In his parting shots, Mr. Hamid Ansari, the just retired former Vice President of India, stated inter alia that “there is a feeling of unease and insecurity creeping in among Muslims in India”. He said that “there is a breakdown of Indian values and of the abilities among authorities at different levels in different places to be able to enforce what should be normal law enforcing work”. He added that “Overall, the very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,” and “Hyper-nationalism and the closing of the mind is also a manifestation of insecurity about one’s place in the world.”
Being a Muslim, it is quite natural for Mr. Hamid Ansari to become more conscious about the insecurity that is allegedly creeping in among Muslims in India. It is also not surprising that the ex-student and former Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University talked about the threat on the ambience of acceptance. It would be naïve to believe that Mr. Ansari who started his career as Officer in the Indian Foreign Service in 1961 and accumulated wide experience from years of handling India’s foreign relations, is unaware of the repercussions on India’s foreign relations, particularly in the Muslim world, after such critical remarks coming from none other than the Vice President of India. The former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities is also aware how seriously this type of comments would impact the minds of the common people in general and the minorities of India in particular. Yet, it is uncharitable to describe his comments as a “political statement” made by someone angling for a political job after retirement. May be Mr. Ansari’s dissonance statement was an effort to put across certain displeasures to the current political dispensation but in reality it turned out to be an emotional outburst and a politically incorrect broadcast of the Vice President of India. With this message, Mr. Ansari only succeeded in establishing his credentials as an Indian Muslim contrary to the popular belief that he was a Muslim Indian.
The “Hindu” in me however, expected that the Vice President should have been conscious of OUR sentiments also. Hindus have been wiped out from Afghanistan and nearly so from Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. Moreover, the Hindus have been evicted and became refugees in their own country after being driven out from the only Muslim majority State of Kashmir in India. More or less similar situation prevails in the only three Christian majority States of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland in northeast India. Still, there is no debate about TOLERANCE because of the unfriendly environments created by the “majority” of those States. These unfortunate developments coupled with disproportionate increase in Muslim population are gradually diminishing the available demographic space for the Hindus. On top of it, the fundamental rights of the Hindus have been undermined considerably in the four non-Hindu majority States, ostensibly for protecting the rights of the minorities. Help from the National Commission for Minorities is not available to any Hindu even in those four States where Hindus are in minority. The situation is pushing the Hindus to the wall and frightening them more and more. Till such time these growing grievances of the majority community are duly appreciated by all the stake holders, no amount of subtle hint or loud message would help in dissipating the prevalent tension in the Indian society. Had the Vice President of India been a Muslim Indian and sensible enough, he would have shown appropriate concern for the Hindus too. Sadly, this did not happen.
The truth however remains that I am a Hindu Indian and NOT an Indian Hindu. I was born in free, independent India. My forefathers were forced by the fanatic Muslims to abandon their ancestral home in Sylhet District which went to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) through a controversial referendum. My father had settled in Shillong in Meghalaya (India) where I was born and brought up. I was forced to abandon my ancestral home at Shillong because of the inhospitable environment created in Meghalaya by some Christian radicals. Under a communal threat, I had to discontinue my studies halfway through while pursuing my Masters Degree at Gauhati University in Assam. With a view to let my children have a level playing field; I shifted my family to West Bengal which is in the news presently because of some unwanted happenings in its bordering areas with Bangladesh. The narratives are not imaginations of my mind but hard reality with supporting evidence. There are thousands of Hindu families like mine. Yet, I am a proud secular Indian and love ALL my fellow country men. No external force could threaten the “ambience of acceptance” that has been inbuilt in me. Rather than challenging those who question my level of tolerance, patriotism or commitment towards the Nation, I introspect and live by example to prove them wrong.
I believe in ‘sarva dharma sambhava’ or ‘all religions are equal / possible’. So, I wish religious festivals of Holi, Diwali, Baishakhi, Christmas etc. were celebrated at the Rastrapati Bhawan in New Delhi like the “Iftar” parties. Still better would be to follow the example set by Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India. To me “Vasudhaiva kutumbakam” i.e. the world is a family. Hence, I expect that there is no discrimination or threat to any Indian, irrespective of her / his religious belief. Everybody must be sensitive to the basic principles of secularism and its equitable application, including equality, freedom of religion and tolerance. It must not be selective and should never be religion-specific, caste-specific, majority-specific or minority-specific. Every citizen of our country must be an Indian first and should be identified with the suffix – “Indian”. So, I am Subir Deb, a Hindu Indian.