Meeting of Maulana Madani and Mohan Bhagwat, the Jamiat and the RSS chiefs, sets cat among the pigeons

The meeting between Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind (A) chief Maulana Arshad Madani and Mohan Bhagwat on Friday triggered a storm in the Muslim community. But none of the two has spoken on what was discussed

Meeting of Maulana Madani and Mohan Bhagwat, the Jamiat and the RSS chiefs, sets cat among the pigeons

S Khurram Raza

The first ever meeting between the two, which is said to have lasted an hour and a half at the RSS office in Delhi at Jhandewalan, has set the cat among the pigeons. Several agitated Muslims wonder why Maulana Madani agreed to call on the RSS chief at the RSS office and why their meeting could not take place at a neutral venue.

There is also speculation over what was discussed. A close aide of Maulana Madani told NH, “no, no, we can’t say anything on the Buzurgwar (the elder) and his meeting.” But while no Muslim leader is prepared to say anything on record, a measure of the respect and clout enjoyed by the Jamiat chief, off the record they fumed and made no secret of their uneasiness. The meeting, some of them said, would also erode the respect and authority that the Jamiat chief enjoyed.

The RSS, they quickly pointed out, had taken it as a tactical victory and would be gloating at the Jamiat chief personally calling on Bhagwat at the RSS office. Earlier the RSS had invited Madani to listen to a series of lectures by Bhagwat at the Vigyan Bhavan but the Jamiat chief had politely declined and had stayed away.

But while the perception is that the meeting was set up at the behest of the Jamiat chief, sources say that it was the RSS which had sent overtures. The meeting was on the anvil for several months and while the RSS chief had expressed his desire to meet Maulana Madani before the general election, the latter had prudently decided to wait till after the election.

Sanjay Pandey, who is the RSS in charge of its school programme, Saraswati Shishu Mandir, is credited with arranging the meeting. Pandey, who hails from Dehradun, is said to have been impressed with the educational institutions run by Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind. Pandey was also impressed by the fact that a large number of non-Muslims also studied in the engineering schools and B.Ed colleges run by Jamiat in Dehradun, Punjab and Rajasthan besides other places.

Sources close to Madani claim that when Pandey had called on the Jamiat chief, the latter had conveyed his displeasure with the RSS to him. Once this was conveyed to Bhagwat, the RSS chief expressed a desire to meet the Maulana.

Critics of the meeting point to the irony that the Jamiat, which played a stellar role in the Independence struggle, agreed to a meeting with the RSS, which played no role in the freedom struggle. “ Surely the two community leaders would not have discussed how to maintain communal harmony and lead the country to prosperity,” is the acerbic exclamation that one hears again and again from Muslims across the board.

In the absence of authoritative information, speculation is rife that the two may have discussed the situation in Assam in the aftermath of the NRC. The more charitable have speculated that the two might have discussed a resolution of the Babri Masjid demolition and dispute over the Ram Temple. But sources close to the Maulana claim that the Babri Masjid issue was not discussed at all. Instead, they claim that the discussion centred around the mob lynching, insecurity among Muslims and discrimination.

Significantly, some of them blurted out that the Maulana did not mince his words at the meeting and said he remained opposed to the ideas of the RSS, Savarkar and Golwalkar. But they also added that the Maulana indicated that in national interest Jamiat would always set aside ideological differences and work together.

Observer feels that tough days are ahead for Arshad Madni and this time it could be tougher than 2008 when Jamiat split into two as differences appeared between uncle (Arshad Madni) and nephew (Mehmood Madni). Both the Jamiat factions claims to be the real Jamiat.

But even as his followers point out that RSS needs the Maulana more because of the goodwill and support that he enjoys in the community, the Jamiat head clearly has a lot of answering to do.

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