Outgoing Vice President of India and outstanding Indian educationalist Hamid Ansari has rightly said that India is fast moving toward a terrocracy as Muslims are being targeted by a section of majority Hindus and 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.
Dr. Ansari said a sense of insecurity is creeping in as a result of the dominant mood created by some and the resultant intolerance and vigilantism he shared the view of many that intolerance was growing. In hard-hitting remarks during an interview he ascribed the spate of vigilante violence, mob lynchings, beef bans and “Ghar Wapsi” campaigns to a “breakdown of Indian values” and to the “breakdown of the ability of the authorities” to enforce the law. “…and overall, the very fact that the Indianness of any citizen (is) being questioned is a disturbing thought,” Ansari said.
By targeting Muslims the Constitutional guarantees for the protection of minorities are being violated by the ruling classes and judiciary has no role in protecting the Muslims from majority attacks, either.
A feeling of unease and insecurity is creeping in among Muslims in India, Vice President Hamid Ansari said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV joining a growing number of leaders who have expressed concerns over attacks on minorities.
Professor Hamid Ansari, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ended on August 10, 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”.
Ansari, who completed two terms as vice president on August 10, said that there is a breakdown of Indian values and of the abilities among authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work. “Overall, the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,” he said in his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV. Congress president Sonia Gandhi MP raised similar concerns during a speech in Parliament where she urged people to not let “dark forces” diminish India’s core values. Neither Ansari nor Gandhi named any party or individual in particular, but their statements can be seen to allude to the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which the Congress party and other opposition outfits often accuse of pandering to right-wing Hindu ideologies.
On the August 10 Ansari left his Vice Presidential office at Hyderabad House in New Delhi that only Philosopher S Radhakrishnan had occupied as long as 10 years. The BJP government, for obvious political reasons, did not want to elevate him to be the president nor was given another term. He ruled out possibilities of Indian Muslims getting influenced by ISI and such other elements but mentioned that it would be a correct assessment to say that the Muslim community is feeling insecure.
Ansari, the only two-term vice president after S Radhakrishnan, also voiced advice for the Muslim community. “Do not create for one self or one’s fellow beings an imaginary situation which is centuries back, when things were very different. 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 situation in Jammu Kashmir, 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.
Muslim community terrorized, alienated
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 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.
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. 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.” Attacks on Muslims and lynching of Muslims directly say that. 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.
Asked in an interview why he thought Indian values were “suddenly” breaking down, Vice-President Hamid Ansari answered: “Because we are a plural society that for centuries, not for 70 years, has lived in a certain ambience of acceptance.” He said this acceptance was “under threat”. “This propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it,” he told Rajya Sabha TV.
Referring to the incidents of lynching and ‘ghar wapsi’ and killings of rationalists as a “breakdown of Indian values”, Ansari said, “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.”
On being asked if 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, Ansari said, “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 in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” “There is a sense of insecurity,” said Ansari, adding that India is a plural society that for centuries, not for seventy years, has lived in a certain “ambience of acceptance” which is now under threat.
Regarding the issues of tolerance, he mentioned 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, Ansari said the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism.
He said the issue of Triple Talaq is a social aberration and the reform, if any at all, has to come from within the community leaders of political other parties and religions need not interfere in the personal matters of Muslims. “The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs has all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable.”
Threat to nationalism and unity
RSS-BJP duo employs the “patriotism” to insult Muslims as if Hindus are extra patriots. They want Hindu votes to come to power. They don’t mind another division of the nation to make India a “pure” Hindu nation. At an event in Bengaluru in the South, 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 the person is ignorant and that he is prejudiced and he does not fit into the framework that India has always prided to itself on, which is to be an accommodative society,” he said.
Ansari was asked a question on his lecture at the National Law School in Bengaluru earlier this month where he said rejuvenating secularism’s basic principles was becoming a challenge. There is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he told journalist Karan Thapar during the interview after being asked to reflect on his statement in Bengaluru.
Asked specifically about his speech in which he spoke about a nationalism with cultural commitments at its core being perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism, and whether the remark was about the mood of the country in 2017, he replied: “Oh, absolutely.” And he agreed he had felt a personal need to underline that this need to keep proving one’s patriotism, and the intolerance it made for, was unhealthy: “Yes. And I am not the only one in the country; a great many people feel the same way.” Asked if he had shared these apprehensions with the PM or the government, he replied: “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 also ruled out the possibility of Indian Muslims being influenced by militant outfits.
