LIKE MANY OF THE recent ones that have gone before it, 2008 has been a year of fearfully ugly conversations. Sixty years on, as the pieties of a hardwon freedom have faded from view, the idea of India has come to be fought over in increasingly violent terms. Majority versus minority. Hindutva versus Soft Hindutva. Right versus Left. Left versus Far Left. Caste versus Scheduled Caste. Shining India versus Simmering India. Liberals versus Neo-liberals. State versus State. The Centre versus the Rest. And Jihad against it all. Right action has long been forfeited in India. Now, in an increasingly fractured polity, as power becomes ever more difficult to come by, most public figures have dropped even the fig-leaf of temperate speech. Shoot them, burn them, pay them back in the same coin, our leaders urge us. And maddened by their calling, maddened by the absence of the rational voice, like insane flocks behind insane shepherds, we rush to bloody our meadows.
What is this sense of rage and hate and injury driving us all? Are there embryonic seeds of genuine grouse beneath all the aggravated rhetoric? Are there real issues to be picked out of the violence swirling around us and examined in calmer, more neutral light? Fixed positions and an unbending sense of righteousness make one dangerously opaque. What makes extreme views most dangerous is that they are only the amplified face of a vast middle ground that thinks it feels the same injuries. It is a suicidal vanity, then, to label others and stop listening. Provocations, a series of interviews with stakeholders in the ideas of India, speaks to people across trench-lines. Airing our prejudice, triggering conversation. And, with luck, introspection.
Tell us a little about your life, and why you joined the Bajrang Dal.
I don’t think a publication like yours would be too interested in my life story, so I will keep it brief. I come from a middle-class joint family in Kanpur. My father died when I was very young. All my education was in Kanpur – I have a Bachelors’ in biology, a Masters’ in English and also an LLB. As far as my worldview goes, over several generations, we have been with the RSS and its organizations. The Bajrang Dal was formed when the Ramjanambhoomi Andolan took off. As young sevaks, we naturally got involved with the movement. If there had been no Sangh, we would not be here in this avatar.
But what about the RSS attracts you? What is this society you want to create?
See, no matter what you say, the basic thing is, Bharat is a Hindu rashtra and because it is a Hindu rashtra, Muslims and Christians can live with such ease here. What Muslims are doing in India today, they will not be able to do in any Christian country. Similarly, what the Christians are doing here, they will not be able to do in a Muslim country. The Sangh is driven by the view that as Bharat is a Hindu rashtra, it should develop in keeping with its culture and tradition. This is very inspirational for many people. Governments come and go, but the issues that face this country don’t get solved. We believe the only way the country will progress is if ordinary citizens are taught to be full of character, to believe in their ancestors and traditions and love their land in a way that they are willing to do anything for it. But we have people who defend terrorists just to boost votebanks. Our point is, youngsters should emulate Maharana Pratap not Jai Chand.
What is it you are alleging Muslims and Christians are doing in India?
It is in front of you to see! Under whose shelter are the terrorists in India operating today? Who were the Muslims who gave patronage to the terrorists in Batla House (in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi)? They are not from Pakistan or Bangladesh, they are people born out of this very land. You tell me, why can’t the Muslims of this country forge a collective forum and speak against terrorism? Who is planting Pakistan’s flags on Kashmiri soil? During the Amarnath yatra issue, who were the people shouting, “Jo Bharat ka yaar hai, samjho woh gadaar hai” (Those who befriend India are traitors)? Who are advocating allegiance to Pakistan? Even if the Kashmiris were upset with the Jammu road blockade – I don’t concede it was a blockade – but if they felt it was one, why not march towards Delhi, why march towards Muzzafarabad? I believe Muslims have to come out and take on these questions frontally. Until they do, this question will remain in people’s minds: true, not all Muslims are terrorists, but why are all terrorists Muslim? Read the India Today story where three terrorists were interviewed. Hear the Sahara TV interview with Abu Bashr and note all their talk of jihad. Why do Muslims feel they have to stake all of India and the world with Islam’s flag before they can rest in peace? They have to give up this way of thinking. As Hindus, we tolerate everything. But you tell me, where in the Bible is it written – “Sarve bhavantu sukhinaha” – The universe should be happy. The Bible divides the whole world into believers and non-believers. So does the Koran. But not our shastras.
