When the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in an official event that Indian Muslims have the first claim on the country’s resources, there was not a squeak of protest from the Left-liberals as well as community leaders over the blatantly appeasing remark. When political leaders who have crafted their agendas around the Muslim community routinely call for Muslims to unite to achieve the common good — whatever that ‘common good’ means — they are not castigated for communalisation. So, why is there such a brouhaha when RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently asked Hindus to unite by rising above caste and regional affiliations? He called for such unity not against fellow Indians of other religions but to ensure that the world did not “take advantage” of India.
Given that more than 70 percent of the country’s population is Hindu, surely enhanced Indian unity is not possible if the Hindus remain disunited on parochial considerations. But the Left-liberals and sections of the Muslim clerics have taken umbrage to Bhagwat’s statements, which he made in an address to RSS workers in Meerut, and have accused him and the RSS of fomenting polarisation. They conveniently forget that he had also said, “We don’t just see unity in diversity. We recognise the diversity of this unity (in the country). That is why we respect and celebrate diversity.”
It is difficult to understand, by any stretch of the imagination, how an appeal to the Hindu community to shun caste divides and be seen as one, can be communal. In fact, several of the RSS critics themselves have been crying hoarse about the caste malaise. Bhagwat has said nothing new; the RSS has for decades spoken out strongly against caste discrimination, and it has moved away far from its earlier image of an upper caste driven organisation. Quite a few of its senior leaders and chiefs have come from the non-upper caste groups. The RSS has been able to establish its footprints in remote regions of the country, including in tribal belts because it has forwarded a caste-less approach. Given that the RSS is the head of the Sangh Parivar umbrella of which the BJP is a component, it is natural that the BJP would seek political benefits from the appeal. There is no denying that the party would gain enormously if there is a consolidation of Hindu votes in large parts of the country, if not all over. But there is nothing wrong here, so long as the idea is not directed against any particular religious group.