NEW DELHI: The soft spoken Vice President of India Hamid Ansari has become the target of right wing groups who leave no occasion unturned to flout all constitutional propriety and norms and hurl nasty accusations at him.
The latest is a statement by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad attacking the Vice President over an impressive speech at a meeting of the All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat where towards the end, and in context, he said “the official objective of sab ka sath sab ke vikas is commendable; a pre-requisite for this is affirmative action (where necessary) to ensure a common starting point and an ability in all to walk at the required pace. This ability has to be developed through individual, social and governmental initiatives that fructify on the ground. Programmes have been made in abundance; the need of the hour is their implementation.”
VHP Joint General Secretary Surendra Jain described this as a “political” and “communal”statement. He insisted that the demand was designed to “push Muslims into the dark alleys of dissatisfaction whose consequences will be dangerous.” He said that the statement did not befit the office of the Vice President. And he again reiterated the old saffron statement that Muslims in India enjoy more constitutional rights than they do in other Muslim countries, as if it is a favour they are being given. And hence, he wanted the Vice President to apologise.
This comes after two concerted attacks on the VP earlier, both born out of ignorance. One was a vicious onslaught through the social media, led by RSS functionary who is now with the Bharatiya Janata Party Ram Madhav, questioning him for not attending the Yoga Day celebrations led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Vice Presidents office explained at some length that as per the protocol the Vice President cannot attend functions without be specifically invited. And a Union Minister had to apologise. Opposition parties said that Madhav was indulging in communal divisive politics. Incidentally VP Ansari was the head of protocol at one time in the Ministry of External Affairs, and acknowledged to be one of the best diplomats to head this unit.
Another attack on the Vice President was launched earlier on Republic Day in January,with even abuse being hurled his way, in response to the right wing campaign asking why he was not saluting the national flag while standing with US President Barack Obama and President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Again it had to be explained through a detailed statement by the Vice Presidents office that as per protocol he was not receiving the salute, and hence could not return it.
His address to the conglomeration of Muslim organisation has again drawn right wing ire. More so as VP Hamid Ansari is the face of a liberal, intelligent, well informed Indian whose words are heard, not because he is a Muslim but because he has created a space as a diplomat and as the Vice President of India. He is a diplomat recognised for his good work, a soft spoken, dignified gentleman who was recommended by the Left parties for the post when the UPA government came to power with their support.
He excels in the use of words and his address to the Mushawarat was again a classic exercise in diplomacy albeit hard hitting, and assertive without appearing to be so. In the process he basically bust the myths and propaganda unleashed by the right wing organisation against the Muslims and minorities in India and placed the onus on the state to rectify the exclusion and deprivation suffered by the minorities.
The Citizen has pieced together seven points that Vice President Ansari made that have worried the right wing organisations leading to the VHP attack on him. These are:
1. Vice President: “They (Muslims) were an integral part of the freedom struggle against the British rule.”
An assertion of Muslim patriotism that flies in the face of the right wing propaganda seeking to dub India’s largest minority as ‘anti-national.’
2. Vice President: “ They (Muslims) are dispersed all over the country, are not homogenous in linguistic and socio-economic terms and reflect in good measure the diversities that characterise the people of India as a whole.”
This cuts into the propaganda seeking to portray Indian Muslims a monolith, alien to the culture of India. And underlines the social and economic commonalities they have with all other communities living in India.
3. Vice President: “The Independence of India in August 1947, and the events preceding and following it, cast a shadow of physical and psychological insecurity on Indian Muslims. They were made to carry, unfairly, the burden of political events and compromises that resulted in the Partition.”
This is a clear reference to the propaganda seeking to link the Indian Muslim to Pakistan, the accusation that the Muslims here are supporters of Pakistan and have their hearts and mind across the border that VP Ansari has questioned categorically as “unfair.” Muslims here have always maintained they they stayed back in India out of choice and not compulsion. And the numbers of those who chose India over Pakistan were so high that as VP Ansari had said earlier in his speech, the second largest population of Muslims in the world lives in India after Indonesia.
4. Vice President: “The process of recovery from that trauma has been gradual and uneven, and at times painful. They have hesitatingly sought to tend to their wounds, face the challenges and seek to develop response patterns.”
In this he recognises the problems that the Muslims have faced, as against the right wing propaganda that they have given problems to the nation by their very existence. And also a recognition by the Vice President, who cannot be described as illiberal by even his worst critics, that the community has tried to deal with the challenges through adjustments and specific response patterns.
5. Vice President on the Sachar Committee report: ‘In the past decade, work has also been done to delineate the contours of the problem. The Sachar Committee Report of 2006 did this officially. It laid to rest the political untruth in some quarters about the Muslim condition and demonstrated that on most socio-economic indicators, they were on the margins of structures of political, economic and social relevance and their average condition was comparable to or even worse than the country’s acknowledged historically most backward communities, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”
Vice President:” Expert Group reports were prepared in 2008 on the need to develop a Diversity Index and establish an Equal Opportunity Commission.”“Taken together, these and other studies bring forth sufficient evidence to substantiate the view that “inequality traps prevent the marginalised and work in favour of the dominant groups in society”.
Vice President: “Kundu Report of September 2014, commissioned to evaluate the implementation of decisions taken pursuant to Sachar recommendations, has concluded that though “a start has been made, yet serious bottlenecks remain.” It makes specific recommendations to remedy these. It asserts that “development for the Muslim minority must be built on a bed-rock of a sense of security.”
These three quotes referring to reports set up by governments, and their recommendations is again authentic proof of the social, economic backwardness of the Muslims certified by commission set up to look at the issue. The Kundu reports makes the necessary look between security and development, and the Vice President’s words are clearly a reminder that the government has not taken note of any of this. Instead there seems to be a hint in his words that the opposite is happening, and insecurity amongst the minorities has reached new heights.
6. Vice President: “identity and security;education and empowerment;equitable share in the largesse of the state; and fair share in decision making. Each of these is a right of the citizen.”
All citizens in his words, of all castes and communities. Right wing organisations affiliated to the RSS, and individuals heading the affiliates have created a stir in secular India over the past months questioning the rights of minorities in an India they insist should belong to the majority.
7.Vice President: “The default by the State or its agents in terms of deprivation, exclusion and discrimination (including failure to provide security) is to be corrected by the State; this needs to be done at the earliest and appropriate instruments developed for it.”
This was his most direct statement making it clear that the state has defaulted to the point of depriving, excluding and discriminating against the minorities and needs to rectify this at the earliest.
The speech was not about terrorism but about the problems, the challenges, and the exclusion and trauma being faced by the minorities that struck a chord with secular India.