Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghachalak [supremo] of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) must be the most powerful person in the country. On a regular basis, he spells out policies of the RSS and its ‘world view’ on different occasions. His utterances are what the RSS combine—including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—believe and practice. He goes on to state that Indian Muslims are the happiest in the world because of Hindus. The parameters used by Bhagwat to come to this conclusion are not clear. Is he comparing the condition of the Indian Muslims with those from Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Sudan or Western World? The condition of Muslims all over the world is not uniform, and it has to be compared economically, socially and politically.
One must add that even in India, the condition of all the Muslims or Indians is not the same. We are a deeply unequal society. Still, generally, one can say that condition of religious minorities, dalits, Adivasis and women is worse. Bhagwat might be trying to compare the Indian Muslims with those from Pakistan or West Asia.
One must note that overall condition in our Muslim-majority neighbour, Bangladesh, has improved a lot; their overall social indices are slightly better than what we have in India. However, it is true that in India, Muslims—as a community—have some common afflictions due to their religious identity. This is broadly reflected in their overall economic marginalisation, social ghettoisation and in them being bypassed in the political processes in the country.
After Partition, the Muslims who chose to stay in India or who were forced to stay—owing to their situation—were blamed for the tragedy of Partition. Their marginalisation was not addressed due to the fear that those addressing this issue will be accused of appeasing the minorities. Their economic downslide was the major issue which affected a large section of the Muslim society.
To add to this, the post-Partition communal violence, which started picking up in 1960s, later assumed horrific proportions—especially after the Ram Temple movement. The violence against the Muslim community continued unabated. This, in turn, led to the social ghettoisation of the community, affecting its social and political standing.
The Rangnath Mishra Commission and then Sachar Committee were appointed to assess the condition of the Muslims in India. The results were revealing and confirmed the general impression that the socio-economic condition of the Muslim community is on decline. Their condition was much worse when compared to that during the latter part of the 1940s. Of course, Bhagwat and his tribe ignored these reports.
In the aftermath of these reports, when then Prime minister Manmohan Singh stated that the deprived sections of society should have first right on the resources, the followers of Bhagwat distorted the statement to say that Congress wants Muslims to have first right on the national resources. In front of the massive propaganda machinery of RSS-BJP, clarification by the Congress—that they believe that all deprived sections should have first right—was lost in the din.
Adding to the ongoing communal violence, the issues of cow lynching, ghar wapasi and Love Jihad were cleverly floated and the divisiveness of the impact of these issues further marginalised the Muslim community. So how do we see these claims about Muslim community having the best situation in world? The claims are also that since we have been a Hindu Rashtra, the people of other nations were coming here when persecuted in their own countries. These claims have been in the case of the tiny Parsi and Jew communities. This claim is totally based on the false premise that there was a Hindu nation from earlier times.
We know that earlier there were scattered Kingdoms, different kings had their policies where the people were coming and going. It is a unique geographical situation of India that many communities came and settled here. The latest population genetics studies show that Aryans did come from Persia nearly 3,500 years ago, while the first human beings came here over 70,000 years ago from South Africa.
Today, we see a large number of Hindus of Indian origin in many countries in South East Asia and many a Western countries, among others. Populations have been migrating in different geographical areas and adapting to the new areas of their settlement.
The claim of Bhagwat, of India being Hindu Rashtra, is totally in contravention to the opinion of leaders of freedom movement. Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar, Sardar Patel and Nehru saw India as a nation in the making with its religious and other diversity. Their ideas got crystallised in the Indian Constitution. It begins with “We the People of India”. It is very frightening that RSS combine wants us to believe that we have been and are Hindu nation.
As a believer of Hindu nation, Bhagwat has on the one side been calling all Indians as Hindus, which goes against the Indian Constitution and the self-perception of the people themselves. Now RSS has also begun to use the word ‘diversity’. That’s a sham. The real test of their ideology comes from their campaigns like Ram Temple, cow-beef lynching, ghar wapasi and love jihad. These issues have been dividing the society along religious lines. Dalits are equal victims of the issues raised by the Hindutva agenda, like cow-beef.
The condition of Muslims has practically been relegated to that of second-class citizenship. It is no wonder that the opinion of Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir was not taken into consideration before abolishing the Article 370, which is being displayed as a badge of courage by BJP. The index of a democracy’s health is assessed by the well-being of the minorities and vulnerable sections of society. In this situation, to claim that Muslims in India are best placed in the world, is a cruel joke on the community.