Noted writer and a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Nayantara Sahgal — who had recently returned the Sahitya Akademi Award — on Thursday described those demanding a Hindu nation as “extremists”.
While delivering K P Singh Memorial Lecture on ‘Unmaking of India’ at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to mark International Human Rights Day, Sahgal said “it was sad that certain extremist ideologies are attempting to destroy the diversity in India”.
According to a statement released by AMU, Sahgal said: “But these people should understand that by changing the name of Aurangzeb Road in Delhi, they will not be able to wipe out the rich history of India… In 1947, some extremists demanded Pakistan and now some extremists are demanding a Hindu nation.”
She added that “it was necessary to tell these extremists that India had rejected the ideology of hatred at the time of Independence and Partition and Indians will reject it again”.
“Extremists are trying to change our history, our social system, our sciences and school curriculum with myths central to their ideology. India had a learned man like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as the first education minister and it is sad that today, some extremists are trying to bring irrationality even in what is taught in schools,” said Sahgal.
Pointing out that intolerance is a serious issue with important ramifications, Sahgal added: “Today, we are faced with disturbing trends… From the spate of murders of Indian writers and scholars like M M Kalburgi to the recent Dadri mob-lynching case, there are indications that there are schools of thoughts who believe that India is only for the majority community.”
She further said that “certain people now want a country where public speech, eating habits and alternative ideas are all subservient to a restrictive interpretation of a single majority religion”.
She also said that writers’ protest had “nothing to do with politics”. In his address, the AMU Vice-Chancellor Lt General (retd) Zameer Uddin Shah said: “Today’s lecture by Sahgal shows that AMU is a secular and modern institution with Islamic ethos…. While India is like a salad bowl with diverse cultures, people who are trying to shake this bowl will only end up bringing us together.”