Former vice-president Hamid Ansari does not shy away from speaking his mind. After he demitted office as vice- president after completing two terms, Ansari had sparked row with his statement that there was a feeling of unease among the Muslims in the country as a result of the rise in incidents of intolerance and vigilantism. Now he is out with his latest book and he takes a dig at the ruling dispensation.
The former vice-president Hamid Ansari termed India’s electoral democracy a “success story” but said there was apprehension that it could metamorphose into an “illiberal” democracy based on the principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva.
While Speaking at the launch of his book- Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges , he said “correctives” were essential, and it was the duty of the citizens and of the civil society to raise questions.
Ansari said his approach to his book has been spelt out in the preface and he has raised the question ‘What is it to be an Indian’. “This takes us firstly to the meaning of nationalism in the context of India’s plural society, our composite culture and the resultant need to be inclusive and move beyond mere tolerance to the acceptance of diversity as a civic virtue,” he said.
Talking about the book, he said, “Our electoral democracy is a success story, but it has not transformed itself into to a substantive, inclusive and participatory democracy.”
There is apprehension that it could metamorphose itself into an “illiberal, ethnic democracy based on the principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva, whose core concepts circumscribe the ambit of citizenship”.
The book was launched by former chief justice of India TS Thakur in the presence of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, CPI(M) secretary general Sitaram Yechury and a host of other leaders.
Secularism in the Indian context means symmetric political treatment of different religious communities, defence of minority rights and prevention of bigotry, Ansari said.
Political democracy, as BR Ambedkar said a long time ago, must be based on social democracy, he said, adding that dissent is of critical importance in an open society. “There is an evident decline in adherence to rule of law norms and the efficacy of institutions — legislature, executive and judiciary. This has resulted in public disenchantment and is a matter of concern,” Ansari said.
The book, brought out by Har-Anand Publications, is a collection of Ansari’s speeches and writings, made mostly in his last year in office and some in recent months. “The pre-launch publicity given to the book by the media tends to suggest that it might contain some version of a ‘kiss and tell tale’, nothing could be further from truth,” he said.