In his recent lectures in New Delhi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat made many right noises. He explained that the Hindu Rashtra does not mean it has no place for Muslims. The day it is said that Muslims are unwanted here, the concept of Hindutva will cease to exist. He also expressed his respect for the constitution. Indias diversity, he added, must be respected and celebrated and that it should not be a reason for any discord in society. He spoke for cow protection but he also spoke against lynching saying good cow protectors didnt break the law. Bhagwat had something telling to say about the current politics too: The politics of shamshaan, kabristan, bhagwa aatankwad is done by those whose only aim is to be in power…politics should be for the good of the people.
Statements like these came as a pleasant surprise to people. Many RSS observers started speculating whether the organizations worldview was in for a change. After all, the Hindutva organization has never in the past whole-heartedly adopted Muslims. At the same time, Bhagwat reiterated his stand on Ram temple and called for its early construction. Doing so, he said, would eliminate a big reason for disagreements between Hindus and Muslims and usher in peace. He also called everybody living in India as Hindu by identity, nationality.
And while he showed his respect for the constitution, he made it clear that the RSS doesnt accept Article 370 and Article 35A of the constitution. This has again stoked fresh fear in Kashmir and put the issue of Article 35A once again at the front and centre of the political discourse in the state. The deep public anxiety that had mercifully been moderated following the deferring of the hearing on the state subject law in Supreme Court has returned. The concern is likely to deepen further as the hearing draws nearer. As things stand, the union government has yet to make up its mind about filing the counter-affidavit in the court. This so, even when the major mainstream parties like National Conference and the PDP have boycotted the upcoming civic polls, pending an assurance from the centre about the fate of the all-important constitution provision that bars outsiders from settling in the state.
In the absence of the centre not defending the law in the court, all bets are off for the Article 35A. This has created a fraught state of affairs in J&K which will need to be handled very carefully, if the situation is not to tip over into fresh turmoil. There is an urgent need to once again reassure the people that Article 35A is safe and that RSS chiefs statements have no bearing on the union governments policy on the issue. And as far as Bhagwats outreach to Muslims is concerned, one would wish that the words are followed in practice.