Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — Without taking the name, former vice president of India Hamid Ansari on Friday ripped into the Narendra Modi government and its fountainhead RSS, saying an Indian version of ‘Muslim-phobia’ has been inducted in the social media discourse and the ‘majoritarian’ ideology has put the plural, diverse, egalitarian, and democratic character of the country under threat.
Former Chief Justice of India, Justice A M Ahmadi also flagged that the Constitution of India is under peril which needs to be protected.
Delivering the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad Memorial Lecture on “Sins and Sinners: Where Did It Go Wrong?” at the Ghalib Institute here on Friday evening, Ansari, a scholar of eminence and career diplomat, has observed that India stands at the crossroads as the India of today is a very different place in its perception, and practice while old India is dead as the ideology of a ‘cultural’ organization (read RSS) has been injected into segments of public opinion unnoticeably in the name of the ‘nation’ and ‘national security.’
“The India of today, I confess, appears to be a very different place in its perception, articulation, and practice. Above all, sections of the opinion are purposefully involved in disowning the past, re-writing parts of it, distorting it to create new idols and ideas. Old India, it is claimed, is dead, that 40 per cent of voters are now middle class, that their ‘aspirations’ are understood by the Leader, and that it represents a triumph of chemistry over arithmetic. Less candidly, the ideology of a ‘cultural’ organization has been injected into segments of public opinion and has been imbibed almost imperceptibly in the name of the ‘nation’ and ‘national security’ “
Referring to a recent book observation about the present government, Ansari said ‘in a short space of four years, India has made a very long journey. It has travelled from its founding vision of civic nationalism to a new political imaginary of cultural nationalism that appears to be firmly embedded in the public realm, he added.
Ansari who is also a former vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, said the moulding of the public mind by a network of ideologically oriented groupings continued through a sustained process of indoctrination initiated at the pre-school, primary and secondary school levels in which culture itself was redefined and conflated with aspects of faith and selected versions of the past.
“Created alongside was a simplistic and motivated version of the Partition blaming it on one community in a selective and slanted narration of recent history,” he said and adding that an Indian version of ‘Muslim-phobia’ has been inducted in the social media discourse.
“In this manner an image of the ‘Other’ has been created to supplement the indoctrination of the minds.”
He also put the previous secular governments in the dock for not countering the indoctrination process carried out by RSS.
“This process of molding the minds was known but not countered even when governments of other political orientations were in seats of power. This can only be attributed to an ideological vacuum or worse that seemed to have crept in, perhaps allowed to creep in”.
He asserted that the Indian identity was an amalgam of identities and that pluralism and the practices of tolerance and acceptance was the basis on which Indian Nationalism and the Freedom Movement took shape. However, it has been ignored or underplayed for political reasons.
“The Indian reality of migrating groups seeking greener pastures since times immemorial was better depicted in a couplet:
Sar zamin-e-hind par aqwam-e-alam ke Firaq
Qafile baste gae hindostan banta gaya
(Caravans from nations of the world kept coming and contributed to the formation of Hindostan)”.
He pointed out that the molding of the public mind by a public figure or a demagogue is not an unknown phenomenon in this country but for this, the audience had to be conditioned to receive the message. He said their (RSS) organization, resources and reach became formidable over time and adding that their approach, to borrow a phrase from a recent comment in the Economist magazine, is ‘zealous, ideological and cavalier with the truth.’
On nationalism, former president said it is often confused with patriotism and used interchangeably which is an ‘ideological poison’ that has no hesitation in transcending and transgressing individual rights.
He recalled that Rabindranath Tagore had called nationalism ‘a great menace’, described it as ‘one of the most powerful anesthetics that man has invented who had warned against ‘the idolatry of the nation.’
Defining the Majoritarianism in the Indian context, he said that a religious majority is entitled to primacy in society and has the right by virtue of it to take basic decisions relating to the whole society and this is very different from an electoral majority emanating from an electoral process whose results are time-specific and subject to periodic review in a democratic system.
He warned against the hallucination induced by a ‘majoritarian’ ideology that threatens to overwhelm the plural, diverse, egalitarian, and democratic landscape we relish and cherish.
“The hallucinatory virus, let be admitted, may have seeped into the bloodstream and through it to the interstices of the heart and the mind; it would, therefore, require a sufficiently powerful antidote that has to have effective alternatives on national and global issues.”
Dr Ansari suggested that the only alternative to counter this hallucination virus it to diligent implementation of the foundational principles of the Indian polity.
He also ripped into the strident nationalism and the notion of an Akhand Bharat as depicted in a cultural organization’s cartography.
Concluding his speech decorated with very apt Urdu couplets, he said that “The sin is the betrayal of the core values of the Constitution; the sinners are those who professed those values but did not uphold them adequately and allowed a thoughtless use of franchise to become its instrumentality.”
Hamid Ansari also paid rich tributes to late President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and said, “he belonged to and represented another era in the life of modern India who participated in the freedom movement and occupied high offices in the state and central governments, including the highest. It was my privilege to receive him in Abu Dhabi when he paid a state visit to the United Arab Emirates in October 1976.”
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was the fifth President of India from 1974 to 1977 and also the 2nd President of India to die in office. He was originally from Assam but was born on May 13, 1905 at the Hauz Qazi area of Old Delhi and died on February 11, 1977. His father, Col. Zalnur Ali Ahmed, was the first indigenous Assamese person and the first indigenous person from northeast India to have an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree.
In his presidential note, former chief justice Ahmadi said Mr Ansari has delivered a thought-provoking speech and we need to ponder over. Echoing his sentiments, he said the constitution is really under threat and it is the duty of each right-thinking people to come forward for saving this document. He also stressed on the need of educational empowerment of the community saying without this we cannot move forward.
Former Lt Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jang also expressed his views on the occasion.
Former chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and son of late Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Justice Badar Durez Ahmed said there is no need of despondency as India is a constitutional democracy where one can challenge for his or her right in the court of law. He also recalled the sacrifices made by his father during the freedom struggle who had spent six years in jail.
Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad Memorial Lecture was arranged on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Ghalib Institute at its auditorium.