Sabka saath should mean ‘Sabka saath’: Hamid Ansari

In interviews to Rajya Sabha TV, Karan Thapar and different newspapers, the outgoing Vice-President spells out his concerns and his experience as VP

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

NH Web Desk

Before demitting the office of India’s vice-presidency and chairmanship of Rajya Sabha, Hamid Ansari ascribed the spate of vigilante violence, beef ban and Ghar Wapsi campaigns to what he called - breakdown of Indian values.

Ansari, 80, whose second five-year term as the Vice-President ended on Thursday, made the following remarks on a range of issues:

On cow vigilantism and intolerance

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 overall the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.

There is a feeling of unease and a sense of insecurity among the Muslims in the country; “ambience of acceptance” is now under threat.

On court rulings on national song and anthem

The courts are a part of society. So, what the courts tend to say sometimes is reflective of what the prevailing atmosphere in society is. I call that a sense of insecurity... this propensity to be able to assert your nationalism day in and day out is unnecessary. I am an Indian and that is it.

On Triple Talaq

It is a social aberration, it is not a religious requirement. The religious requirement is crystal clear, emphatic, there are no two views about it but patriarchy, social customs have all crept into it to create a situation which is highly undesirable. The reform has to come from within the community.

On Kashmir crisis

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 problem is and has always been primarily a political problem. And it has to be addressed politically.

On Doklam stand off

We have had these periods of standoffs with China. And there is enough knowledge, enough wisdom still available to be able to retrieve situations.

On idea of India

India is secure. But the ‘idea of India’ is a matter of very considerable debate. To my mind the idea of India which was crafted (is) one that is multi-layered, which accommodates a great deal of diversity. So, one can’t say that there is this one ‘idea of India’, there are multiple ‘ideas of India’ and they all fit into each other. The ‘idea’ is being challenged with a certain frequency which makes me uncomfortable.

On Cultural nationalism

Culture, cultural nationalism, presupposes a degree of uniformity and homogeneity that just does not exist in India. When our founding fathers got down to drafting the Constitution, they had an existential reality before them, of a very diverse and plural society. They created a constitutional framework to accommodate that. So the idea of Indian nationalism has to be — and there is a long history of that, the struggle against British colonialism, where Rabindranath Tagore and a whole galaxy of leaders all said the same thing — that it is a very diverse society, a very plural society. Now, it is on the existence of a plural reality that you have put a State structure. On the one side, it is democratic and on the other, secular. Secular, as plurality includes plurality of faith. There is no faith in the world that does not exist in India and there are faiths here that don’t exist anywhere else. Now if you are basing your structure on one single principle, which is citizenship, and if it’s a democratic structure, then citizenship is equal for all. So, it must apply to each citizen, irrespective of whether he is 5 feet tall or 6 feet tall.

On significance of Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha was (formed) after a great deal of thought, because the founding fathers wanted this second chamber to reflect the diversity of India, and (for), equally important, recessed consideration of proposed legislation. The idea is that you must think about what you have done and the record proves that Rajya Sabha, under different governments, has played that role.

On Ram Madhav & Swapan Dasgupta questioning his conduct

Look, if people don’t know what the correct protocol etiquette is, well, then that’s it. If one thing I know very well, it’s protocol. I have been the longest serving Chief of Protocol in the history of modern India. I know protocol and etiquette. I didn’t deviate from it.

On 10 years’ experience as Vice-President

I was given a rule-book, I had to ensure that the rules were observed. It has been an interesting experience because you see the political process at work. Why do a set of individuals belonging to a certain point of view take a certain position on a certain subject, and then in changed circumstances, take a different position on the same subject!

The great virtue of democracy is that those on one side can be on the other side. So, it’s been a great learning experience, and the good thing about Indian democracy is that whatever happens in the verbal encounters within the chambers, outside they are still very correct and cordial with each other. No animus or hostility — all are on back-slapping terms with each other nearly.

All that you see is a very calibrated exercise and often lots of it is done for the cameras, which is sad.

Live telecasts cannot be reversed, too much water has flowed under the bridge. It started as a way of introducing transparency; now it’s used for grandstanding.

On biggest challenge before India

We have a consensus that the most important thing for this vast population is inclusive development for it to move up. Inclusive development presupposes social peace. There cannot be any development if peace does not prevail within or without. So, a long period of peace at home or abroad is absolutely vital for our objectives. Our objectives are laudable and universally recognised. The PM’s slogan is impeccable — Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. 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.

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