The Big Story:

In a speech at the convocation of the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru last week, outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari expressed his apprehensions about the growing insecurity among a section of citizens, especially Muslims, Christians and Dalits. He was clearly alluding to the intensifying communal and caste conflicts across India over the last three years, as religious minorities and Dalits have become the targets of violence emanating from cow politics and an aggressive version of Hindutva.

In an interview to Rajya Sabha TV on Thursday, Ansari was more blunt. He noted that “a sense of insecurity was creeping in among Muslims because of the vigilantism and intolerance”.

Instead of allaying Ansari’s fears, the Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Thursday decided to attack him. In the Rajya Sabha, Modi said that Ansari had spent the last ten years “confined to the Constitution”. In a classic dogwhistle, the prime minister made explicit mention of the long association of Ansari’s family with the Congress party, adding that much of Ansari’s career as a diplomat had been spent in the Middle East. Modi seemed to be suggesting that the commitment to secularism that underlay many of Ansari’s speeches as vice president were somehow shallow, and that now, freed from the constraints of office, he could pursue his “core beliefs”. The Vice President elect, Venkaiah Naidu, was more direct. He dismissed Ansari’s remarks as “political propaganda”.

Ironically, both these reactions only reinforced Ansari’s fears. Instead of taking this opportunity to assure the Muslim community that the government would protect them from majoritarian onslaught, the BJP has taken the route of complete denial. Instead of reiterating the nation’s commitment to the secular ideals of the Constitution, Naidu resorted to a pretty sermon, describing India as the most tolerant country in the world. This, however, only seems to signal to India’s Muslims that they are expected to bear with the prevailing atmosphere and not complain. By browbeating Ansari, the BJP has only proved his point.

The Big Scroll

  • Full text of Hamid Ansari’s speech at the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru. 


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