If that is the case, why do you want to change this tolerance among Hindus?
Who is trying to change it? I am saying they can be happy here because Hindus tolerate everything. But they don’t want peaceful coexistence, they want to instate Islamic rule. That is why their community rises up to defend terrorists like they have in Azamgarh and Batla House. See, Hindus believe god can have any name, and the paths to god can vary. We have 32 crore gods and goddesses; it won’t hurt us if one more Mohammaden or Christian is added to the ranks. So what difficulty do Indian Muslims have in saying they are “Mohammamed panthi Hindus” or Indian Christians have in saying they are “Christ-believing Hindus”? After all, this is a Hindu nationality.
They are Indians, they are Bharatiya, why should they have to call themselves Hindus?
What is Bharatiya, what is not – that is a debate I don’t want to enter. What is the difference between being Bharatiya and Hindu? I see no difference.
What is your grouse against Christians?
Conversions. Large-scale conversions. Done through trickery and allurement and huge funding.
You just said another path to god should not bother Hindus. Converting is an act of choice, Christians aren’t forcing it.
Choice? How can there be choice where there is deceit. And, of course, there is force. You tell me, what is so special about Christianity that the entire Hindu population of a district will convert to it? The proof is in your face. When Gujarat, MP, Orissa and Rajasthan brought in the Anti-Conversion Bill, why was there such uproar among Christians? If you are not robbing, why should you fear a law against robbery? People call us communal; it is the Christians who have communalised education, not us. 95 percent of Hindus pay fees and study in missionary schools, but just because the management was Christian, they closed schools across the country to protest the incidents in Kandhamal! Did they ask whether Hindu students wanted that protest?
Why should Hindu students not protest the killing of innocent people? What do you feel about Kandhamal?
I am telling you there is no place for violence and taking matters in your hand in a democracy. But sometimes, these things happen spontaneously. Even Mahatma Gandhi who led the most non-violent movement in the world could not stop violence from erupting in places. Sometimes things are not in your control.
But he never justified it as natural. He called for penitence.
If you murder a man like Swami Laxmiananda — who was revered in the region, who worked for 35 years among the poor, ran schools for girls and brought Lord Jagannath into the houses of people not allowed into temples — and it is no ordinary murder, he is shot several times then hacked. The reaction is natural. Things are not always in your control.
But the Maoist commander Sabyasachi Panda claimed that murder. It was not a Christian attack.
It was not the Maoists. Locals were involved; the truth is starting to come out. Why are you insisting so much on the Maoists – does your publication have some relation with them? Panda gave two different statements. First he said they had done it, next he said they were asked by the Christians to do it. We have circulated a resolution from the Betikala Church, which asserts they were going to commit this crime on 23 August. The media is not highlighting this. Why don’t you investigate this?
Your youth camps, your rhetoric – it creates a predisposition for violence. As head of the Bajrang Dal, are you saying you don’t have control over your cadres?
What cadres? We don’t have any cadres. All of Hindu samaj is part of us, we are part of Hindu samaj – how can we control everyone? And we train our youth to shoot and fight because physical prowess creates self-confidence. Why don’t you visit one of our camps before you decide what they are about.
But in Karnataka, your convenor Mahendra Kumar proudly claimed the organisations’ attacks on churches.
What organisation was he talking about? He was asked to resign for saying this. He was also arrested. We are not running away from anything.
Did you ask him to resign for claiming the violence or for doing it?
I have already explained to you, violence should not happen, but reactions are natural. They are born out of catalyst actions. The attacks in Karnataka were mainly on prayer halls run by the New Life sect, which is funded 80% from outside and prolifically into conversion. They were circulating a booklet that describes our goddesses as whores. Why don’t you look at that book? It may not upset secular Hindus like you, but it certainly makes the rest of Hindu samaj angry. Things just got out of hand.
What about Graham Staines and his sons burnt alive? There was no provocation there, and no violent reaction from the Christian community .
