Hyper-nationalism a manifestation of insecurity, says Hamid Ansari
A major challenge today is to reiterate and rejuvenate secularism’s basic principles, including equality, freedom of religion and tolerance, Vice President Hamid Ansari said on Sunday.
“It is also a challenge to emphasise that equality has to be substantive and that freedom of religion be re-infused with its collectivist dimensions. And that toleration should be reflective of the realities of Indian society and lead to acceptance,” he said in his address at the 25th annual convocation of the National Law School of India University here.
Stressing tolerance has to become an essential national virtue to promote harmony transcending sectional diversities, he said: “Yet tolerance alone is not a strong enough foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. “It must be coupled with understanding and acceptance. We must, said Swami Vivekananda, not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, as truth is the basis of all religions’.”
Ansari said that the “version of nationalism” that places cultural commitments at its core is usually perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism. “It promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism,” he said.
“For many decades after independence a pluralist view of nationalism and Indianness reflective of the widest possible circle of inclusiveness and a ‘salad bowl’ approach, characterised our thinking.
“More recently an alternate viewpoint of ‘purifying exclusivism’ has tended to intrude into and take over the political and cultural landscape. One manifestation of it is ‘an increasingly fragile national ego’ that threatens to rule out any dissent however innocent. Hyper-nationalism and the closing of the mind is also a manifestation of insecurity about one’s place in the world’.”
He also said that while ensuring external and domestic security is an essential duty of the state, there seems to be a trend towards sanctification of military might overlooking former US President George Washington’s caution about overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty.
“Citizenship does imply national obligations. It necessitates adherence to and affection for the nation in all its rich diversity. This is what nationalism means, and should mean, in a global community of nations,” he said.
Ansari said democracy has to be judged not just by the institutions that formally exist, but by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people can actually be heard.
“Its ‘raison d’etre’ is recognition of the other,” he remarked.
The vice-president said programmes or principles evolved by political parties based on religion amount to recognising religion as a part of the political governance which the Constitution expressly prohibits.
“It violates the basic features of the Constitution,” he said.
Positive secularism negates such a policy and any action in furtherance thereof would be violative of the basic features of the Constitution, Ansari added.
Despite its clarity, various attempts, judicial and political, have been made to dilute its import and to read new meaning into it, Ansari said.
Credible critics have opined that the December 11, 1995 judgment of the Supreme Court Bench is highly derogatory of the principle of secular democracy and that a larger Bench should reconsider it and undo the great harm caused, he pointed out.
“This remains to be done; instead, a regression of consciousness (has) set in and the slide is now sought to be accelerated and is threatening to wipe out even the gains of the national movement summed up in ‘sarvadharma sambhav’,” he said.