Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat's discussions with the Muslim community is not connected to the current political situation in the country and is an ongoing process, sources in the organisation said today in the backdrop of headlines about the meetings. His visit to the house of an Imam and a madarasa in Delhi this morning was planned a year ago, said sources in the RSS, which is the ideological mentor of BJP.
Imam Umar Ahmed Ilyasi of Akhil Bharatiya Imam Sangh lives inside a mosque and there is a madarasa nearby. "His house and mosque are the same, so it was said that Bhagwat went to the mosque," a source said.
Imam Ilyasi also runs a madrasa and had invited Mr Bhagwat to visit it. "You should go to the madrasa and see. Nowadays, there is a lot of talk about madrasas. See for yourself you'll love it," he had told the RSS chief, according to sources.
"On his invitation, Bhagwat-ji went to see the madrasa," an RSS leader said, recounting the conversations with the children, where he underscored the love for the country and the importance of human life.
Finding out that the children are taught the Quran in the madrasa, Mr Bhagwat had questioned why are they not taught about the Hindu scripture Bhagwad Gita also, the leader said.
"Bhagwat-ji asked the children what they knew about the country. What is the name of our country -- India, Hindustan or Bharat. He asked what they wish to be when they grow up. He also told the children that the whole of India is one, from the Himalayas to the sea and everyone's paths should be respected, every life should be protected," the leader said.
He also pointed out that Muslim children studying in madrasas face many problems. "Due to lack of knowledge of Hindi, they are not able to fill the form at the airport, railway station etc. Modern knowledge should be given in madrasas," Mr Bhagwat had told his hosts.
"Such meetings help clear people's misgivings. Many things have become like formula. But where formulas are not available, that is, the issues on which there is no consensus, should be discussed. It has been emphasised time and again that we all want to live together," the leader added.
According to Sangh leaders, Mr Bhagwat meets representatives and prominent people from different sections of the society from time to time and the meetings should be seen in this context. "The Sangh is not related to the political atmosphere and intentions. Therefore, it is not right to connect with the current environment of the country in any way," he added.
Mr Bhagwat's outreach is being taken positively by the Muslim community, the leader said, citing his meeting with five intellectuals including former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi last month.
In the meeting, Mr Bhagwat had said how cow slaughter, and the use of the word "kafir" as expletive upsets the Hindu community. His visitors had said that Muslims feel equally upset about the use of terms like "Jihadi" and "Pakistani". The two sides had agreed to continue the dialogue.
The Muslim group had sought the meeting weeks after Mr Bhagwat's comment questioning the need to "look for a Shivling under every mosque". The comment, made against the backdrop of claims that a Shivling was found in the premises of the Varanasi's Gyanvapi mosque complex, has been welcomed by the Muslim community.
His dialogues with the Muslim community is seen as a significant gesture in the aftermath of the unrest that followed Nupur Sharma's comment on Prophet Muhammad and the row over hijab in Karnataka.