Former vice-president Hamid Ansari Saturday said that while secularism is not dead in the country, it is definitely under stress.
He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Is secularism dead in India?’ organised by The Muslim Institute and Jadavpur University in Kolkata. The event was also attended by Trinamool Congress MP Sugata Bose and former Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar.
Addressing students, Ansari said: “Some of you may be familiar with the American magazine National Interest. In their latest issue… there are two essays on secularism in India. This is indicative of the concern in the wider international community about what India’s secularism means for the world… The fact that we are a plural society is not a matter of debate… As many as 4,600 communities live with diversity in language, faith, food, clothing, lifestyle and in every other conceivable way.”
Stressing on the need for physical security of every citizen, he said: “The trouble today… is whether the state is doing or should be doing what it needs to as per the mandate of the Constitution. The dialogue about religion has always existed in this country and will continue to do so. But the only way this dialogue will be productive is if there is physical security. But the debate needs to move beyond the academics, elite and policymakers. After all, who can guarantee that my neighbour eats the same food as me and follows the same faith?”
“Secularism is not dead, but it is definitely under stress. And we must address this collectively as citizens,” he added.
Replying to a question raised by a student on how to deal with an attack that is communal in nature, Bose recalled how Ansari dealt with the “indignity” doled out to him by the current administration, as he was leaving office. “I am honoured to be sitting next to Ansariji who has conducted himself with such distinction and dignity. When you are unfairly attacked, like he was on the last day of his demitting office, you have to conduct yourself with dignity, like he did. Despite the provocative statements made against him, he remained unprovoked,” he said.