In private conversations, several opposition leaders say they were disappointed with Jamiat chief Maulana Arshad Madani’s decision to meet Mohan Bhagwat at Keshav Kunj, the RSS office at Jhandewalan in Delhi.
“When we speak of secularism, it is about minority rights. Now if leaders of minority groups are willing to break bread with the RSS and bow to communal forces, it is undoubtedly a setback to us,” admitted one of them on the condition of anonymity.
Another leader was even more forthright. “For whom have we been fighting? After this meeting, we will need to re-think our own position,” he said.
Even community leaders in the Muslim community feel the Maulana did not think through the consequences before meeting Bhagwat. “Surely, before taking such a momentous step, he should have taken us into confidence. This meeting has shaken our confidence, especially because even a week after the meeting, there is no clarity on what they discussed,” said one of them bitterly.
In the absence of any authoritative account of the discussion, there are wild speculations that personal reasons forced the Maulana to reach out to the RSS. Some people in the community speculated that the Maulana possibly agreed to the meeting to discuss the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute while others are convinced that unabated mob lynchings were the trigger for the meeting.
But could they have met at a neutral venue, wonder some while venturing that by going more than half way to meet Bhagwat in his own office, Maulana Madni has added to the prevailing confusion in the community.
Several sections of the Muslims continue to harbour deep distrust of the BJP government and the RSS.
They point out that the BJP, soon after it stormed to power in 2014, initiated steps to promote the Barelvi sect of Muslims. A four-day conclave of All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, the apex body of dargahs, tombs of Sufi saints, was sponsored to promote this sect and create a division among Muslims.
The government then bent over backwards to criminalise Triple Talaq in one sitting, something that Muslims themselves had controlled to a great extent. Pointing out that very few Muslims indulged in instant Triple Talaq, they point to the government’s hyperactivity and publicity blitz to paint the community dark. The real game plan was to discredit the Muslims and make them weaker, they feel. The meeting, they fear, will isolate Muslims from secular elements and political parties in the country.
Conspiracy theorists believe that the meeting may have been engineered to discredit the ‘Deobandi’ school of thought, which has dominated Muslim society in the subcontinent. While Shias and the Barelvis have largely collaborated with the BJP and the RSS, the Deobandis had stood apart till now.
The Jamiat, a socio-political and religious front organisation, had been at the vanguard of opposition to communal forces and the RSS. But the meeting has now robbed the Jamiat of that distinction.
The meeting, most observers feel, will be used to the hilt by the RSS to gain acceptability in the international arena, especially in Muslim countries.
Maulana Arshad Madani is widely respected as a great Islamic scholar in the Muslim world and his meeting with the RSS chief would enable both the RSS and the Modi government to gain respectability at the international level and whitewash their past.
The RSS, the observers believe, has emerged as the sole gainer from the meeting.