Hamid Ansari, the former Vice President of India, in an interview to Karan Thapar right before leaving the office, agreed that there is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country. It is apparent that he made these remarks in the backdrop of numerous incidents of intolerance and cow vigilantism against the Muslim community in the past few months. Did he say that he himself felt insecure? No. Did he say that in his assessment an average muslim feels so? Yes. And is he alone in saying this? Definitely no.
Amnesty International in its June 28, 2017 news reports said, “The attacks have contributed to a growing sense of insecurity for many Muslims, and intensified religious tensions.” A joint report by two other rights groups, Mumbai-based Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the UK-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) has accused the BJP for the spike in communal violence post its 2014 election win. A US government report, released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) says, hate crimes against religious minorities, their social boycotts and forced conversions have escalated dramatically in India since 2014.
It is interesting and worth noting that none of these organizations came under such a zealous, hateful and systematic attack by India’s right as Mr. Ansari did. After his interview, the national executive member of the BJP women wing, Priti Gandhi tweeted, “For 10 yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy. Agenda kya hai?”. We might never know Ansari’s agenda but hers seemed obvious. She wanted to point out that Muslims are able to live in India thanks to the kindness of the Hindu majority and they should be thus grateful for it. Seems it does not matter that Ansari dint say that he was uncomfortable, because Mrs. Gandhi made full effort to suggest that the VP himself felt uneasy despite his high post.
An RSS leader, Indresh Kumar addressing a gathering in Nagpur, alleged that Ansari who remained secular for his whole tenure has now become a hardliner. According to Mr. Kumar, holding a sympathetic opinion about ones fellow community people is enough to qualify one as a fundamentalist. So much for Sangh’s own community outreach programs and cries for Hindu nation. After Indresh, it was the turn of Ansari’s successor, Venkaiah Naidu. He said to a PTI correspondent, “some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due.” I wonder, what makes Naidu, a Hindu leader’s comments dismissing Muslim victimization, any less political and communal than Ansari’s?
Many more BJP and RSS leaders took blows at Ansari but a worthy mention goes to dear PM Modi. His jibe and sarcasm was extremely stinging and direct. His exact words were, “A major part of your tenure as a diplomat has been spent in West Asia. Many years of your life were spent in that circle. You lived in that atmosphere, that thought, the debates among those people. Even after retirement, your work was the same, be it the Minority Commission or Aligarh University, your circle was the same”. He suggested explicitly that Ansari has been surrounded by ungrateful Muslims all his life, who thrive on victimhood mentality and will never be able come out of it. I would like to know if someone will ever mention the analogous to Mr. Modi? Would anyone dare to tell him how all his life he’s been surrounded by Sangh and like-minded people who must have made him a loathing Hindu and a Muslim-hating bigot?
It is worth mentioning that right wing’s peculiar liking for Abdul Kalam, another prominent Muslim who held a high constitutional post in recent times, bears from the fact that all his life, Kalam never raised an issue which was exclusive to the plight of Muslims. For the BJP, Kalam was, is and will remain the educated, vegetarian, bachelor – ‘good’ Muslim whose appointment as the President of India served as an emergency rescue for BJP’s tarnished image after the 2002 riots. Had Kalam gotten up and spoken openly about the Muslim killings of those times, presumably the right would have lynched his image the same way or even worse than Ansari. It is wonder-able as to what exactly is minority-appeasement that the right in India talks about? Till a Kalam, an Ansari or a Manmohan Singh latches on to his seat without saying a word about his community’s state or persecution, he is treated as a symbol of Hindu tolerance and large hearted-ness; and as soon as he utters a word, the tag of a Pakistani or a Khalistani is always mere few inches away.
Nobody should have an iota of doubt that casting aspersions on Mr. Ansari is way more convenient and main-stream than on the Modis or the Naidus, just because he’s a Muslim. This goes beyond political leaders and extends to media personalities and influencers likewise. As an example, it took Sudhir Chaudhary (Editor-in-Chief of Zee News) a tiny column in DNA to label Ansari an equivalent of Pakistani propagandist. Mr. Chaudhary went on to remind Ansari how India in-spite of being a Hindu majority nation has been so kind to the Bollywood Khans. He for sure took his inspiration from Mrs. Gandhis tweet, mentioned earlier.
Another interesting and provoking piece on the topic is from Anand Vardhan at Newslaundry. He not only praised Modi for calling Ansari out for his ‘minoritarian alarm’, but also lent a lineage to Ansari’s comments and behaviour by linking it to Aligarh Muslim University. Maybe Mr. Vardhan wants a tank at AMU after one has been installed at JNU already. Again, according to him, a Muslim VP pointing out the fallacy of the current government by voicing his honest opinion on the condition of Muslims is an un-statesman like behaviour. It seems his main objection is to Mr. Ansari’s perception of labeling ‘every day’ skirmishes as ‘hate crimes’. I guess he also needs to look at the above mentioned independent agency reports and judge for himself if killing of innocent Muslims in broad daylight by blood thirsty Hindu mobs should be called a skirmish or an act of communal violence. He goes on to confidently say that directly elected political leaders like the PM, have the right to be perceptive, have an opinion and even express it but others like Mr. Ansari should be cold and rely on critical scrutiny. This seemed an extremely sad and desperate attempt to defend the even sadder Mann Ki Baat series of PM Modi and the daily venom that comes out of one or the other BJP MP’s mouth.
Hamid Ansari, the grandson of a renowned freedom fighter, has displayed exemplary service ethics and behaviour in all his public postings ranging from IFS, United Nations representative, Indian high commissioner, Ambassador and many others. To bring him down to the level of trolls is a grave injustice and mistake on the part of the trolls, few of which I have highlighted above.