The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s observation that there was no need to search for a ‘Shivling’ in every mosque and start a new dispute everyday must be welcomed. More such voices of moderation and reconciliation are needed at a time when attempts are being made to flare up religious emotions based on contested history.
The Sarsanghachalak’s views are widely followed and typically reflect the predominant thinking among the Hindutva ideologues.
Bhagwat made it clear that the RSS was not in favour of launching any movement on the Gyanvapi mosque issue and suggested the Sangh would keep away from Mathura and Kashi and, instead, focus on “character building (Vyakti Nirman)”.
The RSS chief has struck a conciliatory note. This should hopefully defuse the tension sparked by the polarising claims and counter-claims which is showing signs of turning into street mobilisation, in a distressing rerun of the Babri Masjid episode.
Mohan Bhagwat’s call for an amicable settlement between Hindus and Muslims on the Gyanvapi dispute, or acceptance of the court verdict, came with an assurance that the RSS was not in favour of launching any other movement on such issues, Ayodhya having been an exception.
Taking that as the final word or a marker for an end to any temple reclamation in future would be difficult, seeing the momentum generated by the right-wing groups and the pattern being followed.
Cynicism and distrust would accompany even the most unlikely scenario of all Sangh Parivar constituents resolving to not dig into the fractured and complex layers of history anymore.
That said, Bhagwat has infused a whiff of calmness and pragmatism in the surcharged atmosphere with his message that it made no sense to escalate fights centred on incidents linked to the history of a place of worship, and start a dispute every day.
“There is history which we cannot change. We didn’t write that history, neither the Hindus nor the Muslims of the present. It happened in the past” — though coming quite late in the day, the words do lend sanity to the noisy debate that threatens to escalate into a communal frenzy.
The obsession with the project to reverse historical ‘wrongs’ is an endless pursuit that only leads to committing new ones.
The speech needs to be viewed as a direct appeal to tone down the rhetoric. If the RSS belief system holds any meaning for the BJP, it should take the lead and ask its rank and file to step back. Disputes related to matters of faith will keep emerging, but it takes a dominant force to fan the fire or snuff it out.
After the November 9, 2019 judgment of the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya dispute, the Sangh Parivar organisation appears to have put on hold the campaign to claim possession of other disputed places in the country.
While supporting the Hindu claim over the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi on grounds of both issues of faith and historical facts, the RSS chief, however, advised his fellow ideological travellers to accept the decision of the judicial system in the matter.
However, the problem is that the very people who have been hunting for ‘Shivlings’ in every mosque are either directly linked to the universe of the RSS, or are members of the many new Hindu identity assertion groups that have sprung up.
Since the Gyanvapi dispute erupted in April, many Hindutva supremacists have made claims about the existence of temples and Hindu idols at mosques across India.
Amid the Gyanvapi row, a petition seeking an inquiry into the ‘history’ of Taj Mahal was rejected by the Allahabad High Court last month. Days later, a Delhi court hearing a plea seeking restoration of Hindu and Jain deities inside the Qutub Minar complex had reserved its order