New Delhi, Oct 17: A troupe of Muslim artists from Indonesia recently performed Ramlila at the India Islamic Centre here in presence of senior RSS leader and Patron of Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) Indresh Kumar.
This is probably for the first time any RSS leader presided over the event of Ramlila performed by the Muslim artists coming from a Muslim country called Indonesia.
The performance began with the scene of ‘Sita Haran’ abduction of Sita by Ravana and how the aged vulture demigod Jatayu opposed the demon Ravana engaging him in a fierce battle till his last breath. Incidentally, the Prime Minister mentioned Jatayu as the first line of defence against terrorism.
But this Indonesian Ramlila has no dialogues. The expression and stage movement of artists tell the story. Only a background score keeps pace with the fast changing drama on stage.
“The message is for our neighbours. Indonesia is a Muslim country and like India, all religions are respected there," says Shriram Joshi, closely associated with the function.
Performed by Bali Ranganiketan Cultural Artists, the programme was organised by three NGOs. Under the magnificent dome of the Islamic Cultural Centre this Friday evening, they all sat- foreign diplomats, ochre-robed sadhus, Maulanas in shin-length Aligarh pyjama. And they all waited with patience. The chief guest was stuck in a traffic snarl on his way from Mewat in adjoining Haryana.
Almost an hour after the stipulated time- Indresh Kumar took his place on the podium and the proceedings began. On his right sat NSA Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya, and alumnus of Chicago University. He, like BJP leader Ram Madhav, is now actively associated with the right-wing think tank India Foundation.
In his inaugural address, the RSS leader elaborates on Ramlila and its importance in the current context. Pakistan was born on the 14th of August, he says. India, that is Bharat, has had an eternal existence.
In contemporary politics, Indian Muslim or Muslim India was a debate which was started by All India Babri Masjid Action Committee leader Syed Shahabuddin at the peak of the Ram Temple Movement in the late eighties. India Islamic Centre precedes that. Indian Gandhi laid the foundation of the centre just before her assassination in 1984. She had intervened to name it thus as against the proposal to establish an Islamic India Centre in Delhi. Twenty-two years later her daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the building in 2006.
The temple movement was led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Its political benefits accrued on the BJP. The title suit is pending in the Supreme Court. The Uniform Civil Code - part of BJP’s original agenda along with Article 370 - has however resurfaced this autumn. The government has already filed an affidavit stating its view on triple talaq. Thirty years back, a Congress government at the Centre was caught in a quagmire spiralling out of the Shah Bano Case.
On the sidelines of the function, Indresh Kumar speaks about all these issues.
“The Muslim religious leaders should first try to arrive at a consensus among various groups," he says. “It is a matter related to the rights of eight crore Muslim women in the country.”