In what is clearly an attempt to extend the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) outreach to the Muslim community, the organisation’s chief Mohan Bhagwat has been meeting various Muslim leaders over the past few days. On Thursday, September 22, Mohan Bhagwat even visited a mosque and a madrasa in Delhi and held discussions with All India Imam Organisation chief Umer Ahmed Ilyasi. This is the first time Mohan Bhagwat has visited a madrasa, an RSS official accompanying him said according to PTI.
The significant visits by the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ideological mentor came on a day multiple probe agencies conducted raids across the country and arrested around 45 activists of the Popular Front of India (PFI) for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.
Responding to Mohan Bhagwat’s meeting with Muslim intellectuals and clerics, AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi told reporters, “Everybody knows the ideology of the Sangh and these Muslim elites are meeting Mohan Bhagwat. They have nothing to do with ground reality.”
Mohan Bhagwat on Thursday went to a mosque in central Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg and followed it up with a visit to the Madarsa Tajweedul Quran in Azadpur in north Delhi. The visit comes days after the RSS chief held discussions with Muslim intellectuals for “strengthening communal harmony.” He recently met Delhi’s former lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi, former Aligarh Muslim University vice chancellor Zameer Uddin Shah, former MP Shahid Siddiqui as well as businessman Saeed Shervani.
During the meeting, Mohan Bhagwat reportedly raised the issue of the usage of the word “kafir” for Hindus, which he said does not send out a good message. The group of Muslim intellectuals, on their part, objected to some right-wing activists calling Muslims “jihadi” and “Pakistanis”. They also reportedly told Mohan Bhagwat that the real intent behind the word ‘kafir’ was something different but it is now being used as an abuse’ in some quarters.The RSS chief, it is learnt, acknowledged the views of the intellectuals and underscored that the “DNA of all Hindus and Muslims are same”.
Wide-ranging discussions were held on strengthening communal harmony and improving intra-community relations during the two-hour-long meeting, sources told PTI. However, no contentious issues such as the Gyanvapi mosque and controversy over Nupur Sharma’s recent comments came up for discussion during the meeting, they said.
On Thursday, taking forward his outreach to the Muslim community, Mohan Bhagwat met All India Imam Organisation chief Umer Ahmed Ilyasi in a closed door meeting at the Kasturba Gandhi Marg mosque that lasted more than an hour. Mohan Bhagwat was accompanied by senior RSS functionaries — joint general secretary Krishna Gopal, Ram Lal and Indresh Kumar. Sharing details of the meeting, Suhaib Ilyasi, brother of Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, said, “It was great that Bhagwatji came on our invitation on the death anniversary of our father. It also sends out a good message to the country.” The All India Imam Organisation is a representative voice of the community of Indian Imams and claims to be the largest imam organisation in the world.
During his visit to the madrasa, Mohan Bhagwat reportedly interacted with children and heard them reciting the Quran. Children raised the slogans of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Jai Hind’, a Sangh functionary accompanying him said. Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi reportedly referred to Mohan Bhagwart as ‘rashtra pita’ while talking to children at the madrasa. However, Mohan Bhagwat intervened to say there is only one father of the nation and said everyone is ‘Bharat ki santan’ (child of the nation), according to an RSS official.
“We discussed several issues for for strengthening the country,” Ilyasi told PTI, adding that Mohan Bhagwat had visited the mosque as well as madrasa on his invitation. “With this visit of Bhagwat, a message should go that we all want to work towards strengthening India. For all of us, the nation comes first. Our DNA is the same, it is just that our religion and methods of worshipping god are different,” Ilyasi said. Commentiong on Mohan Bhagwat’s meeting with Muslim leaders, RSS Prachar Pramukh Sunil Ambekar said, “Sarsanghachalak meets people from all walks of life. It is a part of the continuous general ‘Samvad’ process.”