Can you be a devout Muslim and a proud swayamsevak?
THE RECENTLY held election for Uttar Pradesh state Assembly was an eye-opener for many. Contrary to popular belief, many Muslims voted for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party was helped in a large part by the cadres of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), many of whom are Muslims, Christians and Sikhs with several years of association with the Sangh Parivar.
This begged the obvious questions — what brings the minorities to the RSS? Why do they join the organisation, which many consider to be the antithesis of secular politics in India? What are their backgrounds? Is there something more to Hindu Nationalism than Hindutva, as perceived by many? And do religious and sexual minorities have an equal space in India’s most powerful socio-cultural organisation with unmatched political influence?
To get answers to some of these questions, News18 spoke to several Muslims, Christians and Sikhs who work for the Sangh. The interviewees are from across the country and from all hues of the social spectrum — from surgeons to farmers, academics to businessmen.
While some minority members, like Lucknow’s Shabana Azmi, who likes to keep her association with RSS to herself, others, like Faiz Khan, publicly sing bhajans in praise of cows.
All these interviewees are devout practitioners of their own faith but have no compunction in attending shakhas or singing Hindu prayers. Interestingly, all the interviewees are in favour of Ram Mandir, but many disagree with the idea of a Uniform Civil Code or abolition of triple talaaq.
While some joined the RSS because of their family’s association with one of its 25-plus affiliated organisations, many were inspired by the speeches of senior Sangh leaders.
The profiles of these people reveal a lot about the organisation’s influence, which seems to be far greater than what is usually admitted by its detractors.