‘The RSS: A Menace to India’ is another addition in the smear campaign against RSS
Dr. B.S. Harishankar
Eminent jurist Abdul Ghafoor Abdul Majeed Noorani’, popularly known as A.G. Noorani’s recent work, ‘The RSS: A Menace to India’, was released by former Vice President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari on April 2, 2019 in New Delhi.
Hamid Ansari had earlier stirred a huge controversy by inaugurating a national conference in September 2017 at Kozhikode, Kerala, organised by National Women’s Front (NWF), the women’s wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), notorious for its terror links (Row over Hamid Ansari attending PFI conference, The Hindu, September 23, 2017). After inaugurating the PFI conference in 2017, Hamid Ansari was presented a memento by PFI India chairman, E. Aboobacker. It shall be untrue if Ansari claims he was not aware of the PFI’s background. Now the equations are clear: why PFI has been left out with utmost humility from the book by Noorani and why Ansari himself came and released the book in New Delhi. Hence, the author A.G. Noorani and chief guest Hamid Ansari were silent on Popular Front of India.
Since its outset, the PFI has been accused of various anti-national activities, which include links with various Islamic terrorist groups, possessing arms, kidnapping, murder, intimidation, hate campaigns, rioting, love jihad and activities of religious extremism. In July 2012, the Kerala government informed the Kerala High Court that the PFI is “nothing but a resurrection of the banned outfit Students Islamic Movement of India in another form”.
In 2012, according to the statement filed as per the direction of the state intelligence chief, although the PFI’s objectives are to protect the rights of minorities and safeguard human rights, the organisation is clandestinely engaged in criminal activities, ostensibly to “defend Islam”.
In February 2014, the Kerala state government submitted before the Kerala High Court that activists of the PFI were involved in 27 communally motivated murder cases, 86 attempt-to-murder cases and 106 communal cases registered in the state.
Mary Joseph, Under Secretary to the Home Department, Kerala Government, submitted that the PFI has a clandestine agenda of Islamisation of people by promoting religiou conversion, communalisation of issues with the view to benefitting Islam, and recruitment of Muslim youths for actions like selective elimination of persons who are “enemies of Islam”. In 2014, the anti-national activities of PFI were again confirmed after the arrest of 21 hardcore PFI activists from Narath, Kannur, Kerala. The police seized explosives, gun powder, weapons, country-made bombs and ID cards of the Republic of Iran.
The arrest of a student, Mubeen Ahmed, with ISI links, and the brutal assault on Intelligence Bureau officer, Rajan Sharma, who was on duty at Aligarh Muslim University, happened in 2000 when Hamid Ansari was the Vice Chancellor.
In the chapter, RSS and Gandhi’s Assassination, Noorani forwards the usual allegations but has not dared to counter the statement by former Supreme Court Judge, Justice K.T. Thomas, who rubbished the allegations. Noorani should have invited Justice Thomas for an open debate on the issue if he was confident of the evidence. Justice Thomas said in 2011 that the “smear campaign” against the RSS on this score “must end”, and added that the organisation had been “completely exonerated” by the court (Former SC judge praises RSS: ‘Not anti-minority, end smear campaign’, The Indian Express, August 2, 2011).
Noorani should not forget how former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat urged Left trade unions to learn from the way the RSS has made inroads into every walk of life
Later, Justice Thomas also said that after the Indian Constitution, democracy and army, it is “fortunately” the presence of the RSS which guards Indians (‘After Army, RSS keeps Indians safe’, says former SC judge, The Times of India, January 14, 2018).
In ‘Power in the Name of Ram’, Noorani asserts that the ideological challenge to RSS came from Left parties, especially CPI(M) and CPI, and academics and writers associated with them. Noorani should understand that some major Left leaders now regret their past hate campaigns against Hindu culture and heritage.
As early as 1997, during a visit to Rome, then Kerala Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar and current Pinarayi Vijayan gifted the Sri Shankara version of ‘Bhagavad Gita’ as a token of Kerala’s legacy, to Pope John Paul II. Some years ago, CPI Kerala State secretary, Kannam Rajendran, admitted that the Left has not been considerate towards Hindus, and Left secularism is minority appeasement (Red fades to saffron in Kerala, The Hindu, August 29, 2015).