There could have been a reaction from the Christians. That incident was done by an individual driven by extra zeal. But law has caught up with him. We have not come in the way of his punishment. But even there, the provocation was conversion activity.
Hindu society is so brutal and caste ridden, why should dalits and other castes not want to convert to a religion that gives them dignity?
You are right about the shortcomings in our society. I will not deny that. We do have to fix them, though you are exaggerating its extent. But that is what Swami Laxmananda was doing. That is why he was murdered.
What about the latest discoveries? Pragya Thakur of the Durga Vahini and some from the ABVP seem to be involved in the terror blasts in Malegaon. Worse, they apparently put Muslim stickers on the bike to make it look the work of radical Muslims. Earlier Bajrang Dal workers were killed making bombs in Kanpur.
The two who were killed had not been part of the Bajrang Dal for years. Pragya Thakur also has not been part of the Durga Vahini for 10-12 years. She had become a sadhvi. It is you in the secular media that are giving undue focus to this to give Hindu society a bad name. Why don’t you let the investigations finish before you jump to conclusions? Let the ATS (anti-terror squad) give its report. We are not coming in their way either in Kanpur or Malegaon. If these things are proved, I will comment on it then. At any rate, we are not turning Pragya’s house into a pilgrimage point in the way Muslims and you secular lot have turned Abu Bashr’s house or Batla House into a pilgrimage.
Maybe that is because recently it has been proved that too many innocent Muslims are being falsely arrested. But let’s get back to your ideal society. Does it have any place for people of other faith?
I have already told you — we want a society in which everyone is prosperous. Our chant is, may the righteous prevail, may the unrighteous be destroyed. What is the anti-Muslim sentiment in this? Are we saying Muslims or Christians should be destroyed? We are only saying all traitors should be destroyed. Those who live on this land and kick its womb, those who live on this land and praise Sadaam Hussein –
You brought up Kashmiri Muslims leaning towards Pakistan, but that has a complex history. Why mix Indian Muslims with Kashmiris?
It is not at all a separate issue. When the Amarnath land transfer issue came up, did any influential maulvi or Muslim leader issue a statement saying this pilgrimage is a centuries-old tradition going on from a pre-Islamic time, so what is the problem if a mere 100 acres of land is given for two months to build temporary constructions that will make the yatra smoother? And this is not new. In 1996, terrorists had threatened to stop the yatra itself. It is because of the Bajrang Dal’s determination that 50,000 Bajrangis went for the yatra despite that.
But it is local Muslims who help the yatra as well.
What helping! It’s just a source of income for them. If there was no yatra, they would have no income. (Don’t mind me shouting – I am from the Bajrang Dal, so my voice automatically becomes loud.)
I am saying, set aside Kashmir for a moment, it is a complex issue —
No, this is the problem with the secular media. What is so complex about the issue? There was an agreement; Kashmir was given to India. If Nehru had not kept the issue in his hand and had left it to Sardar Patel, there would be no issue today. If these eunuch governments would give up their impotency, there would be no issue today. I am neither concerned about the BJP nor any other party. It is because of the impotency of our political parties that the Kashmir issue is not sorted out and has got so out of hand. Why do they get such a free hand? They go over to Pakistan and make friends with them, and we sit and feed them biryani? They should be crushed, not treated like sons-in-law!
Your party was in power under Atal Behari Vajpayee —
Why do you think Atalji has been left to cool his heels? All I will say is this — it is because of what the BJP government didn’t do that both Atalji and the party are cooling their heels out of power now.
What about the excesses of the army?
This is the problem with you secularists! There is no army atrocity in Kashmir; there are no rapes. There may be just a few stray incidents. But terrorists are challenging the country’s security, the army fights to protect the country and you call those atrocities? On the other hand, you protest the killing of terrorists in Batla House? Do you know 70,000 soldiers have been killed defending this country since independence?
You keep throwing the word secular as if it is an abuse. By your reckoning, people like us who don’t subscribe to your
view aren’t Hindus?
It is a fact. Secularists have a fixed mindset. Even Raja Jai Singh was a Hindu, but he allied with Akbar to fight Shivaji.
