The credit for the present compilation goes wholly to Dr. Shreerang Godbole. It was his letters written to us in August-September 1996 which prompted us to circulate in October 1996 an 8-page brochure - Time For Stock Taking: A Swayamsevak Speaks - which we reproduce below:
Dr. Shreerang Godbole is a young medical practitioner at Pune in Maharashtra. He has been a swayamsevak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for seventeen years. We have received from him the two documents which we are reproducing in the pages that follow. He has given us permission to circulate them widely among the Hindu intelligentsia with a view to elicit Hindu response.
The first document carries his comments on eight formulations which have been popularized by the Sangh Parivar in recent years. These were presented by him to a Seminar held at Pune on 27-28 July 1996 under the aegis of Prajna Bharati in order to review the political scene in India after the 1996 Lok Sabha Elections and the fall of the first BJP government at the Centre. Participants in the Seminar included Sarvashri K.S. Sudarshan, Murli Manohar Joshi, Dattopant Thengdi, K.R. Malkani, S. Gurumurthy, Devendra Swarup, Muzaffar Hussain, P. Parameswaran, and M.G. Vaidya, among others.
The second document is a letter which he wrote on 8 August, 1996 to Shri K. S. Sudarshan, Joint Secretary of the RSS, regarding Sarva Panth Samadar Manch (a platform for extending equal honour to all ways of worship) floated some time ago by the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) which works in the labour field under RSS inspiration. The moving spirit of the Manch is Shri Dattopant Thengdi, though it is presided over by a Parsi gentleman from Nagpur.
The two documents speak for themselves. We invite Hindus in general and members of the Sangh Parivar in particular to respond to the issues which Dr. Godbole has raised. VOICE OF INDIA will welcome all responses, and publish them in due course so that leaders of the Sangh Parivar may know how the Hindu intelligentsia view the latest Sangh slogans and strategies.1
We have only two brief comments to offer:
A study of Hindu-Muslim relations since the foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 tells us that Muslims have been making demands - ideological, political, territorial - and Hindu conceding them all along. Yet the Muslim problem remains with us in as acute a form as ever. With the advent of petro-dollars and the emergence of V.P. Singh, Laloo Prasad, Mulayam Singh and Kanshi Ram on the political scene, Muslims have become as aggressive and intransigent as in the pre-Partition period.
It has become a habit with Hindu leaders to take Hindus for granted and bargain with Muslims on the latter’s terms. Leaders of the Indian National Congress have taken Hindus for granted from 1885 till today. Now leaders of the Sangh Parivar look like following the same path. Hindus have to decide as to how long they are going to be taken for granted.
VOICE OF INDIA
16 October, 1996
Attitude of Hindu Organisations
towards Muslim Problem
Comments offered by Dr. Godbole at the Pune Seminar
With the rising Hindu resurgence, the policy of Hindu organizations towards Muslim problem is receiving attention. However, the statements of certain Hindu leaders make one feel that there is fundamental ideological confusion among Hindu leaders vis-a-vis Muslims. These statements, particularly as they come from respected Hindu leaders, create and perpetuate misconceptions among Hindu masses about true nature of Islam. Let us examine a few of these misconceptions.
1. What is the harm in adding Jesus and Muhammad to the 33 crore Hindu gods and goddesses?
Semitic religions like Islam and Christianity look upon Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets (Last Prophet) and Jesus as God’s only Begotten Son respectively. They reject all other gods except Allah and God [of the Bible] respectively. When Muhammad himself started ‘rejecting other pre-Islamic Arab goddesses like Al-Manat, the pre-Islamic Arabs (Quraiysh) tried to bring the Prophet to a compromise, offering to accept his religion if he would so modify it as to make room for their gods as intercessors with Allah, offering to make him their King, if he would give up attacking idolatry’ (The Holy Quran, English translation by Marmaduke Pickthall, p.6). Prophet Muhammad rejected all pleas of the Quraiysh and destroyed all idols and pictures existing then in the Ka’aba. The real question is whether Islam allows addition of any God other than Allah, not whether Hindus are willing to include Muhammad or Allah.
2. All religions (including Islam) lead to God.
Some Hindus think that it is against Hinduism to criticize other religions. The openness of Hinduism should not be used to sanction the dogmas of other religious groups, though it does not prevent us from respecting the Truth in whatever form we encounter it. ‘If we are seeking to climb a mountain, several routes are possible but not all are equally valid. Moreover, following a path that leads away from the mountain will never take us to the top, whatever that path may be called. Spiritual practices are like different vehicles. Some are like airplanes, some are like bullock carts. While all may take us somewhere, they are hardly all on the same level, or all equally recommended for travel’ (David Frawley alias Vamadeva Shastri, Arise Arjuna, Voice of India, p.6).
