Outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari feels there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country, asserting the “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat.
Ansari, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ends today, made these remarks in the backdrop of incidents of “intolerance” and cow vigilantism.
Stating that he had flagged the issue of “intolerance” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues, Ansari, 80, also described the questioning of citizens over their love for India as a “disturbing thought”.
Asked in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari said that he had. “Yes…yes. But what passes between the Vice President and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation,” Ansari, who is also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, said.
He said that he has also flagged the issue with other union ministers. “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgement, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said when asked about the response of the government.
In the interview, Vice President Ansari referred to incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and alleged killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values, breakdown of the ability of the authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work and over all the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.”
“Yes it is a correct assessment,” Ansari said when asked whether he agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community is apprehensive and that it was feeling insecure as a result of the kind of comments made against them.
“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 it in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he said.
Asked whether he felt that the Muslims are “beginning to feel that they are not wanted”, Ansari said, “I would not go that far, there is a sense of insecurity.”
He said India is a plural society that has for centuries, not just seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now “under threat”. He was of the view that the propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day-in and day-out is “unnecessary”.
“I am an Indian and that is it,” he said. Ansari was of the view that while tolerance is a good virtue, it is not a sufficient virtue. “…therefore you have to take the next step and go from tolerance to acceptance,” he said.
At an event in Bengaluru on Sunday, Vice President Ansari said that the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core “promotes intolerance” and arrogant patriotism.
Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about people in politics or about 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 always prided to itself on, which is to be an accommodative society,” he said.
Responding to questions on triple talaq, Mr Ansari said it is a social aberration, not a religious requirement. “Firstly, it 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 have all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable,” he said.
He said the courts do not have to step in as the reform has to come from within the community. “The courts can say that we don’t recognise it. That’s all. I mean a marriage has to be recognised on certain occasions by the system of the state. And if a state functionary at a particular point of time refuses to recognise a happening which may be the product of a triple talaq, that s it,” he explained.
To a poser on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Ansari said, “the problem has always primarily been a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.”
He agreed to a suggestion that politicians are ducking the problem. “That’s my impression. And I’m not the only one in the country…when young boys and girls come out on to the streets and throw stones day after day, week after week, month after month, it’s something to worry about because they are our children, they are our citizens.”
“Something is obviously going wrong. What exactly, I am not the final word on it, but I think there are enough people in the country who are worried about it. Eminent people belonging to different political persuasions and their worry must be taken on board,” the Vice President said.