Hamid Ansari flags insecurity among minorities before stepping down as Vice-President
Vice-president Hamid Ansari turned the focus on how India’s minorities are largely uneasy at the moment right before he is to demit his constitutional post.
Ansari underscored how the nation was seeing a breakdown in values like pluralism, which have held it together. He advocated affirmative action for minorities and at the same time urged Muslims to learn and keep up with times and educate themselves to compete.
Reform on key issues like Triple Talaq has to come from within the community, Ansari said.
Expectedly, he drew criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vice-president-elect Venkaiah Naidu.
When journalist Karan Thapar asked Ansari whether Muslims felt unwanted in India, the VP said: “I would not go that far; there is a sense of insecurity.”
Ansari, in what was perhaps his last interview as VP, said several divisive comments from top politicians and some incidents added to the unease:
“Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in.”
Speaking specifically on the comments by the BJP and the Sangh parivar, Ansari said it was the result of ignorance and prejudice:
“I will not talk about political goods or political parties, but to me every time such a comment appeared or came to my knowledge; I mean my first reaction was that, A: the person is ignorant, B: that he is prejudiced and C: he does not fit into the framework that India has to additionally prided to itself on, which is to be accommodative society.”
Ansari pointed out the need for acceptance of all faiths while explaining how tolerance was not enough:
“Tolerance is a good virtue, but it is not a sufficient virtue; and therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he remarked while adding how acceptance was missing by and large.
In his last days in office Ansari was particularly critical of the currently popular brand of nationalism: “… the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,” he said, explaining how a century-old pluralistic society was under threat.
“I interact with fellow citizens and there are great many people from different walks of life who come and talk about it,” he said.
On the decision of the courts on making the National Anthem mandatory in cinemas and the Madras High Court making the singing of Vande Matram compulsory, Ansari said these reflected the mood of the nation. “I call that a sense of insecurity,” he said, while refusing to criticise the judges.
According to Ansari, he shared his apprehensions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and even Cabinet ministers. “But what passes between the Vice-President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” he said without divulging specifics.
“Not just the Muslims – any segment of society: If the requirement is to have comprehensive development; if the requirement is that everybody shall move, take one step forward and keep taking steps forward, then all have to be at the same starting point,” VP Ansari said.
“And if you are at the same starting point and there are some who are not at the starting point you have to bring them up to the starting point,” he added.
He also had words of advise for the Muslim community.
“Firstly, it (Triple Talaq) is a social aberration, it is not a religious requirement. The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs has all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable,” he said, explaining why courts don't have to step in: “You don’t have to, the reform has to come from within the community.”
Ansari's comments drew sharp criticism from the ruling BJP. Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed Ansari was looking for political shelter while party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said he was playing politics by commenting on sensitive issues.
Naidu too jumped in. “Some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu told PTI.
“There is tolerance that is why democracy is so successful. If you single out one community, other communities will take it otherwise. That is why we say all are equal. Appeasement for none; justice for all,” said Naidu who would swear-in on Friday.