POLITICS

BJP's Response To Hamid Ansari Proves His Point About Minorities Feeling Insecure In India

Ansari has been exposed to a clear double standard.

11/08/2017 3:38 PM IST | Updated 11/08/2017 3:40 PM IST
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Vice President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari during the press conference at Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland.

Priti Gandhi, national executive member of the BJP Mahila Morcha, is unhappy with outgoing vice president Hamid Ansari.

"For 10 yrs my Hindu majority nation accepted you with open arms, placed you at the pinnacle of power & you still feel uneasy. Agenda kya hai," she tweeted.

While a furious debate has broken about the "agenda" of Ansari, Gandhi's agenda is quite clear from her tweet. Good Muslims, like good children, should be seen and not heard. They live (and prosper) thanks to the kindness of the Hindu majority. They should just be grateful.

What was Ansari's great sin?

In an interview with Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari was asked directly if he agreed with the assessment that the Muslim community was insecure. He replied, "yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in."

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Venkaiah Naidu (L) signs the official book after being sworn in as India's new vice president as outgoing Vice President Hamid Ansari (bottom R) watches at the presidential palace in New Delhi on August 11, 2017. Naidu, who served in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, became India's 13th vice president. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Manish Swarup (Photo credit should read MANISH SWARUP/AFP/Getty Images)

Mind you, he did not say he was feeling personally insecure. But Gandhi has twisted his words to suggest that the vice president himself felt uneasy in today's India despite his high post.

Asked whether Muslims are beginning to feel they are not wanted, Ansari said, "I would not go that far. There is a sense of insecurity."

What was Ansari supposed to do if asked whether Muslims feel insecure? Was he supposed to say as a Muslim who is now vice president he could no longer comment about Muslims? What his critics willfully ignore is that as Vice President he can be uneasy about the direction the country is headed in. That does not mean he is personally uneasy living in that country. And that certainly does not mean he should just go to Pakistan.

What was Ansari supposed to do if asked whether Muslims feel insecure? Was he supposed to say as a Muslim who is now vice president he could no longer comment about Muslims?

Ansari is admittedly a Congressman just as Venkiah Naidu is a BJP man. The BJP can argue that he has not been non-partisan enough as vice president and at some point the Congress will probably argue the same about Naidu. It's perfectly valid to argue whether he has been a good vice president or not.

But whether you agree with him or not, Ansari has been exposed to a clear double standard. As the vice president of India, it seems he is not allowed to speak up for a minority community, especially one that he belongs to. If he dares to do so, even in response to a question about Muslims, he will be called as Amit Malviya, in charge of BJP's IT cell, did in a now-deleted tweet "a closet fundamentalist."

Malviya then tweeted "Ansari has reduced himself to a spokesman for his community rather than the Vice-President of all of India. And this is not the first time."

Here is the problem.

If Pranab Mukherjee weighs in about intolerance post the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri, he is not a Hindu talking about Muslims.

When Venkaiah Naidu dismisses as "political propaganda" the view that minorities are insecure, he is not a Hindu brushing aside the concerns about Muslims.

But when Ansari weighs in, he immediately becomes a "spokesman for his community". Those who are unable to accept that Ansari can be concerned simply as an Indian who believes in a secular country, shows that whatever he thinks of himself, they consider him a Muslim first and then an Indian. His words, his concerns, his deeds are forever viewed through the prism of his religion in a way Mukherjee's would never be.

By using that tired and clichéd rejoinder, Fatah himself buys into the idea that a Muslim in India exist on some kind of permanent probation, that if they speak up about issues Muslims face, they instantly risk being dubbed unIndian.

Thus as soon as Ansari says anything about Muslims and reports he has heard about a sense of insecurity, Tarek Fatah tweets "U just made it worse for India's Muslims by being thankless & petty #HamidAnsari by spreading victimhood. Y don't you retire to Pakistan?" If Mukherjee raises concern about intolerance, would he be told to retire to a different country? By using that tired and clichéd rejoinder, Fatah himself buys into the idea that a Muslim in India exist on some kind of permanent probation, that if they speak up about issues Muslims face, they instantly risk being dubbed unIndian.

The fitting rejoinder to Ansari's concerns would have been to show that the government had taken quick and firm action against those involved in lynch mobs, for example. The Prime Minister could have nipped this in the bud. But his speech in Parliament, cuttingly polite, just provided more fuel.

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President Pranab Mukherjee, President-elect Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Hamid Ansari in a ceremonial procession at Parliament House for the swearing-in ceremony of the 14th President of India, on July 25, 2017 in New Delhi.

Modi said, "after 10 years of being bound by the Constitution, there may be some restlessness inside you but from now on you will have no constraints; you will get the pleasure of being free to work as per your conviction."

He reminded Ansari about his postings in West Asia as a diplomat and with the Minorities Commission and at Aligarh Muslim University and said, "you spent most of your life in that single circle, that environment, that way of thinking, among those people." Modi carefully forgot to mention that Ansari was also India's permanent representative to the United Nations. He did not mention that he was sent there after Babri Masjid fell and Pakistan was using that to rally opinion in the Islamic world against India.

Of course the last thing the trolls want is an Ansari with "no constraints".

If there was no truth in anything he said, if it was obviously and blatantly untrue, would it have warranted such a fierce and concerted reaction? Something stung to the quick, leading to the unleashing of the trolls of war. As Omar Abdullah tweeted "When you abuse a person for saying there is less space for disagreement & growing intolerance in the country you are making his point for him."

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