Why No Serious Conception Of A Dharmic State In India Can Ignore Indian Muslims

Why No Serious Conception Of A Dharmic State In India Can Ignore Indian Muslims

by Arshia Malik - Mar 3, 2023 07:18 PM +05:30 IST
Why No Serious Conception Of A Dharmic State In India Can Ignore Indian MuslimsPrime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat
  • No party which is serious about India's growth, security, and stability in the long run can afford to ignore 15 per cent of its population. 

    Equally, the Muslims of India too should move beyond both, notions of superiority, as well as those of victimhood.

Dharma, as I have understood with interactions with various experts and authorities on it, is a Sanskrit term that refers to the natural laws that govern the universe and guide human behaviour. It is often translated as "duty," "law," or "right way of living." 

The dharmic traditions include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. These traditions place a strong emphasis on ethics, personal responsibility, and the pursuit of spiritual growth. 

The BJP aspires to be the natural party of governance in India and stay in power for a long time. Some general principles that a few BJP-joining members from the Kashmir Valley say they have been convinced about as a dharmic approach to governance are—a focus on justice and fairness, which is intrinsic to Islam as well. 

Dharmic traditions place a strong emphasis on the importance of treating others with kindness and compassion, and this could translate into a commitment to ensuring that all members of society are treated justly and have access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

The Constitution of India which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on November 26, 1949, and came into effect on January 26, 1950, ensures respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals. 

The dharmic traditions too teach that all beings are deserving of respect and that it is important to act in a way that does not cause harm or suffering to others. 

A dharmic government will prioritize protecting the rights and dignity of all members of society, including the marginalised and disadvantaged groups. The focus would be on personal responsibility, as the dharmic traditions place a strong emphasis on individual action and the importance of taking personal responsibility for one's actions.

A dharmic government encourages its citizens to take an active role in their communities and to work towards the common good with emphasis on a commitment to spiritual growth and self-improvement, which can be attained through the soft diplomacy of practices such as meditation and yoga, (again in line with Islamic interpretations of divinity), spirituality, and discipline in salat (prayer) and sawm (fasting).

Both traditions lead to a greater sense of inner peace and understanding in individuals which resolve conflicts and dilemmas within.

In any democratic society, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that the rights and needs of minorities are protected and respected. This might involve taking steps to ensure that minority groups have equal access to opportunities and resources as others, such as education and employment, and that they are not subject to discrimination or prejudice. 

India has already ensured the above. But the minority community as well has its roles and responsibilities and together with the majority they need to address historical injustices or imbalances that have disadvantaged majority groups under the Islamic Conquest of India and eventually British imperialism. 

Minorities in a Dharmic State

At the same time, a Dharmic state is also about ensuring physical security and delivering economic prosperity.

In the BJP-RSS worldview, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the service of the country and the practice of Hinduism. Contributing to the development and prosperity of India is both a religious as well as a secular cause. 

We know from the PM’s interviews that the BJP leadership seeks to govern India for a long time. This involves establishing and maintaining the BJP as a natural party of governance. 

We also know that making India a vishwaguru is among the most cherished objectives of the RSS. 

Both the objectives require three things: one, that the BJP (with RSS as its ideological mentor) keeps itself aligned to, and in tune with, the national culture of India, that is Dharmic; two, it is able to stay ahead of the ever increasing economic/material ambitions of the people. Third, and above all, it must continue to guarantee the stability and security that has come to be associated with the Modi government. 

Now to the main point of this piece: no party which is serious about the last two objectives described in the para above can afford to ignore 15 per cent of the population of the country, which at current estimates comes out to be at least 21 crore people. 

If the BJP seeks to be the natural party of governance and govern India for a long time, its vision for the country must necessarily include its Muslims. 

The good news is that there are strong indications that the BJP-RSS leadership is well aware of this fact. PM Modi’s constant exhortations to his party to reach out to the Pasmandas, and the RSS leadership’s frequent meetings with Muslim religious leaders point towards it. 

Equally, the Muslims of India too should move beyond both, notions of superiority, as well as those of victimhood. They are equal citizens of India as any other.

Indian ethos has already set a culture and tradition of protecting the rights of minority groups: This involves supporting laws and policies that prohibit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics, and working to ensure that these protections are enforced. 

When the majority and minorities are able to engage in open and honest conversations, it can help to foster a sense of shared purpose and common goals and can also help to identify and address any issues or concerns that may be causing division or tension.

This process, however, should also involve seeking out progressive voices within the Muslim community and not coddling the same old establishment, the fiefdom of a few elite Ashrafs that does not concern itself with the welfare of ordinary Muslims but is political in all its approaches, especially regarding radical Islam or Islamic fundamentalism.

There are several steps that can be taken to build bridges between the Hindus and Muslims given their history of conflict.

Engaging in dialogue is just one aspect of it, coming together and having open and honest conversations about experiences, perspectives, and concerns.

A point of caution here would be that certain Hindu experiences will be bitter given the whitewashing of the Islamic Conquest and pillage of India and certain perspectives and concerns of Muslims will be hard realities for well-meaning Hindus, due to the rising anti-Muslim bigotry in cities and towns and online as well. 

The solution, or the way forward, involves learning about the history and culture of India as a whole, acknowledging its Dharmic past of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism and how the Islamic Conquest destroyed much of the indigenous belief and knowledge systems, a damage made permanent by the British policy of 'divide, rule and colonise'.  

This also means acknowledging that the once-foreign Turkic-Mongol invaders after a few generations did assimilate into the Indic civilisation and governed, passed laws, moderated discourses, and contributed to the culture of Hind as its natives, barring a few brutal Muslim monarchs, governors, administrators, and fanatic saints or self-styled spiritual mystics. 

The 2020 Pandemic and its lasting after effects have taught us how important it is to work together towards common goals. This reality means finding ways to collaborate on community projects or initiatives that benefit all, equally. 

Muslim groups should begin to understand what a Dharmic State in the future entails for not only them but for Hindus also, considering the principles cited above find resonance with the basic principles of Islam as well - social justice and plurality. 

Arshia Malik is a columnist and commentator on social issues with particular emphasis on Islam in the Indian subcontinent.
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