Ansari feels ‘Indianness’ is facing a challenge.
New Delhi: Raising the issue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks at his farewell function almost a year ago, former vice president Hamid Ansari says, “many considered the comments to be a departure from accepted practices on such occasions”.
August 10, 2017 was the last day of Mr Ansari’s second term as Vice President (2007-2017) and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. According to tradition, leaders of political parties and members devoted the forenoon session to thanking the Chair. “The Prime Minister participated in this and while being fulsome in his complements also hinted at what he perceived to be a certain inclination in my approach on account of my having spent, as he put it, both a good part of my professional tenure as a diplomat in Muslim lands and in post-retirement period on minority-related questions,” Mr Ansari says. “The context, presumably, was my reference in the Bengaluru speech to what I perceived as “enhanced apprehension of insecurity” and in the TV interview to “a sense of unease creeping in” among Muslims and some other religious minorities”, he said.
In his last interview before he demitted office, Mr Ansari had pointed out that Muslims in the country were experiencing a “feeling of unease”. “The subsequent furore by the faithful on social media tended to lend credence to this. On the other hand, editorial comments and a good many serious writings considered the PM’s remarks to be a departure from accepted practice on such occasions”, he says. He uses a line from an Urdu couplet to depict my words — “bhari bazm main raaz ki baat keh di (revealed in public what was hidden)”. Mr Ansari also feels that the widely accepted pluralist view of nationalism and Indianness is now being challenged by a viewpoint depicting “purifying exclusivism” through the idea of “cultural nationalism”.
The idea of “cultural nationalism” is premised principally on a shared culture narrowly defined, he says.
Mr Ansari addresses these issues in “Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges”, a collection of his speeches and writings, made mostly in his last year in office and some in recent months. According to Mr Ansari, who had the distinction of being the only second vice-president after S Radhakrishnan to serve for two consecutive terms, the debate on nationalism has wider ramifications for Indian democracy.
“In the typology of democracy; ours is a liberal one based on universal suffrage, tolerance, respect for diversity, a comprehensive charter of rights and Rule of Law that brings together the notions of rights, development, governance and justice,” he said.