Every year since 2015, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has hosted an Iftar party during the month of Ramzan after Narendra Modi took the decision not to host such parties at the prime minister’s residence. Though one such party was held on June 4 at the Sahyadri guest house in Malabar Hill in Mumbai, a request from the Maharashtra convenor of the Rashtriya Muslim Manch, an organisation affiliated to the RSS, to host a party in Nagpur was shot down by senior leaders.
The whole issue was raked up when last week, Maharashtra Manch convener Mohammad Faruq Sheikh requested RSS Nagpur Mahanagar Sanghchalak Rajesh Loya to host an Iftar party at Smruti Mandir, which is the memorial of RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar and doubles up as the premises for the outfit in Nagpur.
However, his request was declined by the RSS, saying, “no parties can be hosted there”.
“Iftar is always hosted by the one who throws the party. Islam doesn’t ask someone else to host the party for Muslims. The request by the Maharashtra unit leader at Nagpur to the RSS is fundamentally flawed on this count and he has been told about it,” Manch national president Mohammad Afzal told the Indian Express.
Afzal said, “Sheikh, who enthusiastically pleaded for it, has been told that his expectation was improper.”
The Indian Express also reported that a senior RSS functionary said that “no such event can be hosted at Smruti Mandir. Currently, the third year training camp is also going on at Smruti Mandir”.
Sheikh has said that the idea behind hosting such a party was to spread the message of “brotherhood”. “I thought RSS hosting Iftar would send a message of brotherhood at a time the world is talking about growing intolerance in India. What’s wrong in that?” he asked.
He added, “Last year, we had hosted an Iftar party in front of Mominpura’s Jama Masjit, in which some RSS, BJP leaders had come.”
Sheikh reportedly also suggested that they make the Iftar feast vegetarian to respect the wishes of the outfit, but his request fell on deaf ears.
Afzal also stressed on the fact that the Maharashtra party had already been organised in Mumbai. “So no other party is required to be hosted,” Afzal said. “Manch is an independent organisation which works in close coordination with the RSS. There can be no imposition of will on anyone either way.”
Even the event held in Mumbai on Monday saw its fair share of disagreements as several Muslim groups refused to attend the Iftar party, calling it a ‘sham’.
More so, a city-based activist had sought the cancellation of the Iftar party. he based his arguments on the fact that no ‘public or religious’ functions are allowed inside the Sahyadri guest house as it is meant only for ‘official use’.
His letter, citing a 2015 government circular, stated: “The rules as framed by the government bar any activity other than official meetings and workshops from being held at the guest house; even these can only be hosted by the senior-most elected officials and bureaucrats. An Iftar party is a religious event and the RMM as well as the RSS cannot technically book the guest house for such an event.”