Rights that the people of India have bestowed on themselves through the Constitution are not favours granted by the government, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A P Shah said on Tuesday.In stark contrast to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision, cultural conformism is today being systematically imposed in the guise of nationalism, Shah said at a conclave organised by retired civil servants and veterans of the armed forces on “The fractured polity: the relevance of Gandhi today”.
In stark contrast to Mahatma Gandhi’s vision, cultural conformism is today being systematically imposed in the guise of nationalism, Shah said at a conclave organised by retired civil servants and veterans of the armed forces on “The fractured polity: the relevance of Gandhi today”.
Pointing out that the Supreme Court order on national anthem could convert patriotism from a value into a performance, Justice Shah underlined that there is a systematic attack on institutions, including the bureaucracy, judiciary, and the media. This, he said, is resulting in a dangerous polarisation and the growth of a violent, narrow, majoritarian vision of nationalism.
He called for strong resistance to the move to “stifle dissent by stifling dissenters” and wrongful accusations of an outdated notion of “sedition”. Justice Shah also said he is willing to join a legal challenge to the recent order banning protests at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.
Besides Shah, journalist-author and former chairperson of Prasar Bharati Mrinal Pande and historian Ramachandra Guha were the other speakers at the event.
Pande pointed to the failure of progressive movements to reach out to people at the grassroots, using the language and idiom familiar to them. She decried the growing tendency to forcibly impose Hindi and said that Hindi is not the “rashtrabhasha” (national language). On saffronisation of education, Pande said that homes and families are primary arenas for building the “republic of divisive thought”.
Guha shared his views on Gandhi’s “four pillars of Swaraj” —- non-violence, abolition of untouchability, economic self-reliance and Hindu-Muslim harmony —- in independent India and said that the country has made much progress in strengthening the electoral process by holding regular, free and fair elections.
In other areas, too, there is progress, even if patchy, he said.
According to Guha, the greatest threat to democracy is the systematic promotion of hatred and violence against minorities, especially Muslims. Calling the Narendra Modi dispensation “the most anti-intellectual government in our history”, Guha said attacks against historians, scholars and scientists are part of the attempt to refashion India as a Hindu nation.
Sixty-five former civil servants and 114 Veterans of Indian Armed Forces had penned separate open letters in June-July, expressing concern at the growing religious intolerance, vigilantism, hyper-nationalism, authoritarianism and majoritarianism threatening India’s Constitutional values.