In his last interview as the Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari on Wednesday said that a sense of “unease” has gripped the Muslim community of the country. The outgoing Vice President also added that a sense of insecurity is creeping in among the Muslims in the country against the current backdrop of “intolerance” and “vigilante violence”. In an interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Hamid Ansari said that he shared the view of many people that intolerance was growing in the country.
"Over all, the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought," Hamid Ansari said.
Responding to a question on his Sunday speech in which he termed "nationalism with cultural commitments at its core" as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism, Hamid Ansari pointed out that it reflected the mood of the country in 2017.
The outgoing Vice President further said that he had felt a personal need to underline that the need to keep proving one's patriotism and the intolerance it made for, was unhealthy.
“And I am not the only one in the country; a great many people feel the same way," he added.
When asked if he had shared these sentiments with Prime Minister Modi, Hamid Ansari replied in the affirmative but added that what transpires between the Vice President and the PM should not be brought in public domain.
"Yes... But what passes between the Vice President and the PM in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged information," the outgoing Vice President said.
To a question about their response and whether he was satisfied, he said: "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."
Asked if the Muslims were beginning to feel they are not wanted, the Vice President said: "I would not go that far, there is a sense of insecurity."
He also had a word of advice for the Muslim community that it has to move with the times and live with the requirements of the occasion.
"Do not create for one self or ones fellow beings an imaginary situation which is centuries back, when things were very different. I mean the whole idea was that what are the challenges today.. The challenges today are challenges of development, what are the requirements for development; you keep up with the times, educate yourself, and compete..."
On the controversy over triple talaq, he said the practice was a social aberration and not a religious requirement.
Asked whether the courts should step in, he said: "You don't have to. The reform has to come from within the community."
To a question as to how he looked at the situation in the country in the context of cow vigilante attacks, lynchings, beef ban, love jihad and 'ghar wapsi' campaigns, Ansari said the fact that India has been a plural society for centuries and not for 70 years is under threat.
Asked about the fact that even the Supreme Court has ruled that the National Anthem should be played before film screenings and some other courts giving similar directions, Ansari said: "The courts are a part of society. So what the courts tend to say sometimes is reflective of what the prevailing atmosphere in society is. I call that a sense of insecurity... This propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it."
Ansari, a former career diplomat, was asked about his visits abroad especially to Africa during his vice presidency and the fact that there were a number of attacks on Africans in India during that time.
He agreed to the question that such attacks created enormous concerns, particularly among African ambassadors who publicly commented with anger.
Asked whether these attacks were Indian racism or simply law and order, Ansari shot back: "Well, it is scandalous to begin with. It was the failure of law and order and it was the failure of public behaviour. There can't be two views on a situation like this wherever it takes place, anywhere it takes place."
When queried whether the official response was the right one or should they have been more willing to accept that this is more than just law and order, he said: "(The response) could have been more forthcoming."
Asked about the disruptions in Parliament and whether he was not imposing more discipline on members, he said the answer is simple.
"The chair of the house be it the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, is a referee... is an umpire in a cricket match. The referee is given a rule book and the referee cannot go beyond the rule book. Rules were made at a different stage in history when certain forms of behaviour were acceptable and certain forms of behaviour were not imagined. Things have changed over time, Indian society has changed over time, public behaviour has changed over time, we have not caught up with it."
(With IANS inputs)