throughout the world. How can then RSS maintain that Muslims should earn goodwill of Hindus in order to secure their safety in India. It is totally against our Constitutional ethos and an insult to our Constitution makers and freedom fighters.

Such an attitude poses danger not only to Muslims but also to many others in India. Many dalit organisations maintain that they are not Hindus. Many followers of Ambedkar have renounced Hinduism and have embraced Buddhism. Will they not be on firing line after Muslims and Christians? And who will define who is Hindu? The RSS? It stands by only Brahmanical Hinduism and Brahmanical culture, Vedic religion and Vedic culture. Hinduism can be confined to any one scripture or any one cultural stream. Whenever you associate religion with politics religion tends to get more and more sectarian. The believers then cannot decide authenticity of their belief, it is politicians who will decide it. This is precisely what is happening in Pakistan and Jehadi Islam is becoming more and more ‘authentic’ Islam. 

And goodwill, it must be noted, should be multilateral, not unilateral in a genuine democracy. If it tends to become unilateral intolerance will grow and you cannot build democratic culture on intolerance. Violence and intolerance will destroy democracy and democratic culture. Unfortunately violence and intolerance is growing in India today as never before. The genocide in Gujarat is not a sudden development. It is the result of years of hate propaganda against minorities. What the Sangh Parivar is doing will not be acceptable by any modern democratic country. It is systematically destroying India’s age-old tolerance and pluralistic ethos. India had never witnessed such communal violence as it is witnessing in Gujarat.

India cannot become great nation by having nuclear weapons. It can become great only by ensuring implementation of Constitutional provisions. It cannot prosper by creating one controversy after the other against minorities. It can become great only by winning the hearts and minds of all, including minorities. 

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