In 1990, when the dispute over the Babri Masjid was at its peak, the senior journalist Saeed Naqvi interviewed Bhaurao Deoras, one of the most prominent ideologues of the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh at the time. In September of that year, the BJP leader LK Advani began a “rath yatra”—procession—to garner support for the construction of a temple at the site. The yatra led to widespread communal tension. That same year, protests began against the Mandal Commission report, which recommended reservation for Other Backward Classes, and was adopted by the then-prime minister VP Singh in 1989. The RSS accused Singh of employing caste politics and “dividing Hindu society.”
It was with this political backdrop that Naqvi met the then seventy-five-year-old Deoras. The pracharak, who had joined the RSS not long after it was started in 1925, was then responsible for coordinating the Sangh’s relationships with political parties such as the BJP. His elder brother, Balasaheb, who was then the Sarsanghchalak or Supremo of the organisation, had not been keeping well, leaving Deoras to emerge as the RSS’s most important leader.
Over the conversation, excerpted from Naqvi’s book Being the Other below, Naqvi and Deoras discuss the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, reservation, Muslims in Indian society, and the idea of a Hindu nation. About two years after this conversation, following a rally organised by the right-wing organisation the Vishwa Hindu Parishad along with parties such as the BJP, a large mob attacked the Babri masjid and demolished it. “Things would never be the same again,” Naqvi writes in the book.
[Saeed] Naqvi: Communal riots on an unprecedented scale have broken out in various parts of the country. What role can the RSS play to control the situation? Is the situation out of control?[Bhaurao] Deoras: Who are the people behind these communal riots? I am afraid that some political parties are playing a role.
Naqvi: What is your plan—regarding the Babri Masjid?
Deoras: No Muslim goes to say his namaz there. All things around the mosque are connected with Hindu sentiments.