3. Islam is good but Muslims are bad.
The fact is quite the reverse. Muslims minus their Islam are as good or bad as any other human beings, The pre-Islamic Arabs and Turks were tolerant people, It was Islam that brutalized them, If Muslims renounce Islam, they will also become tolerant.
4. If Muslims are told of their common ancestry, they will unite with Hindus.
How foolish! As if Muslims are not aware that their forefathers were converted to Islam. However, for Muslims, pre-Islamic period is a period of darkness (jahiliya). Prophet Muhammad is himself reported to have said that his mother and beloved uncle were sent to Hell because they were non-Muslims.
5. Congress used Muslims. Congress treats Muslims as vote banks. We (BJP) will treat Muslims as human beings.
The fact is again quite the reverse. It is not Congress that used Muslims but Muslims that used the Congress to achieve their political purposes. As long as Congress was powerful, Muslims voted for it. Now that it has become weak, Muslims have dropped it and opted for Third Front. Also, Muslims view themselves as a vote bank. In recent elections they did tactical voting to keep BJP out of power. It is not important how BJP views Muslims but how Muslims view BJP. For Muslims, BJP leaders are Kafirs and will be cut up if Muslims seize power.
6. Sufis are tolerant Muslims.
In fact, Sufis were the most fanatic of Muslims. Shah Waliullah who raised the cry of Pan-Islamism in recent times was a Sufi. Eaton’s Sufis of Bijapur has been banned by our Government because it exposes the fanaticism of Sufis.
7. Muslim leaders are responsible for the ghetto mentality of Muslims.
It is not Muslim leaders but Islamic theology that is responsible for the ghetto mentality of Muslims. Page after page of Quran and Hadis tell Muslims how they are superior to the Kafirs, how Kafirs are impure, and how one should not make friends with them. The Hadis even tells Muslims to build houses only in those places from where even smoke coming from the house of a Kafir will not be seen! Is it then any wonder that Muslims live in ghettos?
8. Namaaz offered on a disputed site (like Ayodhya) is not acceptable to Allah.
This is plain nonsense. Nowhere is any such thing said in Quran and Hadis. In fact, both books repeatedly exhort Muslims to destroy idols of other religions.
Let us read Quran, Hadis, Sunnah (Life of Prophet). Then we will realize that to assimilate Muslims into BJP/RSS is like assimilating Marxists into BJP/RSS. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Marxism, Nazism all believe in One God, One Prophet, One Book, One History, They are exclusivist ideologies and reject all accommodation and assimilation. It is only when Muslims are cured of Islam that they can be assimilated. Muslims should in fact be viewed as victims of Islam. Every effort should be made to expose Islam. Like Marxism, Islam is also bound to crumble one day.
Letter written by Dr. Godbole to Shri K. S. Sudarshan
You might recall that I had recently put forth before you, my views on ‘Hindu organisations and the Muslim problem’ at the national meet of Prajna Bharati at Pune. Due to lack of time, I could not touch upon a very disturbing development viz. the formation of ‘Sarva Panth Samadar Manch’ by the Sangh. I am placing my views on the same for your kind consideration.
As I had outlined, the Muslim problem is essentially a problem of Islam and its theology - the Quran, Hadis, Sunnah all cultivate an exclusivist, separatist, imperialist political mind-set of its adherents, In this respect, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism, Nazism, Fascism are all similar, It is only when followers of these ideologies outgrow/renounce these ideas that lasting peace is possible. There are encouraging signs that the foundations of Islam are showing cracks - many Muslims have begun to question the basic premises of Islam. Like Marxism, Islam as an ideology is bound to become a museum-piece. It is a pity that instead of encouraging the downfall of exclusivist ideologies, Hindu organisations, wittingly or otherwise, are giving props to them e.g. Sarva Panth Samadar Manch. The following issues arise in this context:
Does ‘Sarva Panth’ include only ‘panths’ arising from Bharatiya darshan and non-Biblical non-Bharatiya spiritual practices? If so, I welcome such a Manch. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.
If it includes Islam and Christianity (which seems to be the case), why should it not include Marxism, Nazism and Fascism?
If the Manch is aimed at Muslims and their assimilation, I find the whole exercise naive and futile. ‘Sarva Panth Samadar’ goes against the very tenets of Islam. Instead of repeating parrot-like that all religions are alike, why don’t Hindu leaders bother to open the Quran and read it for themselves? It is a disservice to Muslims also to be told that Islam is an ideology worthy of equal respect. That a large section of humanity is in the thrall of such dangerous ideologies should be a matter of concern to us. PARADOXICALLY, MUSLIMS SHOULD BE VIEWED NOT AS OPPRESSORS BUT AS THE GREATEST VICTIMS OF ISLAM. THEY SHOULD BE WEANED FROM ISLAMIC IDEOLOGY.
