An RSS-backed organisation of genealogists is undertaking an ambitious academic exercise to prove that most Muslims in India are converts from Hinduism, a move that has met with robust scepticism from some social scientists and Islamic scholars.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vanshawali Sanrakshan evum Samvardhan Sansthan (ABVSSS) says it will use oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis and other genealogical documents to prove its theory which, in turn, can help bridge social divides.
Genealogy is the study of families and tracing of ancestries to prove kinship and pedigrees and is considered by many as an inexact science. In India, genealogical records are legally tenable.
The effort was agreed upon at a one-day national conference of genealogists held in the city on Monday. It is being patronised by Ram Prasad, the founder of ABVSSS, who says all Muslims and Christians in India are converts.
“Ask any one of them about their lineage and their ancestors would be Hindu at some point of time,” he said.
“I interacted with a number of Meo Muslims and they accepted facts about their conversion. And it was on the basis of their vanshawalis (genealogical records).”
If the ancestral roots of Indian Muslims and Christians were dug deeper, claims Prasad, their exact origin and lineage could be found in some Hindu caste or community.
But many believe such efforts are part of a wider ideological shift being pushed by Hindutva groups seeking to rewrite Indian history and social narratives.
One such sceptic of Prasad’s genealogical proposal is Rajiv Gupta, ex-head of sociology department at University of Rajasthan who believes the information could be misused by “right wing forces” to create division.
“It is an important danger. It can be used to rewrite history which may disturb (the) secular and social fabric of the country,” cautioned Gupta, while maintaining that gaining unbiased ancestral knowledge is good.
Prasad, a Jaipur based RSS pracharak, said he first came across the possibility that all Indian Muslims are converts when he visited a mosque at Gulpada area of Bharatpur district in 2007.
“There I asked Meos about their ancestry and many of them accepted their ancestors were Meenas (a Hindu community in eastern Rajasthan). Now Meos and Meenas have developed more social acceptance in that region,” he said.
Prasad founded the ABVSSS in 2009 to further study genealogy and the organisation has been expanding ever since.
Dr Sukhdev Rao, a genealogy writer and general secretary of the organisation, says a majority of Muslims in Rajasthan and its neighbouring states have started accepting their roots and it is leading to social bonding.
Prasad’s organisation has already started the process to digitise genealogy records of a cross section of the population to preserve them for future generations. The organisation has formed units in 11 states and has even established a youth wing to carry forward its work on the origins of Muslims and Christians in India.
For now, the reaction from the Muslim community appears to be mixed.
“It is a fact that majority of Muslims are converted in India. Knowing history generates awareness but intention of the organisation (ABVSSS) should be clear,” said Mohd Iqbal Siddiqui, the media secretary of Jamat-e-Islami-Hind.
“We welcome them if they want to create social harmony through genealogy.”