Dr Abhay Kumar
The mainstream media has once failed to critically examine Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement in which he claimed that “the happiest Muslims are indeed those of India” (Sabse adhik sukhi musalman Bharat desh ke hi hain”). Some of them have even published a few articles in praise of Bhagwat and the RSS.
Ironically, at the time of Bhagwat’s statement, hateful campaigns against Muslims were going on in connection with an advertisement by the popular jewelry brand, Tanishq. Those who virulently spoke against the jewelry advertisement alleged that the Tanishq advertisement ‘promoted Love-Jihad’, a conspiracy theory designed by the Hindutva forces to demonize Muslim men for feigning love for Hindu women and marrying them later to spread conversion and alter the religious demography in the country.
“Why I see a Hindu daughter in law everywhere, why don’t you show Muslim daughter in law everywhere? Just asking,” a Muslim baiter, calling for boycotting Tanishq advertisement, posted a comment on social media a few days after Bhagwat’s statement. The Tanishq, which belongs to the Titan Company of the Tata Group, was so scared about the Hindutva’s uproar that it had to pull down the advertisement because of the “hurt sentiments”.
The Tanishq controversy belies the claim of the RSS Chief. Many have raised the pertinent questions that if a giant corporate house like the Tata Group had to withdraw an advertisement in which a daughter-in-law happens to be a Hindu girl, is it not a pointer to the deep-seated prejudice and hatred against the Muslim minority? If prejudice and hatred are a reality in the society, how could the Indian Muslims feel most happy?
Unfortunately, the mainstream media does not question Mohan Bhagwat’s claim. Nor does it look into his eyes and ask if Muslims are most happy in India, why have their representations in education, employment, assembly, and parliament been declining? How could Muslims feel most happy in India when they continue to face attacks on the pretext of cow slaughter and ‘Love-Jihad’? How could Muslims feel most happy in India, when they are overrepresented in jails and many of them are framed without much evidence in anti-terror laws? How could Muslims feel happy, when Mohan Bhagwat’s own political outfit, the BJP, never misses an opportunity to communalize a purely secular issue?
The mainstream media does not dare to raise these issues. Nor is it willing to be a spokesperson of the marginalized communities, including the Muslim community. In most of the cases, it appears to be going along with the agenda set by the ruling establishment.
Note that Bhagwat’s interview has been originally published by a Hindi monthly ‘Vivek’ and later it was reprinted in The Panchjanya (October 18, 2020), a Hindi mouthpiece of the RSS. In this detailed interview, Bhagwat has made several statements that go against the constitutional principles of secularism, minority rights, and pluralism. For example, he does not rule out the possibility of an Ayodhya type of Hindutva campaign to be launched against Muslim religious places in Varanasi and Mathura. Moreover, he has called India ‘Hindoosthan’ (the land of Hindus) and stressed the ‘Hindu’ nation, instead of a secular nation, a clear violation of India’s secular Constitution. He has brazenly said that “the meaning of India is Hindu” (Bharat ka arth Hindu hai).
How the mainstream media is becoming more and more saffron can be gauged from the fact that several articles, particularly in Hindi press, have come in support of Bhagwat’s statement but hardly has anything written, questioning the Hindutva narrative.
On October 11, a first-page editorial was written by Aditya Narayan Chopra in Punjab Kesari (New Delhi). He claimed that Bhagwat’s statement reflected the reality of India. His article called Mohammad Ali Jinnah a “traitor” (ghaddar). Chopra said that he was created by the British rule during the Freedom Struggle, holding him responsible for the division of united India and a separate country. He said had the partition not taken place, a large number of Muslims would not have lost their motherland.
Two days later, Firoz Bakht Ahmed, the chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, wrote an article in Punjab Kesari in praise of Mohan Bhagwat. To substantiate Bhagwat’s claim, he indulged in telling unsubstantiated facts: “In countries like France, Russia, and China naming a new-born child as Muhammad is banned and they [Muslims] are living a life of hell in detention camps”. He even claimed that “Muslims in Russia cannot block the road as seen during the Shaheen Bagh campaign, nor can they construct mosques there. In France, Muslim women are not allowed to wear hijab. Take the example of Pakistan where Sunni Muslims are butchering Shia Muslims and vice-versa. Pakistan has several sects of Muslims such as Qadiyani, Mehdi, Ahmadiya, Memon, Muhajir. They all suck the blood of each other and blow up mosques and schools”.
While Bhagwat said India is the land of happiness for Muslims, Firoz Bakht Ahmed was proving that outside India, Muslims are living in hell. Both Bhagwat and Ahmed are hiding the reality by indulging in wild generalization.
After a few paragraphs, Ahmed could not hide his political loyalty as he said that “the opposition does not know that the RSS is a nationalist (rashtravadi) and loyal (wafadar) organization. The leaders of the RSS, i.e. Mohan Bhagwat, Dr. Krishna Gopal, Indresh Kumar, generally come from a science background. The members of the RSS participated in the 1962 war. As a result, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru included a band of the RSS in the Republic Day function in 1963. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, praising the organization, said that it is a patriotic (deshpremi) body and it should be imitated”.
In his piece, Ahmed did not give any facts about how the socio-economic condition of Muslims is better than the Muslims living in other parts of the world. Nor did he compare the condition of the minorities in India and the state of those living elsewhere. What he did was to put incoherent and unsubstantiated arguments in praise of Mohan Bhagwat and the RSS. His article also came down heavily on the secular opposition parties. But the most unfortunate part is that the editorial team of the newspaper did not ask the author to substantiate his claims with the facts before getting it printed.
The next day, Ujjwal Duniya (Ranchi, October 14) also published an article by Dilip Agnihotri. He again mouthed the Hindutva line. “We have got Muslims and Christians. They have got all rights, but Pakistan had not given all rights to its minorities”.
Remember that the examples of Pakistan have been often cited by Hindutva forces to prove that India is a “paradise”. Even they attack secular forces in India for “appeasing” Muslims, while remaining silent on the Hindu minorities in Pakistan. However, they deliberately ignore the fact that the nature of political systems in India and Pakistan are different and they cannot be compared all the time. Even if it is accepted that Pakistan is not treating its minority equally, it cannot be a ground for mistreating India’s minorities as ‘one wrong’, as the proverb goes, ‘does not justify another’. Even the constitutional experts have argued that dismissing Pakistan’s political system and the constitution is not correct as the constitution of neighboring countries has many progressive elements.
These complex issues are often ignored by the Hindutva forces to hide backward social, political, and economic conditions of Indian Muslims by exaggerating the “hell”-like-condition of the minorities outside India.
(Abhay Kumar is a Ph.D. from JNU. He is broadly interested in Minority and Social Justice. Earlier, he held a Post-Graduate Diploma in English Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, and worked as a Delhi-based reporter with The Indian Express. You may write to him at [email protected]).
-This piece was originally published on Countercurrents