Ansari said that he shared his apprehensions to the Prime Minister and other cabinet ministers, but refused to divulge details of their interaction on the plank that “what passes between the vice president and the Prime Minister in the nature of things must remain in the domain of privileged conversation.” Asked in an interview on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari, who is also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, 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,” 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 judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said when asked about the response of the government.
Anti-Muslim forces like BJP-RSS cannot digest plain criticism of Hindutva mischief and never admit that they have created a dirty sense of uneasy and insecurity of for Indian Muslims, His comments drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement. In fact, that is how the BJP and RSS add members into their fold who speak against Islam and Muslims or for a Hindutva nation, and promote them for big positions.
Professor Ansari’s comments about the feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity creeping in among the Muslims in the country against the current backdrop of intolerance and vigilante violence drew criticism from the BJP, with party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioning if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement.
Ansari’s successor Venkaiah Naidu, who was sworn in on Friday also criticized Ansari, seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”. “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.
A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.
Meanwhile, former union minister Venkaiah Naidu has been elected as his successor and Ansari thinks that the nature of the job of chairman of Rajya Sabha will dictate the response and there is no reason why the Opposition will not get a fair deal under Naidu’s chairmanship.
Ansari’s successor an RSS operative Venkaiah Naidu seemingly responded to the comments, dismissing them as “political propaganda”. “Some people are saying minorities are insecure… Compared to the entire world, minorities are safer and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said.
PM Modi praised outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari for his track record in public service. With Ansari chairing his last session in the Rajya Sabha, Modi led the tributes as Upper House members expressed their heartfelt gratitude and congratulated the political veteran on his efficient contributions.
A day after outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari said Muslims were feeling insecure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he (Ansari) will be free to pursue his “core thinking” once he demits office. In his remarks in the Rajya Sabha, where Ansari was given a farewell on his last day in office, Modi hailed his role in the past 10 years and said Ansari had tried his best to live up to it.
Prime Minister Modi referred to the 100 years of public life of Ansari’s forefathers and said they were aligned with the Congress and Khilafat Movement. The Khilafat Movement, launched by Muslim clergy in India to protest against the threat to Islamic Caliphate following the defeat of Turkey at the hands of Britain in World War I, was supported by Mahatma Gandhi and has been seen as among the factors which contributed to the growth of separatist consciousness among the community which led to the country’s partition in 1947. In an interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari struck a note of caution, warning that Muslims in the country are feeling insecure amid a sense of growing intolerance – “the ambience of acceptance” is at risk
Modi recalled Ansari’s diplomatic career during which he spent many years in West Asia and his role on retirement as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and as the Chairman of Minorities Commission. “Many years of your life were spent in that circle. You stayed in that atmosphere, with that thinking and debating with those people. After retirement your engagement mostly remained the same. “…But in the last 10 years, you had a different responsibility. Every moment was spent in the ambit of Constitution and running Rajya Sabha. You tried your best to run it. “Maybe there was some uneasiness within you. But from now onwards, you will not face that difficulty. You will also feel free and work, think and speak according to your core thinking.”
Responding to a question on comments made by some BJP leaders related to minorities, he said he would not talk about political people or 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 accommodative society,” he said.
Replying to a question on some BJP leaders comments related to minorities, he aid he would not talk about political people or 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 accommodative society,” he said.
Ansari also described the questioning of Indianness of citizens as a “disturbing thought.”Asked in an interview to Karan Thapar on Rajya Sabha TV whether he shared his concerns with the prime minister, Ansari replied in the affirmative. “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,” the ex officio chairman of Rajya Sabha said. Regarding the government’s response, he said, “Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale,” he said.
Hamid Ansari was born to Mohammad Abdul Aziz Ansari and Aasiya Begum in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal, India on 1 April 1937 though his family belongs to Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. Ansari is the grandson of a brother of former Congress President Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, a leader of the Indian independence movement. He is the grand nephew of Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, the former President of the INC (Indian National Congress) and also the founder of Jamia Millia Islamia- now federal university.
Ansari studied at St. Edward’s School, Shimla, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and Aligarh Muslim University where he completed an MA in Political Science in 1959. He started his career as Officer in the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. He was Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Indian High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. He was awarded the Padma Shree in 1984. He was also Professor & Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from May 2000 to March 2002. He is known for his role in ensuring compensation to the victims of the Gujarat riots and pushing for a complete re-look into the relief and rehabilitation for riot victims since 1984.
