Muslim as chief guest at RSS’ function: Beginning of a new era or political compulsion?

In a significant move from past for the first time in RSS history, one of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Dusshera function and Shastra Pujan ceremony for young volunteers, or Shishu and Bal Swayamsevaks had seen a Muslim as its chief guest in Nagpur.

On Sunday one of the organizers of the event invited an eminent Muslim homeopath Munawar Yusuf, a Bohra community member as its chief guest which was attended by estimated 600 young boys (standard 1-8).

This move has to be seen in conjunction with the organisation’s Muslim outreach programme. This is first of its kind when a Muslim was given such an honour. Dusshera celebration has significant importance in yearly calendar of RSS which was started by KB Hedgewar in 1925 on Vijay Dashmi.

Shastra Pujan is a traditional RSS ritual which has often courted controversy for consecration of weapons by senior leaders, including from BJP.

On several social and religious occasions, RSS has been engaging with Muslims. In 2015, Indresh Kumar, Head of Muslim Rashtriya Manch, RSS affiliated organization conducted rakhi tying event by Muslim women to their hindu ‘brother’ and its continuing every year.

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In April this year, Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak visited Syedna Mufaddal, spiritual head of Bohras at his Mumbai residence. The Syedna previously lent support for several initiatives of PM Modi, including Make in India and Swachh Bharat.

Nagpur-based MRM national co-convenor Virag Pachpore’s asserts it as a “welcome move” which will benefit RSS in campaigning among Muslims, although engaging in such activities always draw ire from RSS terming it as “appeasement” when opponents participate or organise such programmes.

The RSS leadership played along with the Savarkarite animosity towards minorities, especially Muslims, though RSS ideologue MS Golwalkar downwards did not look at Muslims from the same prism as VD Savarkar.

The Sangh leadership will undoubtedly assess reaction to inviting a Muslim to its Dusshera function. The organisation always invites someone from outside the fold to preside over the function where the sarsanghchalak delivers his most important speech of the year.

It’s yet to see if the ball has been set rolling for the main Dusshera function, with top brass in attendance, to be addressed by a Muslim. For that the Sangh Parivar will have to move beyond symbolism and be guided more by commitment than compulsion.