A group of Muslims from across the country converged on the Gateway of India in Mumbai on Thursday noon to protest against terrorism. This marked the launch of a week-long “Tiranga Yatra” to observe the first anniversary of the November 26 Mumbai terror attack.
These are pro-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Muslims, who call themselves Muslim Rashtriya Manch (Muslim National Forum).
“We were about 1000, and we took a pledge against terror,” said Tanveer Ahmed, sanrakshak of the manch.
They now return to their native places to campaign against terrorism till November 26.
The group is also against cow slaughter, a pet issue of the RSS.
“We will file a petition for a ban on cow slaughter,” manch convenor Mohammad Afzal told Hindustan Times.
At the launch of the RSS’ Gou Gram Yatra for cow protection and village development, the manch reportedly presented 3 lakh Muslims’ signatures against cow slaughter, recently.
Afzal opposes the Deoband fatwa calling Vande Mataram un-Islamic. “In Islam, no prayer is complete till you touch your forehead to the ground,” he said. “So bowing before the motherland (Vande Mataram) is (an) Islamic practice.”
He added that though the motherland was not Allah (god), it deserved respect.
The manch, founded in 2002, draws marg darshan (guidance) from RSS pracharak Indresh Kumar.
There were reports last year that a Malegaon blast accused told the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad that he had plotted to kill Kumar, charging him of being “soft on Muslims”.
“The manch has dialogues with the RSS, and the sangh has told me to take this interaction forward,” said Kumar. “But they are an organisation of Muslims and for Muslims, not of the RSS.”
But an RSS activist said, on condition of anonymity, that RSS-affiliated organisations working with any segment of society grow from efforts of one or more pracharaks. “If they work well, they slowly start reporting to the RSS,” he said. “Let’s see if this happens in this case in future.”
Muslim Rashtriya Manch has led other agitations too.
Manch members celebrated the 150th anniversary of 1857 uprising in 2007-08, seeking blessings from the then RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan.
On August 13, 2008, they took out the Paigham-e-Aman (message of peace) yatra in favour of land grant to Amarnath pilgrims.
“If Muslims are free to say the namaz in India, why should Hindus be denied religious freedom in Kashmir?” said Afzal.