Saffron Salaams: How Muslims become Hindu nationalists

In 2002 the paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded the Muslim Rashtriya Manch. The Manch was designed by RSS leaders to be an organisation of Hindu nationalist Muslim activists. Despite RSS’ history of violence and persecution of Muslims, fifteen years later Manch members continue to agitate for Hindu theocratic rule in India. They want beef banned, mosques razed, and traditional centres of Muslim leadership disbanded. This thesis proposal seminar asks: Why do Indian Muslims join the Muslim Rashtriya Manch?

We don’t have yet have an inclusive term to describe what it means when members of a subordinate group affiliate with, and support, people responsible for their subordination. Pulling together scattered case studies of comparable stories (Jews working with Nazis, Palestinians in the Israeli army, African American Republicans), I introduce the idea of ‘improbable support’ as a way of understanding why Muslims become members of the Manch.

In this proposal I present my development of the concept of ‘improbable support’ and sketch the outlines of the three contributions I aim to make with this research. Through interview-based qualitative research in New Delhi, I hope to provide the first academic description of the Manch, supply evidence for Indian Muslim political diversity and, using the concept of ‘improbable support,’ offer one possible explanation for why Muslims join the Manch.

About the Speaker
Felix Pal joined the Department of Political and Social Change in 2017 and is researching Indian Muslim responses to the recent resurgence of Hindu nationalism. Felix has a BA (Islamic Studies) from the University of Melbourne and a BA (Asia-Pacific Studies) (Hons) from the Australian National University. His research interests revolve around Muslim political diversity in North India, Hindu nationalism, South Asian Islam and the politics of language in South Asia.

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