So now you are casting us as traitors! This is all very simplistic.
No, we are just talking. But a new trend is developing in the country in the name of secularism, and this disease is affecting every wing of government, even the justice system.
Justice should have no colour. You were saying Muslims should issue fatwas against the blasts. Tell me, even you know innocent Muslims were killed in Gujarat 2002. Why do you not condemn that?
Were the 50 karsevaks who were burnt in the Sabarmati guilty? What happened afterwards was just a spontaneous reaction. Lots of time, even when we know something is wrong, our hands our tied. We have no control.
Just tell me whether it was right or wrong.
It was very unfortunate. It should not have happened. But the people to blame are those who burnt the Sabarmati. You cannot compare action with reaction. Reactions are born out of actions.
Your action-reaction theory has no end. By that logic, the Muslim girl eve-teased on the platform can excuse the burning of the Sabarmati. And if Muslim radicals are behind the blasts, one can excuse it by saying they are reacting to the Babri Masjid demolition, and Bombay 1992 and Gujarat 2002 riots.
There is a big and fundamental difference between action-reaction at a personal, local level and one that seeks revenge at a national level. If in reaction to what happened in Gujarat, Muslims want to create Islamic rule at a national level, there is a huge difference in the two reactions. The karsevaks were returning home, some locals burnt them, the reaction happened locally. If in revenge you use Pakistani money and guns, there is a huge difference.
What is local about Gujarat 2002? If some event happens in Chandigarh and in reaction our families are burnt in Delhi, will we see that as local and justified?
You may not feel that for the death of 59 people, but have you ever felt pain for the 10 lakh people who were killed during Partition? 40,000 Hindu women were raped then.
So you are saying Gujarat 2002 was not a local spontaneous response to the burning of Sabarmati but the product of a larger historical grouse against Muslims. In any case, Prakashji, why can’t you see this in human terms? The horrors of Partition visited both Hindus and Muslims.
No, the problem is, you are still weeping for Gujarat, but you have no thought for the way Hindu widows were driven naked out of Kashmir. Tell me, since Tehelka began, have you ever reported on how Pandits are being forced to live?
We have in our conferences, and we are also working on a story now.
Only now, driven by some selfish purpose, I am sure.
Just for one second, stop thinking about all this in Hindu-Muslim terms, think in terms of justice. All the Muslims in Gujarat were arrested under POTA —
I am thinking in terms of justice. I have already said what happened afterwards in Gujarat was unfortunate but spontaneous. But isn’t law catching up with that as well? Have we prevented the courts from taking action? We are only defending people within the framework of the courts. In the Afzal Guru case also, the courts let off two of his associates – if that is their decision, so be it. Like that in Gujarat they have let off some, but there have been convictions in the Bilkis Bano case and others. Proceedings are still on. You are only focusing on those who were let off, not on those who weren’t. Who are we to come in the way of the courts? Let them do their work. For Muslims you want proof before they are arrested but with Hindus, if we are let off, we are deemed guilty!
Wouldn’t it have been better if the BJP government had responded with a firm hand after the Sabarmati was burnt, prevented the pogrom, and gone after the real culprits instead?
Of course, and in a few days, again we would have been licked by the Muslims, again 60 people would have been burnt alive by petrol, and we would say, it’s good we are being crushed, we have been born to bear things and be crushed. If we so much as react we are offenders, but they can do anything and they will not be deemed wrong. Must we always take a beating? Will a society never get angry? Will its limit never be crossed?
If you continue with these divisive arguments, India will fracture completely. Leave the Muslims aside. How are we to look at the conflicts between Hindus? The MNS politics in Bombay. Bombay only for Marathis, drive the Biharis out. Ditto in Assam.
I am saying it is wrong. It is not good for the country and Raj Thackeray should think of the whole country. Instead of Biharis, we should all focus on driving out the three crore Bangladeshi immigrants that are being used as votebanks. Other than that, Bihar, UP, Maharashtra are all part of India – everyone has the right to travel or live freely.