If the Manch is aimed at Hindus, then Hindus anyway don’t need your preaching of ‘Sarva Panth Samadar’ - in fact they already have had too much of it. WHAT HINDUS NEED TODAY IS NOT SARVA PANTH SAMÃDAR BUT SARVA PANTH CHIKITSÃ. It is only then that they will see through and beware of political ideologies masquerading as religions. Outfits like the Manch are by definition useless in this respect because they start with the assumption that all religions are worthy of equal respect.
The concept of ‘Sarva Panth Samadar’ is even more dangerous than the concept of ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhav’ mouthed by secularists. With the latter you are at least allowed equidistance from all religions. With the former, you actually ask me to show equal respect to Sanatana Dharma and Islam.2 This is not acceptable to me. Instead of indulging in verbal jugglery (Gandhian socialism, pseudo v/s true secularism, sarva panth samadar etc.). Hindu leaders should shed their intellectual inferiority complex and present a true Hindu world-view.
The question is - are Hindu leaders going to remain stubbornly ignorant and like Gandhiji’s monkeys refuse to see and hear evil?
I hope you will excuse my frankness. I trust you will understand the anguish felt by a junior swayamsevak like me.
Information about the formation of the Sarva Panth Samadar Manch could not be included in the brochure because it was conveyed to us by Dr. Godbole after the brochure had been printed and put into circulation. His letter dated 21 October 1996 carried the following para:
Some information about ‘Sarva Panth Samadar Manch - Founded on 16 April 1994 at Reshmibaug, Nagpur before the samadhi of Dr. Hedgewar during a meeting of state and national level functionaries of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. The inaugural meeting of the SPSM was inaugurated by (who else?) Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. The all-India President is Prof. Jal Gimi, ex-VC, Nagpur University. The vice-Presidents are Shri Sukhnandan Singh, Shri Akhtar Hussain and Shri Gopi Masih. Offices and office-bearers of the Manch were formed all over India on 23 July 1994 (founding day of the BMS). The Manch observes 25 March as ‘National Integration day’ as it is death anniversary of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi.
This letter from Dr. Godbole was received by us on 1 November 1996. On the same day we faxed the following message to A. Ghosh of Houston (Texas, U.S.A.):
Sarva Panth Samadar Manch was formed on 16 April 1996 before the Samadhi of Dr. Hedgewar in Nagpur. It was inaugurated by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, blue-eyed boy of Sangh Parivar and leading light of Tablighi Jamaat, a wide-ranging movement for extinguishing all traces of Hindu culture from the consciousness and behaviour of Hindu converts to Islam. They insist on converts eating beef at a public meeting and marrying within degrees prohibited by Hinduism.
Ghosh had already received a copy of our brochure and written to us a few days earlier that it was being published as a full-page advertisement in the forthcoming Divali issue of the India Post, a weekly published from Los Angeles (California, U.S.A.). We had conveyed to him a brief characterization of the Tabligh movement on the basis of our extensive studies of it over the years. And we were happy to receive by airmail a copy of the India Post dated November 8, 1996 in which the brochure had been reproduced in full on its page A-21 with our fax message as a footnote in bold letters.
We may add here that the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) was launched in 1955 by Dattopant Thengdi who is known, in the words of Dr. Godbole, as ‘the tallest intellectual of the Sangh Parivar’. His writings over the years go to show that he has not only swallowed heavy doses of Marxism but also developed a soft corner for Islam. The fulsome praise he had lavished on Prophet Muhammad in an article published in a Special Number of the Sangh Parivar’s Hindu weekly, Pañchajanya, in 1986 had caused considerable stir in Sangh circles. We had received quite a few telephone calls and letters from swayamsevaks asking us to write a rejoinder giving the true facts about the Prophet. But we had better things to do than engage in debate with a wilfully blind and overconfident strategist of the Sangh Parivar. In any case, we knew from our experience that no mouthpiece of the Sangh Parivar would dare publish even a syllable doubting the wisdom of a Sangh stalwart.
The present compilation consists of five Sections and two Appendices.
Section I carries two articles - one by David Frawley which he was kind enough to e-mail on our specific request, and another which was written as the working paper for a Seminar held at the Deen Dayal Research Institute, New Delhi, in 1983. This section provides the perspective to the sections that follow.
Section II which is the core of this compilation includes 62 responses to our brochure. We had mailed more than a thousand copies of the brochure to regular readers of Voice of India publications in India and abroad. We had sent it also to those participants in the Pune Seminar who had been named by Dr. Godbole in his first letter. In addition, we had addressed copies to all leaders of the RSS, VHP, and BJP who normally function from New Delhi. One hundred copies of the brochure had been sent to Dr. Godbole who reported back that he had mailed it to ‘all state and local functionaries of the RSS, BMS and affiliates in Maharashtra.
