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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

RSS-Jamiat meet
Thaw in Hindu-Muslim relations
By Andalib Akhter

New Delhi: With the elections round the corner, hectic activities are on throughout the country. Hindu and Muslim religious bodies too have become active along with political parties. 

Meetings, talks, dialogue and negotiations have begun between religious representatives of both the communities. The most important one is the recent talks between leaders of the RSS and Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (JUH).

Leaders of the two organisations met on January 14 to discuss wide-ranging issues that have created 'differences' between Hindus and Muslims. The meeting held at the JUH headquarters here was termed "successful." 

Maulana Niyaz Farouqui and Abdul Hameed Nomani represented JUH, while Indersen Kumar represented the RSS. Pandit NK Sharma, who heads Universal Association of Spiritual Awareness, was also present. He is said to be instrumental in arranging the talks.

Though JUH maintained that the meet was meant to remove mistrust between the two communities, indications from RSS and government suggest that the talks are being held to ‘remove hurdles’ in the way of construction of the proposed Ram temple on the Babri site at Ayodhya. 

The joint statement issued after the latest meet said: "In our discussion, we found that our country, ancestors and culture are common. The basis of patriotism or nationalism is the place of birth, not religion." 

Talking to The Milli Gazette, Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani of JUH said: "The meeting aimed at removing misconceptions from each other's minds. There are misconceptions about terms like jihad and kafir mentioned in the holy Qur’an. We tried to explain to them the real meanings of these words and their context." 

He added that this was just the beginning and many more such discussions were required to create a healthy relationship between the two. "Ordinary Hindus have no problems with Muslims. The suspicion is in the minds of the RSS. Therefore we are talking to them."

Indersen Kumar of RSS expressed happiness over the meet and said it was held in a ‘cordial atmosphere’. "We got to know each other well. The talks will continue further." He, however, added that the Ayodhya issue also came up for discussion during the meeting.

Earlier RSS spokesman Ram Madhav in an interview said that talks with Muslim leaders are moving positively and in the right direction. He said that: "We are ready to talk to anybody for the construction of Ram temple. We want to remove all hurdles in the way of Ram temple". 

It was the second such meeting between the two religious groups. The first meeting was held secretly on December 20 last year, and was attended by RSS leaders K S Sudarshan, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Ram Madhav. From JUH's side, Maulanas Mahmood Madni, Niyaz Ahmed Farooqui and Abdul Hameed Nomani were present.

The general impression among Muslim masses is that these leaders are discussing to find a formula to solve the Ayodhya temple-mosque row. "It is election time and a dialogue like this will go on for some time" commented Jamal Ahmad, a common man in Delhi. 

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, fighting the legal and political battle on Ayodhya, has criticised the JUH-RSS meeting. "We are looking for a possible solution to resolve the dispute. We are trying to find a formula that will satisfy both sides. There will be no loser or winner," said a leader involved in the negotiations. JUH is also an important constituent of AIMPLB.

The AIMPLB criticised the meeting saying JUH had no right to negotiate unilaterally on the Ayodhya issue. 

All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat’s president Syed Shahabuddin regretted that the JUH has fallen into ideological trap set by the RSS. In a statement he cautioned the JUH against accepting the RSS as the representative of the entire Hindu community which is overwhelmingly secular. He added that neither is the JUH the sole representative of the entire Muslim community. A dialogue, therefore, limited to them cannot bring about Hindu-Muslim reconciliation, he said. 

“The AIMMM once again requests the JUH leadership to reconsider the need for a dialogue, on the eve of the general election, with the RSS, which is fully and publicly committed to work for the return to power of its political front, the BJP. The AIMMM cannot believe that the JUH shares this political objective of the RSS when it is fully aware of the anti-Islamic ideology and anti-Muslim activities of the RSS, nor can it expect that the RSS shall secure the longstanding demands and aspirations of the Muslim community accepted by the BJP and included in its manifesto. The AIMMM is apprehensive that the real objective is a ‘deal’ on Babari Masjid site, which is not negotiable, and asks the Muslim community to remain vigilant against any such deal,” Mr Shahbuddin said in his statement.

"We have started from JUH because it is a very progressive group among Muslims. It is part of the Muslim board and Jamiat leaders are trying to convince the board members on the issue" a source in the RSS said. Maulana Nomani, however, said: "We are meeting RSS leaders not only to discuss Ayodhya. It involves talks on various issues".

According to sources, the idea of bringing JUH and RSS leaders to sit across the table came up during the visit of Pakistan's opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to India last July. He was invited by JUH. "Since then, we were discussing Ayodhya with both the sides," the source involved in fixing the meeting said claiming that the initiative had the full backing of the government. Deputy prime minister LK Advani said in Hyderabad that negotiations were going on for the construction of a temple at Ayodhya.

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