Video editor: Vivek Gupta
At a time when communal hate and polarisation is on the rise, Maulana Arshad Madani, chief of Deoband-based Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, raised eyebrows by meeting Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat recently.
The Jamiat is a 100-year-old organisation of Muslim clerics and scholars. Madani had called for a ban on the RSS in 2015, calling it “a fascist group”, and has also been a critic of the Modi government.
Speaking to The Quint in Deoband, Maulana Madani revealed how the one-and-a-half-hour meeting was orchestrated, what was discussed, and what are his expectations from the RSS chief going forward.
There was a meeting you had with the RSS’s Mohan Bhagwat in Delhi. How did this meeting happen?
I didn’t even know [about it]. There were some people in the middle who asked if I wanted to meet Bhagwat ji, I said it was a good idea. Bhagwat ji has an organisation (RSS) which is a very strong organisation. In my opinion, there is no one else like him in India. He could have denied a meeting with me, but on the contrary, he hinted that we will be in touch in the future and the dialogue will continue.
The core ideology of the RSS is that there should be a Hindu Rashtra. Mohan Bhagwat has spoken about this on several stages. Do you agree with him?
No, no. I believe the country should be where one has complete independence within the realms of their religion. In front of us, Bhagwat ji never said anything that the head of the state would want a Hindu Rashtra. Nothing like that was brought up during the meeting.
Do you think the RSS can ignore or reject their core ideology of the Hindu Rashtra?
Yes, they are capable. The state of the country is heading towards destruction. The economy is either already destroyed or headed towards destruction. It is possible that in this scenario, one’s thought process changes from what it was till yesterday.
But again, this is their core belief...
No, no. I have spoken to him (Mohan Bhagwat).
What did he say?
I brought up people from the RSS who have written against Muslims and secularism. He (Mohan Bhagwat) said the RSS is not beholden to the those views anymore.
Will you be soft in your criticism of the RSS hereon?
Yes, most definitely. If the RSS is soft with us, why should we not be?
Did you bring up the issue of lynchings?
Yes, I did, and we had a good conversation about it. But the point of this conversation will only become clear in the months to come.
You would also know that the accused in lynching cases are from right-wing-affiliated organisations?
Let’s see over time whether there will be any improvement or not.
Despite concerns about the Triple Talaq Act and the NRC, Maulana Madani said he brought up neither in his meeting with RSS’s Mohan Bhagwat
You’ve been critical of the Triple Talaq Act. Now it has become a law. What are your views on it?
I would like there to be more deliberation on triple talaq. The shortcomings of the act should be addressed. You say we won’t agree to three ‘talaqs’, but only one, we can agree to that. You say that the one giving ‘talaq’ is a criminal, that can also be accepted. But you saying that a ‘talaq’ is not divorce, that is not acceptable.
Did you raise this issue in the meeting?
No, we have brought this up in court. If the court accepts it, our lawyers are ready to fight it.
Do you think the NRC attacks Muslims?
The government is saying this. When the government is saying it will give nationality to a Hindu coming from outside the country but not to a Muslim, then the government is saying this.
Did you bring the NRC issue up with Mohan Bhagwat?
No, I did not. The point of this meeting was to discuss how to bring peace to this country.
What would you tell your followers now? What should they expect next?
When we talk further and reach a conclusion on issues, I will pass the information to my community, and he (Mohan Bhagwat) will do the same.