We received a total of 64 responses - 61 in English and three in Hindi. Two of the responses in Hindi were mainly devoted to denunciation of polytheism and idol-worship in Hinduism and were not at all relevant to the issues raised in the brochure. The names and addresses of the writers were also not quite clear. One of them was obviously written by a Muslim posing as an Arya Samajist. Both of them had to be discarded. The third response in Hindi has been included after being translated into English. This Section, therefore, carries 62 responses - 46 of them in separate chapters, and the rest (16) in a single chapter as they are brief.
The responses have been presented in an alphabetical order with reference of the surnames of the writers, in order to avoid the impression (or accusation) that we have given priority to some responses over others. We have not italicized or printed in capital letters a single word or sentence unless it was so emphasized in the original script. The language of the writers has been tempered with at no point except for correcting some spellings and straightening out some sentences. And we have edited out only those portions from some of the responses which were either irrelevant or repeated points already made.
Section III is intended to draw a clear distinction between Dharma on the one hand and Dogma on the other. It consists of two articles. The one by David Frawley has been reproduced from the inaugural number (January-March 1997) of Prajna published from Hyderabad. The other is a presentation by Suresh Desai of the Hindu Vivek Kendra, Bombay, to a Christian Seminary in that city. Permission for including these articles in this compilation has been sought and obtained from the authors.
Section IV was not a part of this compilation as it was originally planned. It took shape as we received, one after another, photocopies of six reviews of a very profound study of Islam - Why I Am Not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq - published in the U.S.A. in 1995. We did not know that such a book was in print till we received a copy of it from A. Ghosh after the reviews had arrived. Ghosh had neither seen the reviews nor sent them to us. They came from friends in the U.S.A. and England who frequently mail to us material which they think may be useful for us in our work. The reviews have been written by outstanding scholars of Islam in the West, and published in well known journals in the U.S.A. and England. They came as a providential windfall as if to confirm Dr. Godbole’s point that ‘Muslims should in fact be viewed as victims of Islam’ (see p. vii above).
Ibn Warraq is the pseudonym of the author who says in his Preface: ‘I was born into a Muslim family and grew up in a country that now describes itself as an Islamic republic. My close relatives identify themselves as Muslims: some more orthodox, some less.’ The message of the book is contained in a passage quoted by Ibn Warraq from the famous French philosopher Ernest Renan: ‘Muslims are the first victims of Islam. Many times I have observed in my travels in the Orient, that fanaticism comes from a small number of dangerous men who maintain the others in the practice of religion by terror. To liberate the Muslim from his religion is the best service that one can render him.’ We have named Section IV in words emphasized above.
In Section V we have reproduced 30 reports from various newspapers regarding sayings and doings of some Sangh Parivar leaders aimed at winning over Muslims. They cover a period from 1994 to 1997. They speak for themselves. The meaning of isolated reports read at random is most likely to have been missed by readers who are supporters of or sympathise with the Sangh Parivar. But when they are read together, they are revealing as we have observed in naming this Section.
Appendix I is devoted to identifying, in a historical framework, the Tabligh movement to which Maulana Wahiduddin Khan belongs. We wonder if the Sangh leaders who patronize the Maulana are aware or have ignored the facts we have documented, from his own book and other sources. And we are not at all sure if the warning conveyed by these facts will be taken seriously by the Sangh strategists.
Finally, in Appendix II we have reproduced two studies on the problem posed by the flood of Muslim infiltrators from Bangladesh. The first study is a district-wise survey of the population explosion in West Bengal. The survey is based on the 1991 Census figures and has been documented by the South Asia Research Society, Calcutta. The second study was published by The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, in February 1996 in a series of three articles by a former Governor of West Bengal and a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, Government of India. The complete silence which now prevails vis-a-vis this very serious problem is deafening indeed. The Sangh Parivar has also fallen in line with the ‘secularists’ after making some half-hearted noises before the 1996 Lok Sabha elections.
We are not drawing any conclusions from the material presented in this compilation. It is for the readers, particularly those belonging or sympathetic to the Sangh Parivar, to see if the Parivar has gone astray from the path which had been chalked out when the RSS was launched in 1925.
A companion volume to this compilation is being published simultaneously. It is named Bharatiya Janata Party vis-a-vis Hindu Resurgence. The author, Koenraad Elst, is well known to readers of Voice of India publications, and needs no introduction.
Voice of India
26 June 1996
Responses should be typed, and not hand-written. Anonymous responses will not be considered. ↩
In a subsequent letter written to us, Dr. Godbole comments: ‘Incidentally, if they feel that Sanatana Dharma and Islam are worthy of equal respect, I see no reason for the VHP to continue its campaign of ‘Paravartan’ of Muslims and Christians.’ ↩