Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is speaking at the centenary celebrations of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as I write, social media might soon be filled with abuses against Modi — not only from the leftists, Islamists and other usual Modi-haters but also from the so-called ‘Hindutvaites’, the cyber-warrior variety.
Before you get to behold them, let us just spare a minute to read this.
I come from Tamil Nadu. There are two Dravidian parties here: one is Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the other All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
The DMK leaders make it a point to never wish Hindus on their festivals. It was okay as an ideological stand of the party, but even when the DMK came to power, the leaders continued to followed this. So, in Tamil Nadu, the land of Vedas and Dharma, we have had a chief minister who would not extend greetings on Diwali, Vijaya Dashami, Ganesh Chaturti etc.
On the other hand, the AIADMK founded by M G Ramachandran always made it a point to wish all people during their festivals and joyous occasions, whether the party was in power or not.
In the general mind of Tamil Nadu, in its collective psyche, there is a perception. It is always there — irrespective of who wins. And it was reflected in director Mani Ratnam's Iruvar. Deep down the Tamil psyche, DMK is the villain, the bad guy and the AIADMK is the hero.
The Hindu mind in particular and spontaneous human nature in general loves flexibility to an extent.
A chief minister or a prime minister, once in office, does not just belong to the party or an ideology or a religion, he or she belongs to the whole of India.
It is true that the role played by Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the history of India is not an honourable one. It is true it was the epicentre of the Pakistan movement and continues to be a fertile ground for memetic breeding of Islamists one finds in organisations like Popular Front of India (PFI).
Yet AMU is part of Indian history. So it is only proper that Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India participates in its centenary celebrations.
In a way, this is also a continuation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) culture.
The February 1989 issue of Manthan — the official magazine of the Deendayal Research Institute (DRI) featured as its cover story: "A long chat with some bright young men of Aligarh Muslim University”.
K R Malkani, the editor of Manthan, had interacted with students of AMU who actually belonged to SIO — Student Islamic Organisation.
In the question-answer session between the sides, the last two questions and the answers that Sri Malkani gave are interesting and relevant even today.
To the question if he believed in god, Malkani answered:
I do not believe in any god living in seventh heaven or swimming in Kshir-sagar. I would say that the whole Brahmanda or the cosmos, the principle informing it and the spirit animating it is God. The popular concept of God is the invention of man. For long ages man has lived in fear and terror. ... He needed to think of a higher beneficent power, protecting him. Such a comforting was a source of great solace and reassurance in an uncertain world. ...God is a working hypothesis. Without the concept of an almighty, all-knowing, all-merciful God helping him along, Man would not have been able to stand up and advance. Civilization would not have been possible. The greatest invention of man is not the fire or the wheel or even zero but God.
Then the final question from a student was on the future of Islam and if Malkani saw a bright future for Islam.
It was quite interesting that a Muslim student of AMU asked a veteran RSS ideologue this question. And the answer Malkani gave, though sounding utopian, contained a vision that is consistent with the universal vision of Hindutva:
The world is moving in the direction of a global village, a world government. Perhaps a new and higher humanism will become the new religion of man kind. One cannot say what contribution Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Taoism or Science will make to the emergence and evolution of this New Religion. It will depend upon the intrinsic worth and inherent strength of the various ideas and institutions.
Narendra Modi , who belongs to the same family to which Malkani also belonged, now participates in the centenary celebrations of the AMU, as the prime minister of India. And that is a great civilisational statement about Bharat.
Modi also belongs to this universal vision, and values, that Malkani spoke about to the students of AMU three decades ago, and Hindutva is this universal vision; not the parochial ugliness that animates the Dravidianism of the DMK.
Let us not become the dragon that we battle.
Let us not confuse our narrow conceptions with that eternal life stream of this nation and civilisation from time immemorial — Hindutva.
Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.
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