Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that RSS will distance itself from any such movement after the Babri-Ram Mandir issue should be welcomed with guarded optimist as its components like VHP and Bajrang Dal are unlikely to give up their campaign on that front.
DR. JAVED JAMIL
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s latest statement on the Mandir-Masjid issue is welcome. He stated that the RSS will not take part in any such movement after the Babri-Ram Mandir issue. Whether this represents a change in position of all the components of the Hindu brigade or is only a strategy to keep the RSS away while others keep agitating is to be seen in coming days.
Had such a statement come from the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, it would have really meant something. It may be that strategically, organisations like VHP and Bajrang Dal will continue to agitate on that front while the RSS and the BJP will take a relatively reconciliatory stand. In all likelihood the debate on the Mandir-Masjid issue will continue to hit the country.
The combined Muslim population of the Indian subcontinent is about 30 percent of total population. It means that around 30 percent of Hindus converted to Islam in the last one thousand years. This in turn implies that there might have been a large number of localities where almost the entire population of the locality converted. In that case, if there was a place of worship in that locality owned and built by the populace of that area, what would be the obvious eventually? In all likelihood, they being the owners would turn the place of worship according to their new faith. They might not be extra careful in not using the parts of the old building in the new building. Of course, they did not anticipate that this would be used by Hindus in future to lay claim on the building on the ground of its having been converted in the distant past.
This has always happened and will continue to happen. Whenever there is change of power the new dispensation changes certain buildings according to their own ideas and plans. The buildings built by the British are being used by Indian government according to their own ideas. Even the buildings built by Muslim rulers, Taj Mahal and Red Fort being the most notable examples, are being used by the Government of India for their own programmes.
Masjids in areas like Punjab were converted by the local people in different ways after Muslims migrated to Pakistan. If say in another two hundred years more Hindus accept Islam, more temples can become mosques. If Hindu dominance increases, more mosques can be converted into temples.
A special case is that of mosques like the Gyanwyapi Mosque and Mathura Eidgah which are claimed to have been built after the demolition of temples on the orders of Mughal emperors and there are no Muslim localities nearby. But what needs to be given a thought is that if a single mosque was built in a city in such a way, though such a claim needs to be proven to be true, while hundreds of other temples remained as before, there might have been some special reason. These places might have been the ones used by new Muslims and they might have appealed to the rulers to help them.
The fact that in today’s Varansi and Mathura, the ratio of Hindu and Muslim places of worship in relation to their respective percentage in populations is slightly in favour of Hindus supports this. With close to 3,000 temples and shrines dotting the city’s landscape, Varanasi is often referred to as the City of Temples. In fact, each lane of this ancient city houses one or more temples. In contrast, there are only 415 mosques.
As per official census 2011 and population data 2022 of Varanasi district, Hindus constitute 84.52% of Varanasi population while Muslims form only 14.88% of the total population. In Mathura, the difference is huge. Islam is the second most popular religion in the city of Mathura with approximately 17.22 % following it. But while mosques are only a few, the existence of more than 5,000 temples dedicated solely to Lord Krishna and his love for Radha ensures that millions of devotees visit these on pilgrimages every year.
Bhagwat also talked of the difference between two religions saying that Islam came from outside. I wish he understood the reality of the origin of Islam. Islam literally means peace and defined as total submission to One God, is only a culmination of the earlier versions of God’s religion, which included Indian religions in their original (and not the present distorted) shape.
In fact, Hindus showed greater obstinacy in remaining committed to their traditional beliefs, as two third of them did not get enlightened to the new version. In contrast, Arabian, Persian, Malay, Central Asian, African and Indonesian populations showed much bigger appreciation of Islam, which did not condemn the old religions and scriptures but confirmed their truthfulness in their original form.
The description of Ram in the Valmiki Ramayan and Abraham in the Bible is almost the same. It appears that Aryans who migrated to India from Central Asia produced an Indianised version of Abraham. This is noteworthy that while hardly any big community in India traces their origin to Lav and Kush, the majority of Middle East, including Israel and Arabs, trace their roots to the two sons of Abraham.
It is an irony that while Abraham is known in Biblical and Islamic literature as a big symbol of monotheism who openly campaigned against idol worship, in India, his own idols are being worshipped. It had been a tribute to his struggle if Ram Mandir was built in his name but to worship the One God whom he worshipped.
As I have always maintained, religion is a binding, not a disintegrating, force. The condition is that religious morality rather than religious identity should be the driving vehicle. It is the religious identity that combines with economic and political fundamentalism to engender communalism. Religious morality breeds tolerance, love and brotherhood; communalism breeds hatred, disunity and destruction. Religion brings peace; communalism brings chaos. Religious people embrace everyone irrespective of their faith; communal people distance others. I believe that sooner than later the RSS and other organisations will realise the importance of the unity of Hindus and Muslims not only in maintaining peace in India but also in advancing the cause of morality at the individual, family and social levels.
We can only hope that sanity will soon return and India’s democratic and secular values will again start reigning supreme.
Dr Javed Jamil is a thinker and writer of over twenty books including his latest, “A Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’ān”.
His email address: firstname.lastname@example.org