Ansari was the first person to be re-elected as Indian VP after Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in 1957. He also presently serves as President of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Chancellor of Pondicherry University and the President of the Indian Council of World Affairs. Ansari worked as an ambassador and served as the Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002. Later he was Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities from 2006 to 2007. He was elected as the Vice-President of India on 10 August 2007 and took office on 11 August 2007. He was reelected on 7 August 2012 His second term ended in August 2017 since he decided not to run for a third term in the 2017 vice-presidential election. Upon the inauguration of Ram Nath Kovind as President of India in 2017, Ansari became the first Indian Vice-President to serve during the terms of three presidents. Longest served Indian vice president.
Ansari became the chairman of India’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) on 6 March 2006. In June 2007, Ansari, in his capacity as NCM chairman, upheld the decision of St. Stephens College to earmark a small percentage of seats for Dalit Christians. He resigned as NCM chairman soon after his nomination for the post of India’s Vice-President.
On 20 July 2007, Ansari was named by the UPA-Left, the ruling coalition in India, as its candidate for the post of Vice-President for the upcoming election. Ansari secured 455 votes, and won the election by a margin of 233 votes against his nearest rival Najma Heptullah of BJP who is now Governor of Manipur state. Hamid Ansari was re-elected for the second term on 7 August 2012, defeating the NDA’s nominee Jaswant Singh former Finance, External Affairs and Defence minister as well as former Leader of Opposition by a margin of 252 votes. According to the Constitution of India, Ansari, as Vice-President of the Republic, also serves ex officio as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Ansari was a member of the Congress before being nominated Vice President in 2007.
Career After completing his Master’s degree from the Aligarh Muslim University, Ansari worked as a lecturer in AMU for two years. He then wrote a UPSC exam and secured the 4th rank. He joined the Indian Foreign Service as a diplomat in 1961. He served the country as an IFS officer in various countries. He served as ambassador to United Arab Emirates from 1976 to 1980 and as Chief of Protocol, Government of India from 1980-1985.
Ansari is a West Asia scholar and has written on the Palestinian issue and taken positions inconvenient to the Indian official line on Iraq and Iran. He questioned India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme where India voted against Iran. He said that though the Indian Government claimed to have acted on “its own judgment,” this was not borne out by facts Ansari feels that there is a sense of unease among Indian Muslims. He said this on the last day of his tenure as the Vice President of India, one of the highest constitutional posts in the country. [ Ansari quoted, “The language used by the Pope sounds like that of his 12th-Century counterpart who ordered the crusades… It surprises me because the Vatican has a very comprehensive relationship with the Muslim world.” – 15 September 2006, as Chairman of the Minorities Commission of India, on the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy.
In his illustrious career that spanned over forty-five years, Mohammad Hamid Ansari has worked in various disciplines in the offices of the Government of India. He is a seasoned writer in various news dailies and other print media. He is also a Padma Shri awardee. Read on to know more about the life and accomplishments of Mohammad Hamid Ansari.
Later, he rendered his services in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. He also served as the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University from 2000 to 2002. He was also a writer in different news papers on various issues. In 2006, he was appointed the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities. He was also appointed the Chairman of the Petroleum Ministry’s Advisory Committee on Oil Diplomacy for Energy Security. He also served as Chairman of the “Confidence Building Measures across Segments of Society in the State”. This was group a created to focus on issues in Jammu and Kashmir.
Ansari served as a co-chairman of the India-U.K. Round Table Conference and also as a member of the National Security Advisory Board. Ansari is a permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) and is also a trustee of the Bapu Sadbhavana and Shiksha Trust. On March 2007, he surrendered the charge of Vice-Chancellorship of the Aligarh Muslim University and went back to New Delhi to lead a life of retirement.
Ansari played a vital role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. He also backed a thorough re-look into the rehabilitation of all the riot victims since 1984. He wrote numerous articles on the west Asian crises. His article named “Alternative Approaches to West Asian Crises”, (The Hindu, May 5, 2006), stressed upon the need for the progress of Iran, Iraq and Palestine. In an article named “Et EU, India,” (Outlook, October 10, 2005), Ansari was sceptical about India’s vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear programme. He also edited the book “Twenty Years after the Islamic Revolution”. He played a significant role in distributing compensation to the Gujarat riot victims. Even after his retirement from the IFS, he worked as a visiting professor at the Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Academy for Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Ansari’s deep interest in west Asian affairs saw him taking positions that were inconvenient to the stands of Indian officials on matters concerning Iran and Iraq.