On 8 November, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh met with a group of Muslim professionals at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, in Delhi, ahead of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, which will be pronounced later today. Krishna Gopal, the joint general secretary of the RSS, was the key speaker at the event, and addressed the group on the long-awaited judgment in the Ayodhya dispute and the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in India. Gopal emphasised the significance of the event. “I have come to meet you today,” he said. “The RSS has no need for Muslims—no need at all. But this country needs Muslims. The RSS has come forward because we understand this.”
Atif Rasheed, a member of the National Commission for Minorities and former president of the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s minority cell, told me that he had organised the event. Attendees included at least fifty individuals from a variety of backgrounds, such as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, students, academics, lawyers and journalists—only three of whom were women. Apart from Gopal and Rasheed, the main speakers at the event included Suhaib Qasmi, the national president of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, or JUH—a national organisation of Islamic scholars affiliated with the Sangh Parivar—and Swadesh Singh and Mohammad Nasir, both associate professors at the University of Delhi and the Aligarh Muslim University, respectively.
Rasheed opened his introductory address by stating the purpose of the meeting. “In the coming days, we hope and expect that the country will see a verdict on the issue of the Ram mandir and the Babri masjid,” he said. “Before that verdict comes, the RSS is holding discussions to ensure that whatever be the verdict, the victory should belong to the nation. The communal relations and atmosphere in the country should be one of love. The RSS has decided in a meeting that they would ensure this.”
Rasheed noted that Gopal had convened other similar meetings in the run up to the long-awaited judgment. In fact, just three days before the event at the NMML, senior RSS and BJP leaders had met Muslim clerics. Gopal, too, said that the RSS had held four or five such meetings already and that these included similar sessions with retired Indian Police Service officers, former top defence personnel, faculty of educational institutions, and even newspaper editors.
While the central focus of the meeting appeared to be a call for unity in anticipation of the Supreme Court judgment and its fallout, the speakers addressed a range of issues. These included discussions on the confluence of Hindu and Muslim cultures, historical wrongs allegedly committed by Muslim rulers on India’s Hindu population, and how the 2006 Sachar Committee report had disadvantaged the Muslim community. The discussions—and particularly Gopal’s address—revealed a sense of confidence that the verdict would favour the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. It also established the lens through which the RSS perceived Hindu-Muslim relations in India, and seemed to set the terms of the proclaimed unity.