But not Muslims —
How are you bringing Muslims into this? Where have I said Muslims should be driven out of India? Not once have I said that. We are only saying that the Muslims who feel an allegiance to Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or organize conferences that have AK 47s pasted across the globe or send emails like the Indian Mujadideen should be dealt with so firmly no one will ever dream of betraying the country again. We have never said Muslims shouldn’t pray in mosques or Christians shouldn’t go to churches. We are only opposing certain aspects or actions from them.
But why do you assert your views only in violent terms? If people don’t subscribe to your way of life, you unleash your wrath. Something as silly as Valentine Day couples, or boys and girls in parks —
‘Way of life’ has to emerge from this country’s soil. This soil does not give you permission to roam and dance naked in public.
You spoke with pride about our 32 crore gods and myriad ways of life.
No, no, it is because of conversations like this that our families and values are breaking down. Elopements are on the rise. Licentiousness has never been tolerated in our culture and this holds true for men and women. You talk of Valentine’s Day – do we have to import a foreign concept to teach ourselves how to love? There is love and love and only love everywhere in this country. Mother’s Day! Father’s Day! Are we going to learn how to love our parents from a culture that dumps its parents in old people’s homes?
These are just silly things. You don’t need a stick.
The stick is only used if things get excessive. Our point is, do we want our children to emulate Michael Jackson who gets caught every day in some shameful act, or do we want them to emulate Srawan Kumar who carried his blind parents on his shoulders to every pilgrimage point in India? These things have to be stopped. Do you know what sort of parties go on in hotels? I will tell you of an incident. We were opposing Valentine’s Day in Kanpur and in one hotel room we found a Class 7 girl lying naked. This is Valentine’s Day! This is not just a parental issue, we are part of this society and have an equal responsibility in instilling good values.
According to you India only comprises Hindu culture, but, in fact, it is the product of many historic and cultural layers. You deny this plurality. You even deny the tantric or erotic traditions within our own culture.
No, we don’t, but what is supposed to happen between husband and wife in a closed bedroom cannot start happening in public spaces. That is not our culture. And what are all these influences you are talking about? You must read Indian history through an Indian lens. We can’t make you understand anything because you have read the history taught by the British and your mind is already set.
One can argue for hours about the history you teach. But the VHP just put out an advisory to Hindus asking them to have more children. How can this be good for a nation already suffocating from over-population!
Again this is a natural reaction. The entire demography of the country is changing. We are being pushed down, taught family planning, but other communities don’t have to follow that and can marry three wives! If there was a uniform civil code, the VHP would not need to make such statements. As things stand, there is a insecurity in Hindu society. That is why we tell our people, if you can afford three, have four; if you can afford four, have five children.
Do you have statistics to back your fears? In any case, if you feel you have valid issues, why don’t you raise them outside the vocabulary of violence and hate?
We don’t need statistics, we know what is happening. Why don’t you conduct a survey? You will believe your own findings. As for language, it is because Nehruji spoke the language of appeasement — unke dari sehlate rahein — that we lost over 250 holy places and so much of our land. Why should we still talk the language of appeasement? Why is it that politicians are standing up for terrorists? Why is the Bajrang Dal being compared with SIMI?
You should introspect about that.
I don’t need to introspect. I know what the Bajrang Dal stands for and no one’s accusations are going to change that.
Tehelka’s Gujarat investigation exposed that every wing of the state had colluded not just in the riots but in subverting justice afterwards. And the people on our tapes were talking voluntarily –
Everybody has a tendency to exaggerate things. Even we do that —
That is not my question. If you say what happened in Gujarat was spontaneous but regrettable, confronted with our investigation, why did you not want to examine things further? Why accuse Tehelka of a conspiracy? Why does everything inconvenient become a conspiracy?
You can call the Nanavati Report a conspiracy but we cannot call yours a conspiracy?
We back our statements with proof, not conjecture.
I still maintain it is a conspiracy. You skillfully beguiled people into exaggerating. I don’t believe an organisation like the VHP can ever do something like this, but sometimes people do anything for political gain. So let justice take its course. Many have got convicted. We have accepted those judgements. You are selective about the truths you expose. You don’t have the courage to expose the fact that many ordinary Muslims are giving shelter to terrorists today. They have to stop this. We are not opposed to anything else about Muslims.
