Bangalore(PTI): Taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to transform the party's membership…
New Delhi(Firstpost): It is not easy being a Muslim member of an RSS outfit.It is still more difficult being a Muslim outfit of the Sangh seeking votes for the BJP. But despite the suspicion they arouse in the community and the tough questions they have to handle, members of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), are all set to lead an aggressive campaign for the saffron party in Muslim majority areas in Delhi, especially the riots affected localities ahead of the assembly elections.
“Like Lok Sabha elections 2014, we will reach out to Muslims, who are considered a Congress’ vote bank, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of development. Our women volunteers will go door-to-door and convince women folk to vote in favour of the BJP as it is not untouchable. In addition, we will also organise baithaks (meetings) in every house hold,” MRM national convener Mohammad Afzal told Firstpost.
“We are a socio-political organisation and our sole aim is to promote harmony and bridge the trust deficit between the two communities. Through us, the RSS has extended an olive branch to the Muslim community. And now, it is the turn of Muslims to reciprocate with the same passion,” he said.
When asked how he will counter the common perception about the RSS being an anti-Muslim organisation, Afzal said, “Lack of communications and misunderstandings between the RSS and the Muslims community has led to the prejudices and wrong perceptions. MRM is trying to eliminate it through a continuous dialogue process.”
“Samaj ko kaise sudharna hai yeh hamen RSS se sikhna hoga. Yahi hi ek aisi sanstha hai jo har tarah ke social issues par kaam karti hai jaise education, mahila sashaktikaran ya health.
Asked whether they have been approached by the BJP for campaigning, he said, “No. But we will leave no stone unturned in backing the party.”
There is a contrast in the political ideology of MRM members and that of BJP cadres. “We do not have any political ambition. We are not at all assigned the responsibility of mobilising minorities for the party but we do this voluntarily,” MRM’s national co-convener Dr Shahid Akhtar told Firstpost.
“We want socio-economic uplift of the community. We want to bridge the gap between majority and minority communities. We want to bring out Muslims from the mental pollution that the BJP is untouchable. We ask the community to rise above the communalism-secularism binary and think what pseudo secular Congress has done for their betterment in the past 60 years,” he explained.
Interestingly, there is a difference of opinion between Akhtar and MRM’s national organisational convener Girish Juyal on RSS’ ideology of a Hindu Rashtra and religious extremism of its affiliates like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. While Akhtar admits that there are religious fanatics in the RSS and says that the MRM does not “support the idea of a Hindu Rashtra”, Juyal says the VHP and Bajrang Dal never indulge in violence.
“Our aim is to bring the two communities together. Yes, there are fringe elements on both sides and they think that it is impossible to bring Muslims and the RSS closer. We fight against these extremist lobbies within the RSS. On the other hand, Muslims also have leaders like the Owaisi brothers who always keep on attempting to make brother turn on brother through their hate speeches,” says Akhtar.
Contrarily, Juyal, supposedly close to senior RSS leader and MRM margdarshak (guide) Indresh Kumar, argues, “It is a propaganda created by the media that Sangh affiliates Bajrang Dal or VHP instigate riots, do moral policing or indulge in violent activities. It is a misrepresentation of these organisations.”
“We want to eliminate all the differences between the RSS, its affiliates and Muslims and bring them closer” he further added.
MRM was floated in 2002 at the initiative of the then RSS chief KS Sudarshan to provide a platform to Muslim voices. It has made huge inroads in the backward section of the community through its social welfare programmes. But general Muslims appeared to be skeptical of the MRM because of its RSS connections.
Questioning the motive of the group, Nadeem Akhtar, a resident of Shaheen Bagh, said, “Those who slit pregnant Kausar Banu’s belly, removed the foetus and killed it with a sword during the 2002 Gujarat riots are now extending a hand of friendship. Development is fine but not at the cost of innocent lives.”
“Favouring any political party would not benefit the community. It better develop its own leadership. All political parties want Muslims votes, but nobody speaks for them in case of crisis,” says Ameem Ansari, a resident of Dwarka.
Areeb Rizvi, a sociology student at Jamia Millia Islamia, believes that “there is no Muslim vote bank as such and there never was”. “Muslims vote like any other community. But voting for BJP is a decision regarding which all of them irrespective of their sectarian, caste, class, spatial, linguistic and political differences would conform to uniformity and won’t vote for them. This conformity is the product of the slanderous campaign unleashed by the party against the Muslims by repeatedly projecting their existence as antithetical to the Indian society. And approaching Muslims by any RSS-affiliated organisation is merely a reiteration of the illusionary Muslim vote bank myth,” he argues.
Asad Ashraf, a resident of Jamia Nagar’s Ghaffar Manzil, says, “If the MRM wants Muslims to vote in favour of the BJP, it should ask its mentor – the RSS – to come clean on its involvement in several riots, including 2002 Gujarat genocides, and blasts in Mecca Masjid, Ajmer, Malegaun and Nanded. It should also ask the RSS to clear its stand on reservation for Muslims, discuss the syllabus of Saraswathi Shishu Mandirs, providing RSS sarsanghchalak post to a Muslim, tribals, backwards, Dalits, Christians and Sikhs alternatively and providing proportionate number of tickets to Muslims in assembly and parliamentary elections, not from Muslim constituencies but from all the constituencies.”
Meanwhile, the BJP, which is confident of its victory in the upcoming elections here, has special plans for Muslim majority areas. It has identified 12 constituencies, which have higher concentrations of Muslims. As part of its membership drive, which will begin from Wednesday, the party has decided to hold special programmes the minority dominated areas to tell them about Modi’s vision of development.
“We will reach out to Muslims and let them know about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of development. We will tell them how promptly the government in the Centre defused the communal tension in Trilokpuri and Bawana areas,” Delhi BJP Minority Cell chief Atif Rasheed told Firstpost.