Justice T S Thakur, the most senior judge in Supreme Court who is due to take charge as Chief Justice of India this year, has said “inclusiveness is part of our culture” and compared the communal tussle over “masjid or mandir” to a “fight between brothers”.
Speaking at the Zakir Hussain Memorial Lecture on ‘Representation, Inclusion and Governance: A constitutional perspective’, Justice Thakur added that Indians had rejected the two-nation theory because they learnt to live as a united people.
“We have lived together for centuries, and we will continue to do so,” said Justice Thakur, referring to the perceived differences between Hindus and Muslims in the country.
“We may fight over masjid or mandir, but we have lived together. We are brothers. I have seen, as lawyers often do, that when a fight takes place between two brothers over property, it is the most vicious kind of fight. They go all out. But does that mean they are not brothers? When it comes to a third party, the brothers will come together to fight,” he added.
He rejected the theory that Kashmir belonged to Pakistan solely because it was a Muslim-majority state because India was governed by the principle of inclusion.
Thakur cited himself as an example of this spirit of inclusiveness. “I do not know Sanskrit or too much of Hindi because I grew up in a state (Jammu & Kashmir) where Urdu was the official language,” he said.
”When I relocated from my ancestral village (in the erstwhile Doda district) to Jammu where children studied Hindi, my father encouraged me to continue learning Urdu. I was the only non-Muslim in my class to know Urdu which got people to say, ‘Tum toh Mussalman ho’. Isn’t this an example of inclusion?… Inclusiveness is part of our culture,” he added.
In his lecture, former Delhi University V-C Upendra Baxi pointed to different types of governance: plunder and predation where the rule of law was by itself illegal; and development which was promised by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and now Narendra Modi.
“So what is the difference between Modi’s government and the rest?” he asked.”Modi has gone a step or two ahead by saying he is serving ‘maximum governance, minimum government’, something I cannot comprehend. I see the opposite happening,” he said.
Baxi also highlighted the dangers of a sense of ‘accommodation’ creeping in among the three pillars of our democracy. “The growing accommodation between the judiciary, the legislature and the executive is dangerous,” he said.
Referring to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu’s recent remarks in favour of Modi, Baxi said, “The Chief Justice of India Dattu openly expressed admiration for the Prime Minister. I have maintained that though the distance between Tilak Marg (where the courts are housed) and Race Course Road (where the PM resides) is geographically small, the distance between the two is constitutionally vast and so it should be.”