On February 1, 2017, in an interview to ‘Manorama’ News Channel, veteran CPI leader and former minister E. Chandrasekharan Nair, acclaimed the Upanishads, which had helped him to overcome many traumas in life, and said that unlike Semitic faiths, a Hindu can be a communist and a communist can remain a Hindu.
Finally, mindful of the dwindling Hindu population, Marxist octogenarian and former Kerala Chief Minister, V.S. Achuthanandan, stated in July 2010 that radical Muslim outfits wanted to turn the state into a Muslim-majority through their communal and divisive activities (PFI trying to make Kerala a ‘Muslim country’, says VS, The Indian Express, July 25, 2010).
Noorani should not forget how former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat urged Left trade unions to learn from the way the RSS has made inroads into every walk of life (Learn from RSS, Karat tells unions, The Hindu, Nov. 20, 2014).
In the same chapter, Noorani refers to Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru on the question of India’s identity, which he claims is not Hindu. Noorani should read how Mahatma Gandhi wrote unambiguously in ‘Hind Swaraj’ that our farseeing ancestors established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South, Jagannath in the East and Hardwar in the North, as places of pilgrimage since India was one undivided land, therefore, they argued, it must be one nation. Noorani should remember that Nehru translucently admitted in ‘Discovery of India’ that the idea of ‘Bharatavarsha’ is clearly outlined from the time of the great epic, Mahabharata, where “a very definite attempt” has been made to emphasise the fundamental unity of India.
In ‘RSS Selects India’s Prime Minister’, Noorani recollects how Prof. Ganesh Devi, literary critic, activist and director of Tribal Academy at Tejgadh, took him for a tour along Tandalja Vasna Road in Gujarat, where he was depressed to see the plight of Muslim dominated area in the midst of mounds of rotting garbage, dark, damp, crowded homes. Few remember that Ganesh Devi, who returned his Sahitya Akademi Award in 2015 to protest the alleged intolerance of the Modi Government, receives grants from the Ford Foundation and Christian organisations such as Catholic Relief Service (US) and Holy Cross Provincialate (Switzerland).
In, Endgame in 2018, Noorani quotes Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, who laments that the church is being attacked everywhere in the country. Noorani stresses Goa Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferraro's advice to Catholics to play an active role in politics since the Indian Constitution is in danger. He highlights Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto letter that India is witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere and the community should begin a prayer campaign ahead of the elections. Noorani charges that the Indian Muslim and Christian minorities have become increasingly sensitive to what they regard as the anti-national cultural exclusivism of the majority community.
But many are unaware that Buddhist persecution in Jammu & Kashmir also has a long history. The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (henceforth IPCS) in August 2013 highlighted that since the early 1960s, the intolerance against Leh Buddhists resulted in the desecration of Buddhist sites. On July 1989, a big protest in Leh led to clashes. There were attacks on Buddhists and the properties of the famous Hemis Monastery were damaged. The Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) called for a social and economic boycott of Muslims, which was lifted in 1992.
Four Buddhist Lamas were murdered in Leh on July 12, 2000. In February 2006, on reports of some miscreants allegedly desecrating the Quran, tensions escalated in Kashmir. In Kargil, many shops and properties of Buddhists were damaged. There were attacks on Buddhist homes on the fringes of Bodh Kharbu, sparking off a series of communal riots in Ladakh. Noorani may not be aware of such events.
The allegation by Buddhists on the imposition of Urdu language in Buddhist schools and other institutions by the state government in Kargil and Leh increased the divide. In 2012, in Zanskar Valley, Garba and Beda caste among the Buddhists embraced Islam, which led to tension and communal riots. According to IPCS reports, houses of the Buddhists were damaged, cash looted from shops, and property worth thousands of rupees was destroyed. The currently highlighted phenomenon of majoritarianism was nowhere raised in Kashmir at that time by A.G. Noorani.
Noorani conceals Muslim-Christian conflicts in India, especially Jammu & Kashmir. In 1967, Islamic terrorists attacked the Holy Family Church. In 1972, they burned down All Saints Church. In 2006, they murdered the Global Council of Indian Christians coordinator, Bashir Tantray. In 2010, Islamic militants attacked St Francis School. In September 2010, Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson schools under the church were attacked and burnt down by fundamentalists. They set fire in February 2011 to the School of the Convent of St. Luke. The main entrance of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Srinagar was completely destroyed in 2012, by Islamic militants.
