Shame on you Irfan Habib for equating RSS with ISIS

RSS cadres had camped in Nepal to carry out rescue work after the crippling earthquakes. What about ISIS?

 |  3-minute read |   02-11-2015
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The idea of Hindutva is divisive, while some of their rhetoric is pure bile, the rest is vile. The RSS' relentless saffronisation of discourse is deplorable, but there is no equivalence, ideological or otherwise, between the RSS and the Islamic State (known as ISIL or ISIS).

That some respected intellectuals are trying to find equivalence between them discredits the intellectuals more than the RSS. At a time when eminent persons have stood up for India's liberal values, such way-off-the-mark shots do liberalism more harm than good - Irfan Habib is a historian of repute, his statement slurs his repute more than that of the men in shorts.

One would expect better from scholars and academicians. I do not mean the ones returning their awards here. Fringe elements and even politicians are generally ignored when they make such remarks, not counting the outrage you see on social media.

Do you really believe that RSS is like ISIS? If you do, then it is important that you should be taught the contrast between the two organisations. While I am no scholar in history or travel, I ask this of professor Habib: Are you willing to live among the ISIS jihadis? Do you not know about the dangers one faces there versus here?

Yes, RSS-inspired Bajrang Dal activists have been involved in deplorable acts of violence, but the primary source of the current discontent is the attack on free speech. The gangs of trolls who hound sane voices on social media. But the extreme right-wing trolling can never be put in the same category as beheadings, isn't it? The fact that professor Habib could make such a statement without any repercussion is, in itself, proof of his confidence in law enforcement in the country.

He may talk about the growing intolerance in the country and accuse Narendra Modi's government of divisive politics, but his freedom to fearlessly criticise the government is also proof that tolerance still thrives in our country.

Professor Habib may not acknowledge the philanthropic activities of the RSS - Sangh volunteers get real work done apart from trolling secular thinkers - but these people in khaki shorts armed with lathis are no match for ISIS. Ideologically too their vision of India envisages the supremacy of Hindutva, but they have no dream of imposing a jiziya on non-Hindus. Neither does the RSS ideology want detonating chords around the necks of non-Hindus. They were responsible for the demolition of the Babri mosque, but that's where their demolition drive stopped. The rapes, destruction and decapitation of entire villages and towns are not something we want to imagine in this country. We also do not want to amplify fears among the citizens by invoking such images.

Professor Habib has definitely not seen the pictures of or heard about caged ISIS prisoners being drowned in a pool or burnt alive, or seen reports of rows of prisoners with hands tied to their backs sprayed with bullets and their throats slit.

ISIS terrorists are known for slaughtering people without any remorse, for openly espousing hatred towards Shias and others.

The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) disbanded the advisory committee of its journal comprising 21 eminent historians from around the world, including Romila Thapar and Prof Habib in May. It was discovered that professor Habib, along with historians like late Bipan Chandra and KM Shrimali, had defaulted heavily on writing of books as part of "Special Research Projects". Funds were spent on these projects for several decades by the eminent historians without tangible result.

It is obvious that professor Habib's personal bias is taking precedence over the factual position, which has led him to compare RSS with ISIS. A recipient of Padma Bhushan in 2005, professor Habib has authored several books on Indian history and considered a Marxist. But can he be trusted if he is known to make such far-fetched comparisons.


Kumar Shakti Shekhar Kumar Shakti Shekhar @shaktishekhar

Delhi-based journalist with more than 20 years of experience in reporting for print, TV & digital media.

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