Let us move away from specific incidents. Which three or four big issues would you pick which, if addressed, would create peace in your eyes?
There is the Ram Janmabhoomi, Krishna Janmabhoomi and Kashi Vishwanath issue. There was a lot of discussion with the Muslims over this. They should have understood then that no Indian Muslims have come from outside of this soil. Several generations back, everybody’s ancestors were Hindu. So Ram cannot be compared with Babur; Krishna and Shiv cannot be compared with Aurangzeb. I think the Muslims squandered a big opportunity to create an atmosphere of goodwill at that time. If they had compromised over these three things, many issues today would have lost their teeth. Of course, we can still discuss things, but do any maulvis have the guts to come out and say vande mataram is not idol worship, merely an invocation to this land, Bharatmata? Do they have the guts to say, what is the need for Islamist jihad? Do they have the guts to say, everyone should respect the Indian flag unequivocally, especially Kashmir which enjoys special status under Article 370? We are ready to meet them halfway. I am ready to invite them to offer namaaz in the most holy temple of India. Our Ram or Krishna will not mind. But do they have the guts to invite us to read the Hanuman Chalisa alongside them reading the namaaz in any of their mosques? Where is the fight? Let them widen their hearts, our hearts are not small.
What are your other issues?
They must not challenge India’s sovereignity. They are welcome to pray and live in any way, but why must Indian Muslims take their directional cues from Arab countries? If Hindus live in America and look towards India for their cues, I will deem that wrong as well. If they are citizens of that country, they must abide by the norms of that country. Why do they revere Osama and Sadaam? Why was the ruling on Shah Bano subverted? All encounters are probed as a matter of routine to find out if the police made a mistake, what was the need to make Batla House a pilgrimage spot?
You are leaping from issue to issue —
My job is to leap. I am from the Bajrang Dal. Don’t mind my leaping.
You keep harping about Partition. Why not let those scars heal? After all you can’t punish the perpetrators, the players are all dead.
In fact, we want the Partition to end. That is why every August 14 we make thousands of youth pledge that whenever we have the strength we will undo the Partition. It was unnatural, illegal and we can never accept it. This may not happen in my generation, it may take many generations more but we will not let go off the dream. If Israel can be born 1,800 years later, then we can also reestablish Akhand Bharat. This is why the political establishments are after us – they know we threaten all their little political shops. This is why they are not afraid of terrorist AK 47s but are scared of our three-and-a-half inch trishuls. They understand that when our youth pick up the trishul, they get connected with a sense of their history.
To shift focus again, your campaign against MF Husain is very misplaced —
If you see nothing wrong in his painting of our devis, we cannot have any conversation! If as a Hindu woman, you can see a naked Hanuman seated on Sita Mata’s crotch and say there is nothing wrong in that, what bigger misfortune can Bharat face? You should join our Durga vahini and become familiar with your own culture. Why should we put up with Husain? Hindu shops were burnt in India because of some cartoons of the Prophet in Denmark, for you that is natural? And we just tear one of Husain’s paintings and we become villains?
We have strongly condemned the Muslim reaction to the cartoons as well as to Taslima Nasreen and Rushdie.
You are just an individual. I am talking of the whole secular spectrum. Tell me, what is wrong in our opposition to Husain? Muslims burn buses demonstrating against Taslima, so you send her out of the country. Why are you defending Husain? What is the need to show Sita minus her clothes? Will he paint Mother Mary naked? Will he paint his own mother naked? I say Husain should be punished in such a way no one in his family will remember how to paint seven generations later. If he ever comes here, I assure you there will be a spontaneous reaction to him.
If you know beforehand it is going to happen, how can it be spontaneous? You have the right to oppose. It is the undemocratic and violent way in which you do it which is the problem.
But this is happening because Hindu society is seeing that when Muslims raise a violent hue and cry about anything, they are not dealt with a firm hand. Everybody falls over themselves to appease them. So Hindu society thinks, this is the route we should also take. Now everyone is shouting for us to be banned. Let the elections come, we will go among the people, then everyone will get their answer. We are going to create such a political change in the country that Hindu sentiment cannot be played lightly with anymore.
