New Delhi: Ram Madhav, member, Central Executive of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), represents a breed of young leaders, who are increasingly assertive in putting across their views not only nationally, but also at international forums. Representing the Hindu nationalist organisation, Madhav has travelled far and wide and made quite an impact with his often frank and sometimes controversial remarks.
Recently, even as the RSS was left embarrassed after one of its leaders, Indresh Kumar was chargesheeted by Rajasthan police in connection with the 2007 Ajmer blast case, the organisation's spin doctor refuted any claims of its involvement.
With his easy demeanour, albeit forceful views, Madhav has moved rapidly up the hierarchy of the RSS ever since joining it in 1981. From district to regional and state level, he became its national office-bearer and spokesperson in a short span.
In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, he replies to all questions patiently but is evasive about some.
GULF NEWS: You've said that Muslims should first respect the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya issue and then talks could follow. What would you be offering them in the talks?
RAM MADHAV: It's not like a business deal where we offer and get something in return. The feud is about the sacred place of the Hindus and a mosque built more as a victory monument by a foreign invader, Babar. It was a non-functional mosque till 1934 onwards and a functional temple from 1949 onwards. It has been a plea of the Hindus that they be allowed to build a temple, since the court has said that this is a sacred place for the Hindus. We will pave way for goodwill between the two communities and the rest can be discussed.
Agreed, that it's not a business deal, but where do you begin the talks from?
A large number of people from the Muslim and Hindu communities do not want the stand-off to continue for long. It's in the interest of the country that we come to some kind of an understanding. And the best would be for the Muslims to honour the sentiments of the Hindus, which will generate goodwill between the two communities in a country, which has been suffering for several decades. This is a good opportunity and should be seen from this angle.
If the Muslims forego the disputed land and let the Hindus build the temple, can you categorically say that you will let go the Kashi and Mathura issues?
Right now, we are in the midst of a legal battle over the Ayodhya issue. If it gets resolved, I can assure you that all other issues will be easily settled and there won't be any major conflict over them. But without addressing the one at hand, there's no point in talking about other matters that do not exist at the moment.
Supposing it gets resolved, will you give assurance to the Muslims of not pursuing these?
I must remind you that Kashi and Mathura predate Ayodhya. But there has been no talk about any other issue than Ayodhya for the last 20 years. Also, we do not see it as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Unfortunately, it has been made out into a battle between the two communities. Even when the High Court verdict was delivered, our chief (Mohan Bhagwat) stated that we do not see it as victory or defeat for any community. It's basically a victory to the cherished values of the land.
Does it mean the RSS does not endorse the views of other Hindu organisations, which have preferred approaching the Supreme Court?
We have always held that disputes of this nature are better resolved outside of the courts. But unfortunately, several attempts towards dialogue have not succeeded. So we suggested letting the government of the day take hold of the matter and place it before Parliament. It could take everyone's views and let there be a good resolution.
You mean the RSS is more in favour of an out-of-court settlement?
Yes. But if left with no option, we'll certainly go to the Supreme Court. That's what the Muslims and the Sant Uchadhikar Samiti (a body of Hindu religious leaders) have said. Even then, I would say that legislation appears to be the best option. However, we hear the All India Muslim Law Board officials are interested in approaching the Supreme Court. So, if one party takes this decision, naturally, the other will also do so.
Will you honour the Supreme Court verdict if it goes in favour of the Muslims?
This question was put to us even before the High Court verdict. Even then we said we respect the judiciary. But we have maintained that it be decided outside the judicial preview, because these issues are difficult even for the judiciary to handle.
What's the role of RSS in the Ayodhya issue?
We are in favour of building the temple. And we want it as a unifying, not a divisive factor.
Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, ‘BJP is not a construction company to build a temple or a mosque.' Does RSS still expect the BJP to work towards the construction?
It's an old issue and at times statements of political leaders are twisted. And this was a classic case of twisting the statement. The spirit was different.
It was not twisted and is being referred to because this statement was given to Gulf News in his interview.
I don't want to comment on that.
What expectations does RSS have from the BJP?
Ram temple is not a political issue for us to have any expectations from any one political party. We want everyone to understand the sentiments of a large section of the people.
How's the equation between the two? Does it hurt RSS when BJP President Nitin Gadkari says, ‘I am related to the RSS, but my appointment is not by them'?
What he said is true. The leadership of BJP is not decided by RSS. We belong to the same ideological fraternity. But are different organisations like two grown up brothers in a family.
When BJP was in power, several Hindu outfits including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, had been dictating terms, which upset then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Did RSS put pressure on them?
These organisations are for the public. They have certain issues to take care of for the welfare of the people. In the process, if they have to raise those issues before a particular government, even if that government is of a friendly nature, they have a right to do so. To say they were dictating and that somebody was upset is not correct. They were doing their duty as a public organisation in a democratic set up.
What kind of control does RSS have on these organisations?
They are all independent organisations, though they draw inspiration from the RSS. We have an informal way of exchanging notes. We work together because of the common goal. But the question of ‘control' does not arise.
You mean RSS would have no control over them if they were to go overboard?
Since they are inspired by RSS idealism and training, we never worry that they will ever go overboard or against the interest of the nation.
Earlier it was ‘Muslim terrorism' and now there's also ‘Hindu terrorism'. Isn't the scene quite uncomfortable?
The whole talk of Hindu terrorism is absolutely non-existent. There's no proof that Hindu religion has been spreading terrorism. It's a baseless concoction. If there are any individuals involved, who happen to be Hindus, we would say — let the law takes its course and punish them after due investigations.
There's enough proof and the fear is that it [Hindu terror] could one day become a monster like some Muslim outfits that are now even beyond the control of the organisations which spawned them?
We believe the case is not based on facts. Let it come to a conclusion. Merely because of involvement of some Hindus, if we say there is a phenomenon of Hindu terror, it is not correct. But I would like to add that globally, jihad is seen as some kind of a radical religion-sponsored terror, but the involvement need not necessarily be of the entire religion. Other than that, globally, religion has never been held responsible for terrorism.
Over the years, the RSS seems to have mellowed down. What brings about the change?
We are what we have been. Perceptions change. We call all people of this country, including Muslims, as Hindus by culture and by civilization. We are all one family.
If it's all within the family why can't Hindus as an elder brother give the land to their younger Muslim brother and end the feud?
Two brothers can fight over property, but not over family honour, which cannot be divided. Ram represents the honour and values of the civilisation. Ram predates other religions. That's why we want everyone to help build a temple in Ayodhya.
You think it will happen?
Certainly. I have great faith in the wisdom of the people of our country, including a majority of Muslims.
- Ram Madhav was born on April 22, 1965 in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
- Masters in Political Science from University of Mysore, Karnataka.
- Diploma in Electrical Engineering from Andhra Pradesh.
- Functionary of the RSS since 1981.
- Served as national spokesperson - 2002-06.
- Worked as a journalist for over 20 years with RSS sponsored publications and authored 10 books, including biographies.
- Currently, Member, Central Executive, in-charge of its media and public relations.