'For Muslims it is time to understand what sense of fears are in the minds of Hindus.'
'I think the conversation somewhere is not taking place.'
A couple of days after returning to power with a resounding mandate, Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi struck a conciliatory tone by saying his party needed to win the trust of Muslims.
His speech came at a time when Muslims in two separate incidents had been harassed and attacked by alleged Hindu fundamentalists.
At this critical juncture, it begs the question: Are Muslims safe in India?
How should they react to Modi's message of winning 'sabka vishwas'?
"I don't agree with that notion of Indian Muslims becoming second class citizens, as there is no inherent discrimination," Swapan Dasgupta, the Bharatiya Janata Party MP and ideologue, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.
- Part One: 'No fear of India turning authoritarian'
There is a fear among Indian Muslims that India will become an ethnic majority country like Israel.
In India, it won't matter if Muslims don't vote for the BJP as it will win elections with a majority of Hindu votes.
Muslim votes won't matter to the party as the 2019 verdict proved.
(Laughs). I don't think it is going that way.
If you see the voting and constituency results, Muslims have not voted for the BJP, but other parties -- be it the Trinamool Congress, the RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) or any other party.
Indian Muslims have choices.
I would say the larger question has to be addressed as the time has come for the BJP as the dominant political force to initiate a conversation with Muslims and understand what their fears are.
For Muslims it is time to understand what sense of fears are in the minds of Hindus.
I think the conversation somewhere is not taking place.
When the conversation will start, people will understand each other and necessary adjustments will start to take place.
It involves adjustments and recognition of a common heritage of both communities.
On social media you often see visuals of Muslims being beaten up by gau-rakshaks. So how can you expect the conversation to begin?
Social media brings out lots of things.
Social media brings out Muslims are being harassed. It also brings out Hindus are being harassed. It is a combination of everything.
Social media exaggerates what happens. It makes a local issue into national and sometimes international.
Social media is something which is always geared towards conflicts, polemics and highlights differences.
People who seek popularity in their postings gain popularity by saying something extreme on social media.
There is no restraint on social media and that is the problem with it. It complicates the situation and it has.
There is a belief now in India that the Hindu fringe has become the mainstream after Pragya Singh Thakur was elected from Bhopal.
Personally, I am a little uneasy with what she has said.
She certainly does not represent or reflect any mainstream views, but she reflects the view of a small community of people.
The BJP wanted to highlight that the history of Hindu terror was a spurious one.
The question which has to be asked is whether Sadhvi Pragya was the best instrument to highlight that point.
To the other side (the Congress), I would like to ask, in suggesting the moral equivalence of Hindu terror, which other religious terror were you trying to distort things?
Did you try to contrive evidence to make a larger political purge?
But I think broadly speaking, there is nothing yet to suggest that extreme views will ever gain currency in India.
But what is also necessary (to note) is that the Hindu community is trying to rediscover its political voice.
It involves a series of hiccups, over-statements, polemics etc.
As I keep saying, this is a reaction to a particular notion of modernity which was imposed on India, which appears to be rejected in wholesale.
The politics of India at present is quite exciting and it is evolving.
I hope it evolves in a healthy direction.
Prime Minister Modi speaks of 'sabka vishwas. But how can minorities trust him as he has taken so many jibes at the minorities in his speeches?
Prime Minister Modi has not taken any jibes at minorities, but at secularists.
Most of these secularists are radicals and they are actually Hindus.
Pakistani commentators claim Jinnah's two-nation theory has been proved correct after Modi returned to power in 2019.
How many times is it necessary to show that Jinnah's idea of Pakistan has turned out to be flawed?
Islam alone cannot be the bond to unite, as you saw in the 1971 war and what is happening in Baluchistan today.
These are concrete examples.
Pakistan has got enough on its plate for it to worry about the future of the Indian Republic.
Pakistanis propagate on social media that Indian Muslims have become second class citizens.
Is there any evidence Constitutionally or institutionally that Indian Muslims are barred from public office?
Is there any evidence or law that says Indian Muslims are barred and cannot have recourse to the courts?
The idea of judicial equality, political equality and economic equality is there.
Can we find evidence that any government welfare programme exceptionally favours Hindus and not Muslims?
I don't agree with that notion of Indian Muslims becoming second class citizens, as there is no inherent discrimination.
Of course, in real life there is some sort of discrimination against Muslims, but that kind of discrimination is not alone to Muslims.
Within Hindus too, there is discrimination on the basis of language or class.
That is a different social bias we are talking about.
As a State, India is not inclined towards religious discrimination.
Reading your book (Awakening Bharat Mata -- The Political Beliefs of the Indian Right), one gets the feeling that India's left-liberal ecosystem has gone forever. Do you believe the 2019 election outcome has sealed their fate?
I don't write the political obituary of anyone.
It is certainly true that left liberals had a great setback politically and electorally in India with the 2014 and 2019 election verdicts coming one after another.
At the same time, they have certain dominance in places like academia and media.
Their influence in certain sectors is disproportionate to their larger influence in society.
What they have to think about is, why having had their free reign politically they are in such a position where everyone is talking about them having to fight for their very survival?
They must introspect where they have gone wrong.
I don't think anyone wants to consciously kill them off.
Such a strain of thought does not exist in Indian society.
They will always remain in Indian society.
It is part of our pluralism.
It is an aspect of political competition.
One discovers through your book that Modi was influenced more by Swami Vivekananda than by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.
There is no denial.
I feel Prime Minister Modi is most influenced by Swami Vivekananda and he has said so at many places.
At the time of the late 19th century when Swami Vivekananda lived, Hindu society was centred on the belief that Hindus had become too pre-occupied with their own personal sense of salvation and the spiritualism which had become inverted and highly individual-centric.
What Swami Vivekananda tried to do was to inculcate the notion that your salvation is also dependent on the salvation of what you see around you.
Therefore, your personal alleviation in spiritual journey can never be complete unless you also simultaneously undertake the task of nation-building.
And that the combination of individual and society (salvation) is what Swami Vivekananda, for the first time by a Hindu activist, had tried to bring about.
I think this has played a very important role in shaping the mind of Narendra Modi, not least of which Vivekananda talks about poverty and casteism.
These are matters that matter quite a lot to Narendra Modi.
How to bring Vedanta in line with these other positive aspects of social uplift.