When former Vice President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari said there’s a sense of unease among Muslims in the country, a section of Indians, majority of media, and many who’re part of the present Government came upon him with all sorts of allegations. But defending the former VP is not that difficult.
On the last day in Office, the outgoing Vice President of India Mr. Hamid Ansari found himself in spotlight, for all the negative reasons. He was trending on Twitter and being debated on TV news Channels; and was constantly being reminded of many things, ranging from, him being an opportunist to his delayed conscience call, to a 10 year long luxurious marathon VP tenure bestowed upon him and, what not else. He was also reminded by many as to how he was caught not saluting when everyone else did. The list is endless.
So what brought him such a bad press and negative emotions? An interview.
In his last interview to Rajya Sabha TV before demiting the office of India’s vice-president, Hamid Ansari when asked whether minorities in India feel a sense of insecurity courtesy all the violent incidents on the question of beef ban, Ghar Wapasi and cow vigilantism, he said the Muslims in the country are experiencing “a feeling of unease”.
To put things in perspective, when the interviewer (Karan Thapar) used the word Minority, Mr. Ansari used the term Muslims. Another point which must be kept in perspective is that between the two (the interviewer and the interviewee), it was the interviewer who used the terms and phrases such as beef ban, Ghar Wapasi, cow vigilantism, mob lynchings etc. Mr. Ansari always used much subdued terms and phrases, such as “A sense of insecurity is creeping in”, “breakdown of Indian values”, “breakdown of the ability of the authorities” to enforce the law”, “the very fact that (the) Indian-ness of any citizen (is) being questioned is a disturbing thought,”etc. In simple, the interviewer asked probing question, which he answered with fair degree of honesty. When asked what Indian-ness is? The former VP said : Diversity.
All this got him severe criticism.
Today, when a section of people including majority of media aggressively refutes to any concerns about rising intolerance in India, as communal and divisive, the disembarking VP getting a bad press is understandable.
But is there any scope of defending the former VP. The answer is yes. If you check your facts before saying and writing, then it’s fairly easy. If you have seen the one hour long interview, then it’s not that difficult.
Here it is important to keep the points in perspective as they will help us look objectively at what objectionable (or communal or divisive) was exchanged in the said interview. It will also allow us to see whether Mr. Ansari deserved such a bad press and people response for what he said.
But before that, lets put one fact to all those who to this day blame the former Vice President of India for not saluting saluting when the National Anthem was being played during Republic Day celebrations at Rajpath some years ago (2014).
It’s all about the Official Protocol. According to the Vice President of India’s Office in keeping with the protocol, the Vice-President does not offer a salute when he is not the principal dignitary. In a Republic Day Function, the President of India is the principal dignitary. At the Republic Day parade, the President of India, as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, takes the salute and by protocol, the Vice-President is required to stand in attention. When National anthem is played, Principal Dignitary & persons in uniform take salute. Those in civil dress stand in attention. This will be a sufficient fact check and explains why even at that time Mr. Ansari was unnecessarily criticized.
A quick rebuttal of one more objection made by those who quickly change goal post to score at least some brawny points. If they had any objection to Mr. Ansari wearing a Head-gear (a Cap or hat or topi) when he’s Principal dignitary, then another VP Protocol says that: When the Vice-President is the Principal Dignitary, he salutes during National Anthem, wearing a head gear.
After this fact check, lets take our attention to another incident where the former VP got considerable flak from the over enthusiastic functionaries, supporters of a personality cult or philosophy. According to the Mr. Ansari, he didn’t take part in the International Event because he was not invited.
Now lets talk about Mr. Ansari’s interview to the Rajya Sabha TV.
If you had viewed the interview, then you would have noted that the Former VP categorically told the interviewer that he communicated his concerns to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his tenure as VP as well. Hence tardy awakening of conscience is out of question here.
Although, the former Vice President has aired similar views and concerns from one podium or the other during his tenure, they didn’t become a news. This time around the sames views are made to escalate in a negative manner. But that’s not the point. The point here is: Should a VP of a country speak a lie on the day of demiting his office?
If truth has to prevail then it’s noteworthy that similar views & concerns, and in more harsher tones are occasionally reflected by the former President Pranab Mukherjee and other Constitutional figures. What made these concerns particularly objectionable now?
All through the interview, at no point Mr. Ansari seemed to speak anything which is unConstitutional. He speaks about Rule of Law and Diversity, then that is what the Constitution of India tells us. Watching the interview in its entirety makes this amply clear.
His use of word ‘Muslims’ is also understandable as the interviewer mentioned all the issues aimed at muslims.
Speaking about marathon tenure, then it’s more proper to link it to the political philosophy of the previous Congress-led UPA Government. It was the previous Congress led UPA Government who got him elected. The moment you see it in this light, then two terms as VP do not look that impossible. Forget about the two consecutive terms, the views and concerns of the former VP start making sense, the moment we compare them with the political and Governmental discourse of the previous Government. The mere look at the discourse also makes us understand why his concerns are being seen objectionable today.
As far as luxurious 10 year tenure is concerned, then the allegation came from an actor turned MP. It’s no surprise that he holds such an assessment of someone holding a Constitutional Position. This first timer must increase his knowledge and look for other motivations that make people accept such responsible positions.
To conclude, what we’re seeing today is a surge of majoritarianism. In simple words, majoritarianism is is a political philosophy which says that those who have number strength (or are in majority) will dictate how views, cultures, practices and traditions will be judged and treated; and how decisions are made. This is not diversity. Exactly what the previous Vice President of India said in his last interview as the Vice President of India.