Comment

Dialogue over discord

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. File

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. File

There have been a lot of deliberations on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s speech on July 5 during a book launch function in Ghaziabad. The speech carries many firsts and sends a message to both Hindus and Muslims. Discussions in the media and in social and political groups may be taking place on the content of the speech, but there is no denying that it has ushered in a ray of hope for harmony.

A bold speech

Mr. Bhagwat stressed on two major issues, peaceful coexistence and initiating a dialogue for a composite culture, to be attained by safeguarding and following our own religious practices, cultures, and attire. Nothing is left for a tussle when the two communities share a motherland, culture, and ancestors.

Mr. Bhagwat’s speech has to be viewed in its entirety. The time has come for a new beginning. His bold outreach needs to be reciprocated. There may be issues, concerns, and even irritants during this journey but we have to overcome all this. Treading a peaceful path is the need of the hour.

There are many points in Mr. Bhagwat’s speech which we have to agree with without discussion. India is the motherland for both the communities. He has shunned the apprehension regarding his remarks — there is no need for confrontation. The fact that such a statement comes from the RSS chief itself denotes that Muslims should not live with any fear psychosis. When Mr. Bhagwat said that the DNA of Hindus and Muslims is the same and they have the same ancestors, it shows that proving one’s Muslim identity does not hold much ground.

It is true that incidents of mob lynching of Muslims are a matter of concern as they have endangered the life and security of the community. Mr. Bhagwat categorically condemned all such lynching incidents. He said that those who indulge in lynching are against Hindutva. The law should take its own course against such people without any partiality.

Mr. Bhagwat said Muslims should not live in a cycle of fear. This could instill confidence in the community. It is a fact that there is fear and apprehension in the community. There is no space for firebrand sloganeering that Islam is in danger, Muslims will be evicted, etc. Mr. Bhagwat himself candidly admitted that he can become popular with such rhetoric speeches but Hindus will themselves not support him.

The message from Mr. Bhagwat’s speech is also for the majority community. The fringe elements need to learn lessons from it. The sensationalisation of statements, such as ‘no Muslims will live here’, may get space in the media, but the majority community does not approve of such an attitude. The RSS chief has highlighted the fact that there may have been some mistakes and excesses in the past, but we have to move forward. He has also drawn a line for the political situation in the country. Unity emanates from camaraderie, not from politics. It will come from the continuous efforts of enlightened people, not through politics.

Emphasising unity

Not long before Mr. Bhagwat’s speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered an important speech to the Muslim community at the centenary celebrations of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in 2020. His speech was appreciated in India and abroad for emphasising unity while achieving common national goals such as Aatmanirbharta, women’s education, preservation of cultural heritage and equality of opportunity, while de-emphasising political and ideological differences.

It is within this framework that the speeches of both Mr. Modi and Mr. Bhagwat have to be appreciated. These are genuine attempts to engage with the community. More importantly, it is crucial that this be reciprocated by the Muslim community through dialogue. AMU can play an important role in facilitating this dialogue. Section 5(2)(b) of the AMU Act confers the university with the mission to promote the study of the religions, culture and civilisation of India. Towards this, the AMU, in its centenary year, established the Dara Shikoh Centre for Interfaith Dialogue. Dara Shikoh, a Mughal prince, was the founder of the academic movement for Hindu-Muslim dialogue.

For centuries, the two communities have lived in unity sharing a motherland, culture, and ancestors. Throughout the course of history, our rulers were different, but the country has remained one. This is what makes our Bharat unique. This is the message from this ancient land to the entire world. Any dialogue must take lessons from the past, live in the present and chart a peaceful path for the future. Let us move ahead with open hearts and minds.

Tariq Mansoor is Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University


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Printable version | Jul 5, 2022 4:48:20 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/dialogue-over-discord/article35289022.ece