Listen to Mohan Bhagwat – he means well | OPINION

Amid the Gyanvapi mosque row, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said earlier this week that there was "no need to look for a Shivling at every mosque".

Listen to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat - he means well, writes Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah.
Listen to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat - he means well, writes Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, on June 2, 2022, made some important statements in an attempt to douse inflamed communal passions. He said that the Gyanvapi mosque - Kashi Vishwanath temple dispute should be resolved by mutual discussion and consent. These were matters of faith and tradition, but “there was no need to look for a Shivling in every mosque. A court's decision, if sought, should be honoured”, he said.

He stressed that the RSS had already made it clear that its participation in the Ayodhya agitation was a one-time exception and it would refrain from undertaking any more agitations.

We cannot change history. During the Islamic invasion, thousands of temples were destroyed.
- Mohan Bhagwat

(There was certainly destruction of temples following battles - an age-old practice - but the figure quoted is contentious. Historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book ‘Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History’ asserts, ‘Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam’.)

On July 4 last year, in Ghaziabad, Mohan Bhagwat had made similar conciliatory statements during the book launch of ‘The Meeting of Minds - A Bridging Initiative’ by Dr Khawaja Iftekhar Ahmed. I was present and got a chance to interact with leading functionaries of the RSS, including my old contemporary Gen VK Singh (Retd). Their constant refrain was that the process of dialogue must continue.

Mohan Bhagwat was criticised by some hardliners who viewed it as Muslim appeasement. This necessitated some backtracking on his part as was apparent from his subsequent statements in Guwahati on July 22, 2021. He might face the same flak again.

A person of Bhagwat’s stature has to keep in mind sensitivities of all his constituencies and has to maintain a balance. His impassioned attempts at healing clearly indicate that he means well for the minorities. Amity is at the top of his agenda. I have profound hope in these well-intentioned efforts. I have, therefore, not lost hope. It is time for the hardliners from both communities to weigh his words, carefully, and carry forward the process of dialogue. Amity, across all sections, is essential for India’s progress.

(This article is authored by Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah (Retd), former Deputy Chief of Indian Army and former VC at AMU. All views are personal.)