KULDIP NAYAR | 29 AUGUST, 2017
In Defence of Hamid Ansari: Secularism Indeed is in Great Danger
NEW DELHI: In a farewell message the outgoing vice-president, Hamid Ansari, has said that Muslims do not feel safe in the country. Instead of introspecting on what he said, the RSS and the BJP have denounced him. Some have gone to the extent of saying that he could migrate to a country where he would feel safe.
The unkindest cut came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who said that Ansari could now pursue his agenda. A few others, occupying high positions, also made more or less similar remarks. There was not an iota of introspection by the Hindutva leaders and thus a great opportunity to disarm the Muslims of their fear was lost.
True, the vice-president could have made the same remarks earlier and submitted his resignation while in office. But that would have created another kind of a crisis which the constitution experts would have found hard to sort out. That way the country would have been thrown into a cauldron of doubt and suspicion.
The majority community must try to find out why a Muslim leader raises reservation about his community’s welfare whenever he gets the opportunity, particularly on the eve of quitting office. The remark that Ansari could go to any country of his choice does not in any way meet the point he has raised. Ansari was not saying whether he was safe or not personally. The outgoing vice-president was only conveying the fears of Muslims.
Personal attacks on Ansari will not do. The government leaders should ponder over what the outgoing vice-president has said and how the majority community could make amends to retrieve the situation. But the message has not been taken in the spirit it should have been.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has reportedly endorsed the view that since Ansari did not feel happy in India he could go elsewhere. As head of a Hindu organization, Bhagwat’s remark attains the representative character, unfortunately reducing the whole thing to the perennial debate of Hindus versus Muslims.
Since Ansari’s remark is public property and coming as it did from the country’s vice-president, it should be debated at all responsible forums, including Parliament. The government at the centre has constituted in the past a commission to find out how the Muslims felt. Justice Rajinder Sachar, who led the commission, said in his report that the Muslims were treated worse than the Dalits. And he found that West Bengal, after nearly three decades of communist rule, had only a 2.5 percent educated Muslims. Time is ripe to have another Commission to find out if Justice Sachar’s report had made any difference.
Unfortunately, similar remarks of regret have been made by other Muslims leaders in the past. In fact, some celebrities also have joined the chorus. Take for instance, what film star Aamir Khan remarked a couple of years ago when he took potshots at politicians, while referring to the fear his wife Kiran Rao had expressed about India’s growing intolerance.
“When I chat with Kiran (his wife) at home, she says 'Should we move out of India?' That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers every day. That does indicate that there is this sense of growing disquiet, there is growing despondency apart from alarm. You feel why this is happening, you feel low. That sense does exist in me,” Aamir Khan said.
Khan, while speaking at an award function, also endorsed the returning of awards by creative people saying it was a way to express their dissatisfaction or disappointment. “People who are our elected representatives, people who we select to look after us for five years, State or centre... when people take law into their hands, we look upon these people to take a strong stance, to make a strong statement, speed up the legal process, when we see that happening there is a sense of security but when we don’t see that happening there is a sense of insecurity,” said the celebrity actor.
Understandably, the BJP reacted to his remark and completely rejected the comments. “He is not scared but he is trying to scare people. India gave him all the laurels and respect. He should not forget that India made him a star,” said BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain. Congress vice-president stoutly defended the actor and suggested that the Modi government should reach out to the people to know why they felt disturbed.
Rahul Gandhi in a tweet said: “Instead of branding all those who question the government and Modiji as unpatriotic, anti-national or ‘motivated’, the government would do better to reach out to people to understand what's disturbing them." But the BJP spokesman, as usual, pooh-poohed Rahul’s comment saying that there was a conspiracy going on in the country to defame the nation!
The real problem is the line drawn by Radcliffe on the basis of religion. He did regret the killings in the wake of partition, but did not change the line. Those on the other side of the line are people of Pakistan who slowly and gradually are becoming part of the Islamic world. Fundamentalism has taken a firm grip.
There is practically no Hindu and Sikh on the other side of the border. Christians form the majority among the minorities in Pakistan. Their complaint is that the churches have been destroyed and there is a forced conversion. The democratically elected prime minister is doing whatever he can. But the last word is with the army. Unfortunately, the army is also getting contaminated.
Words of Ansari have great relevance because a soft kind of Hindutva is spreading in India. Those who are at the helm of affairs are pushing the division because elections fought on the basis of Hindus and Muslims are bound to benefit the Hindus. The fabric of secular India is being torn bit by bit. It’s regrettable that ideology of secularism followed in the last seven decades is in great danger.