Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat has said he is concerned about the current “atmosphere of disharmony,” former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi told NDTV. Mr Quraishi was one of the five Muslim intellectuals who attended the 75-minute meet with Mr Bhagwat last month. The dialogue, he said was “positive” and “constructive” and covered aspects of mutual concern.
The group had sought the meeting in August, weeks after Mr Bhagwat’s statement questioning the need to “look for a Shivling under every mosque”. In the backdrop of the Gyanvapi case and its effect on other religious places, Mr Bhagwat had also said the RSS – the BJP’s ideological mentor — does not favour any other movement (“andolan”) on these issues.
The group had flagged their concern about the situation in the country, Mr Quraishi told NDTV in an exclusive interview today. “Mr Bhagwat said even he was worried,” Mr Quraishi said. “I’m not happy with the atmosphere of disharmony. It is completely wrong. the country can move ahead only with cooperation and cohesion,” he quoted the RSS chief as saying.
Mr Bhagwat, he said, shared a couple of points that were of particular concern to him. One was cow slaughter, which upsets the Hindus, he said.
“So we said it is banned practically across the country. The Muslims are law abiding and if anyone violates it, it is a huge mistake and there should be punishment,” Mr Quraishi said.
The other was the use of the word “kafir”, which “gave the Hindus a bad feeling”.
“We said the originally in Arabic, the word means non-believers. Some people believe in Islam, they are called “Momin”. The non-believers are “kafir”. It was a neutral word and now it has become abusive. We don’t have a problem stopping it,” Mr Quraishi said.
The Muslim group, he said, made the point “that some right-wing people call Muslims jehadi, and Pakistani”.
“They are suspicious of Muslims’ loyalty and want them to prove their patriotism at every turn. The Muslims are also Indians,” Mr Bhagwat, he said, agreed. “We share the same DNA. The majority of Muslims here are converts,” he quoted the RSS chief as saying in response.
“He gave us much assurance. His statement on Shivling was also very strong and we welcome it,” he added.
The session, initially supposed to be for only 30 minutes, stretched to an hour and quarter, Mr Quraishi said.
Besides him, it was attended by Delhi’s former Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, former Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University Lieutenant General Zameer Uddin Shah, former MP Shahid Siddiqui and businessman Saeed Shervani.