Whenever something doesn’t please you, you threaten that people will get an “answer”. Is this your euphemism for violence?
No, we are not promising only violence. I will give you an example. During the Amarnath yatra issue this time, lakhs of people signed up voluntarily to go to jail. Jammu was closed for 41 days; the movement went on continuously for 63 days. One and a half lakh youth, four and a half lakh women volunteered arrest. These are not small numbers. When I say “we” will give an answer, I mean Hindu samaj — I don’t mean any organisation. Awakening Hindu society is our only job.
How do you justify your demographic insecurities? We are a billion plus. Minorities barely make up 18 percent. Orissa has 95 percent Hindus –
Don’t look at it at a national level. Go to the particular district and see. There used to be a few thousand Christians there, now there are several lakhs. Why did only particular portions of India become Pakistan and Bangladesh? Because they were Muslim majority areas. Why are there secessionist movements in Christian dominated regions of the north-east? In the future, there might be fresh talk of partitions. They will raise their populations then ask for partitions. You will not understand these things. We do not oppose Muslims per se, we only oppose statements like Abdullah Bukhari who said recently that they will create such a movement, things will be worse than 1947.
These are extreme views. Statements like his are criticised by everybody.
No. Read the history of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. Read what Muslim leaders said on the discussion table. They said what proof do you have that this is the birthplace of Ram? What proof do we have that our fathers are who we think they are? For centuries we have believed that Ayodhya is Ram’s birthplace and Muslims can have the courage to ask us for proof of that! One of them said that if tomorrow my wife delivers a baby in a Boeing 737, am I going to take the Boeing? This is the level of conversation there was. Despite the fact that you and I are hostile to each other and think so differently on things, we have been able to talk for a couple of hours. You have been able to question me on everything. I can guarantee you will not be able to have such a conversation with a Muslim leader. If you do manage such a conversation, I will accept I was wrong and start listening to what you say. I do not want to criticize the Koran, but if they say that the Koran teaches that kafirs should be defeated and this will be rewarded with heaven, shouldn’t Muslims themselves debate this? You asked why there can’t be discussion instead of violence — why don’t people like you debate these things? Today every Muslim looks suspect to me and to others. Why is this the case? Because one does not see openness and a desire for discussion among them. There may be a few who want to debate and discuss, but largely Muslims themselves are not ready to talk about all the secularism you are talking about
Many influential maulvis have recently put out a fatwa against militant jihad.
That is just drama! It is too little too late.
What can one do if you denounce even positive things?
That is because one does not see a genuine change of mood and desire for dialogue among ordinary Muslims. We might have different mothers and cultures, but why can’t they accept the three big important cultural references of this land – the cow, the Ganga, and the motherland Bharatmata as motherland as being a part of their lives? These could have a common sanctity between us.
Why must you insist on these things? Every culture has its own beliefs. There are other ways of coexisting. All this divisive talk has no end. Hindus, Muslims, Gujjars, Meenas.
There is a big difference between different Indians fighting domestically over a share of the State’s pie and those who challenge the very sovereignity of India.
With regard to Muslims also, it is a question of equal opportunity. The Sachar Committee report —
No, no, please don’t compare the two. Don’t compare the desire for jihad and Islamic states with fights over domestic government handouts. I come back to the simple point I made earlier: I am ready to invite Muslim maulvis to read the namaaz five times in the most revered temple in Kanpur. Are they ready to let us read the Hanuman chalisa just once in the Jama Masjid or any of their mosques? The uncomfortable truth you don’t want to face is that they are not open. On any issue, let Muslims take the initiative, every road will open up. Go back to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement itself. You will find the only reason the talks broke down so totally is because Shri Shahbuddin made that incendiary statement: “What proof do you have Ram was born here?” If you question our very identity, the basic fount of our culture — Did Ram exist or not — what discussion can there be? Let them take the initiative on anything. Let them amicably give us the three birthplaces, and there will be no more fight. Does any Muslim leader have the courage and statesmanship to initiate talk on this?