Hatred faced by Hamid Ansari tragically proves him correct on his ‘insecurity’ remarks
New Delhi, August 11: There are those who take advantage of 'anonymity' provided by social media to spew venom every day. Then, there are those who openly spread hostility as they are powerful enough to do so as they have the backing of the ruling dispensation. Or, so it seems to be.
So, when outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari in a series of interviews and speeches expressed his concern about the "growing insecurity among the minorities in India", an army of online and offline trolls attacked him with shameless ferocity.
What is disheartening is that among Ansari's attackers are several well-known faces of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) like member of Parliament (MP) Meenakshi Lekhi and BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Moreover, Ansari had to also bear scathing opposition for his honest observations, first, indirectly by his successor Venkaiah Naidu and then directly by Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla.
Probably, Naidu and Heptulla, both former BJP leaders, are yet to get rid of their party affiliation because they still could not take any criticism seemingly directed towards the saffron party heading the nation.
Ansari, the dignified former diplomat and the two-time Veep of India, is no stranger to hatred and controversies. Since the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over the reins of the country in 2014, Ansari had come under attack by BJP leaders and right-wing groups on several occasions.
Right from being wrongly targeted for not saluting the flag on Republic Day to missing Yoga Day event, haters criticised Ansari not only just for what they thought was dereliction of duty as the ex-officio chair of Rajya Sabha, but also because he belongs to the Muslim community.
On social media, trolls for the last two days have been reminding Ansari that he has no right to talk about the current political atmosphere in the country as India has done a "big favour" by appointing a "Muslim" to one of the highest constitutional posts.
For 10yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy? Agenda kya hai? https://t.co/Z8pzWddTG0— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) August 9, 2017
The venomous social media brigade was quick to point out that Ansari has some "political agenda" that is why before retiring he ended up showing us what is wrong with the country.
The abhorrence for Ansari spilled offline too. This time the pillory came from the ruling party leaders.
BJP leader Lekhi told ANI that "the time at which he had made these statements shows his intentions. When he was on chair he said nothing about these issues but now at the time of leaving he is doing politics. He wants to try his hand in politics now. He must read first during which government Muslims were more insecure".
She further said that Ansari is disrespecting the position he held. "I thought he is wise and intelligent but whatever statement he gave was not apt. He doesn't have any information about anything. He will have to read those textbooks first," Lekhi added.
Lekhi's party colleague, Vijayvargiya, wondered whether Ansari's comments were an attempt at seeking post-retirement political shelter.
"I condemn his comments. He has made political comments as he is retiring. He is still a V-P and such comments do not suit his office's dignity. It seems he is making such comments to find political shelter after retirement," PTI has quoted Vijayvargiya as saying. He added, "Nobody expects such petty comments from a person holding such a high post."
What is most shocking is the statements made by Naidu. Without naming Ansari, Naidu, a day ahead of his oath-taking ceremony on Thursday, told PTI, "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."
Remember, the new V-P had last Saturday told the media he was now a "non-party man". But his observations on Ansari's remarks show that he is still a BJP man.
Likewise, Heptullah accused Ansari of "vitiating" the country's atmosphere. "People on constitutional posts should not make such comments which vitiate the atmosphere," Heptulla told ANI.
Ansari in an interview to veteran journalist Karan Thapar said that there's a "feeling of unease among Muslims" in this day and age, and the "ambience of acceptance [is] under threat".
"I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about north India, there is a feeling of unease; a sense of insecurity is creeping in." Asked "are they beginning to feel they are not wanted", Ansari said: "I would not go that far; there is a sense of insecurity."
He reiterated the same concern during his farewell speech in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
"Democracy can become a tyranny if the Opposition is not allowed to criticise the government's policies," he said. Ansari added the Upper House chair (which he was) "is just an umpire in cricket and not a player, and its only source of reference is the Rule Book".
It is not that the two-time V-P is only critical about the policies of the current government, that seemed to systematically support violence and discrimination against the minorities as has been proven in Modi's three years rule in Delhi. Ansari also praised Modi for promoting "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas" ("Together with all, Development for all").
"The PM's slogan is impeccable--Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas," he told The Indian Express. "But then sabka saath means sabka saath. If you and I are standing together, then we can move together. But if you are standing 10 or 20 yards behind me, then you cannot catch up with me."
Recently, at the 25th annual convocation of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru, Karnataka, Ansari said that cultural nationalism is an "illiberal form of nationalism", which "promotes intolerance and an arrogant patriotism".
Warning against "a trend towards sanctification of military might", and expressing concern over "enhanced apprehensions of insecurity amongst segments of our citizen body, particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians", the former V-P highlighted the values of pluralism and secularism enshrined in the Constitution.
Imagine if a former V-P, part of elite India, has to endure so much ill-feeling from a section of society for showing mirror to us, what would happen if a regular person ends up speaking against the rule of majority--where minorities have lost respect and safety?
Perhaps to keep everyone happy, Ansari could have lied by eulogising about India. But that is not the only truth. There are many good things about the country, so are the bad.
Of late, there has been an atmosphere of fear and apprehension not just among the minorities, but also among a section of majority Hindu population who strongly detest the idea of Hindu nation, propagated by the right-wing groups.
In one of his messages, Ansari succinctly puts the idea of India as "we are a plural society that for centuries, not for 70 years, has lived in a certain ambience of acceptance."
It's time to accept criticism to look inward and correct the wrongs, instead of being vitriolic towards a man of honour, measured-words and great thinking, who has just retired from one of the country's top posts.
It is Ansari who has exited from the office of V-P, but his "ideas" are very progressive.