Much as many in the BJP may find outgoing Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s remarks on the alleged climate of intolerance in the country as being in poor taste and overdrawn, there is no running away from the fact that there is a widespread feeling of insecurity among the minorities.
Some of it has to do with the attitude of some Sangh Parivar outfits like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, which is a legacy that they have not been able to shake off despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pleadings.
Hamid Ansari gave vent to his feelings in an interview with Rajya Sabha TV on the last day of his vice-presidency but it would be folly to dismiss his thoughts as being inconsequential. In a country so large as India there surely have been some instances of cow vigilantism and intolerance, but by and large the secular fabric has been maintained and the minorities are going about their job without impediments.
With an electronic media that has a major tendency to sensationalise, some incidents have been blown out of proportion and have contributed to the sense of fear that plagues the country. But secularism is by no means a lost cause and Indians per se are a liberal and tolerant people.
The fact that the Islamic State (IS) has failed to lure away Indian Muslim youth in large numbers despite so much poverty and economic distress is heartening. If there is a fringe among Muslims that partakes of in terror activities it is not confined to Indians but is a worldwide phenomenon.
It cannot be denied that while the Congress was the party in power for much of the period after independence, the lot of Muslims has not improved under them because the governments paid only lip service to addressing their poverty. While a section of Muslims was appeased leading to resentment among a section of Hindus, the bulk of the community was ignored and allowed to live in penury.
That Hamid Ansari apprised the Prime Minister of the feeling of alienation among Muslims was apt. He was bound by propriety not to speak about it in public. It is not quite right to make much ado over lynchings, ‘ghar wapsi’ and killings of rationalists because though bad in principle these were stray cases and can hardly be ascribed to the Centre. That he made these observations while still in office technically was unfortunate indeed.
But there can be no doubt that the governments at the Centre and in the States must address the issues of insecurity and alienation in general. Ansari’s observation that India is a plural society that for centuries has lived in a certain ‘ambience of acceptance’ which is now under threat needs to be paid heed to though his obsession with Muslim ‘insecurities’ to the exclusion of everything else in his farewell interview is inexplicable and not quite justified.