Where were the President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Delhi and Goan Archbishops, when Christian minorities were persecuted and their institutions burnt down in Muslim-majoritarian Kashmir? Noorani has cleverly concealed the mass persecution of Christians in Kashmir by Islamic terror groups, in order to present the harassment of Christian groups exclusively by RSS as a pan-Indian phenomenon. These Bishops belong to the lineage of Bishop Ezra Sargunam of Tamil Nadu, who recently said there is nothing like “Hindu”, and if anyone opposes this claim, they should be punched on their faces to make them bleed, an act which God will forgive.
Noorani conceals many truths, especially the heavy criticism by Churches against Islamic fundamentalists in India. On June 25, 2012, then Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy informed the state legislature that 2,667 young women were converted to Islam in the state since 2006. “Love Jihad in Kerala is part of global Islamisation project”, said Global Council of Indian Christians. In 2009, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) had stated that more than 2,600 young Christian women were converted to Islam since 2006. KCBC’s Vigilance Commission for Social Harmony had urged Christians to guard against the phenomenon. Fr. Paul Thelakat, former spokesperson of the Syro Malabar church, said it is a serious issue (Over 2500 women converted to Islam in Kerala since 2006, says Oommen Chandy, India Today, September 4, 2012). In 2017, Mathew Mar Gregorios, Bishop of the Syrian Independent Orthodox Church, termed Love Jihad a ‘conversion ploy’ and said, “there is a rampant conversion of Christian girls into Islam in the Malabar region” of Kerala (The Hindustan Times, July 17, 2017).
Noorani has suppressed facts on Love Jihad suffered by Buddhists in Kashmir. In January 2000, Tsering Samphal, president of Ladakh Buddhist Association, enclosed in a three-page memorandum, a list of 24 Buddhist women who were taken away from their family in Ladakh and “forcibly” converted to Islam, and accused the State Government of laxity in checking conversions. In September 2017, tensions ran high after LBA demanded immediate steps to prevent Muslims from marrying Buddhist women and converting them to Islam.
Instead of acknowledging these serious criticisms against Islamic outfits by Churches in India, Noorani accuses Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of coining the term “love jihad” for Muslims who married Hindu girls (India all set on the road to a Hindu state, The Asian Age, April 9, 2017).
Noorani claims that the RSS targets Indian Muslims. Earlier, he wrote in ‘Frontline’ that the 1993 Bombay blasts-accused Yakub Memon’s mercy petition to the President, which contended that “secret hangings of Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab and now my impending execution begs the conclusion that the heavy hand of punishment and legal misery, somehow, is reserved for Muslims in this country”. Arguing for Memon, Noorani vigorously wrote that if thousands of Muslims thronged Yakub Memon’s funeral procession in Mumbai, it is because they shared this sentiment. In a glaring and significant contrast, there was not the slightest expression of sympathy for him in all the years that he was on trial. This is because recent events, statements and court proceedings suggested to Muslims that justice will be denied to them (Yakub Memon’s execution, Frontline, Sept. 18, 2015).
Noorani did not express any anguish when T.J. Joseph, professor at Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, had his hand cut off at the wrist in 2010, for alleged blasphemy, by a gang of Islamic outfits belonging to the Popular Front of India.
In a letter dated December 21, 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the Ahmadiyya Community for religious tolerance and universal brotherhood and wished success to ‘Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya Centenary’ celebrations, he was severely criticised by Indian Muslim leaders who consider Ahmadiyyas to be non-Muslims. In Pakistan, they were declared non-Muslim in 1974, and are persecuted. In Bangladesh, Ahmadiyyas are brutally tortured. India has a huge Ahmadiyya population which is spread across Kerala, Rajasthan, Odisha, Haryana, Bihar, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
In July 2017, during Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel, the President of the Israeli chapter of the Ahmadiyya community, Muhammad Sharif Odeh, greeted the Indian Prime Minister alongside Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and said, “We want to thank you for helping our community in India. Thank you very much”. Does A.G. Noorani accept Ahmadiyas as Muslims?
(The writer is an eminent archaeologist and currently a member of the Academic Committee, IIAS, Shimla)