Dear Hamid Ansari,
If this letter reaches you, I hope you see how utterly disappointed I am.
You see, if a person like Azam Khan or Asaduddin Owaisi made the sort of remarks you have, I would have taken it with a pinch of salt. But the fact that an esteemed former Vice President of this nation has made such irresponsible declarations- I find very difficult to digest.
When you had first suggested that the Muslims in this country were “insecure”, I felt at the time, that the outrage was a little more than necessary. However, as I see the sort of suggestions you make in a chain of interviews and speeches, it becomes evident that the first remark was no ‘accident’ or an exception to your views. At this point, the facade of diplomacy ceases to cover the dangerous views you propound.
I want to begin by addressing your comments on the recent issue in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), where a Jinnah portrait was held up. When there was a nationwide disapproval of its presence in the university (which you were a Vice Chancellor of), what did you say?
In an interview with Sagarika Ghose, you said that “It’s an old tradition in the students union there to honour public personalities. Whoever is honoured, their portrait is put up.”
I only wish that India’s former Vice President would remember what India stands for: this nation stands for the fact that Hindus and Muslims can co-exist in society, and is, therefore, fundamentally against the two-nation theory propagated by Jinnah, which suggested the exact opposite.
I want you to remember what ‘honouring’ Jinnah in today’s India would mean, sir. Holding his portrait in a place of honour today is honouring the man for what he advocated; for the theories he propounded; for the way, he divided people on the basis of religion; for the disgusting acts of violence, he anchored through his call for direct action.
And so, when a Jinnah portrait is removed in AMU, it goes a long way in terms of sending a message across; a message that such bigoted voices will not be encouraged in our country. Still, what surprises me the most, is how you concede that these portraits are held in honour and yet, suggest that Jinnah’s must be upheld today.
And here’s what I find interesting – you seem to have preempted such an answer, by jumping to meaningless whataboutery, as a means to cover the flaws in your argument. ‘If you can have Victoria Memorial, what’s wrong with a Jinnah portrait?’, you asked the country.
Well, here’s the response – the presence of the Victoria Memorial is nothing but an acknowledgement of India’s colonial past, under the reign of Victoria. On the other hand, upholding a portrait, in your own words means “honouring public personalities”. Thus, while one memorial exists as a historical documentation, the other exists as an “honour”. It only makes sense to remove Jinnah from a ‘place of honour’, unless of course, you are willing to come out in open and be a Jinnah sympathiser.
I am also left wondering about a lot of the other things you said. For instance, you reiterate your position on “insecurity creeping in on Muslims” in India. In an interview with Times Now, you initially shied away from expressing your intention of blaming this on Modi, saying that ‘the insecurity existed all along’. But when Navika Kumar had asked you why used the phrase “creeping in”, you chose to avoid the real question you were asked, saying things like “English is not my mother tongue… that’s not what I meant…”, followed by no mention of what you actually meant.
It also becomes clear that the phrase of “insecurity within Muslims” is directed at just the Modi administration, when you justify Shashi Tharoor’s “Hindu Pakistan” remark in your interview with Times of India. While I do not find your notion any different from the general politicians who want to manufacture this atmosphere of fear, I am a little confused at your perception of the general Muslim. When you claim Muslims are “insecure”, it becomes clear that you ignore the uplifting of Muslim women that have taken place in recent times.
That brings me to your stance on the Triple Talaq issue, which is also rather flimsy. When asked about your thoughts on its existence, you said: “Triple talaq is a social evil… but if you send the chap (the husband pronouncing talaq thrice) to jail where does the wife/ ex-wife get her daily bread?”
Going by that logic, it is not hard to argue along the following lines – why should we jail a man for committing acts of domestic violence? Why arrest a man for committing any crime in the first place? Because based on what you say, the wife won’t “get her daily bread” if the “chap is sent to jail”, will she?
It is self-explanatory, that such arguments will get us nowhere when trying to abolish a primitive tradition. The underlying principle behind criminalising the practice is to deter those who are patriarchal enough to invoke the norm. When a man pronounces the ‘3 talaqs’, being fully aware of its existence as a “social evil”, he does indeed deserve to face the law, just as a man who demands a dowry would have to. Your sympathy for the presence of the norm, unfortunately, becomes far too evident.
You were then, asked about your thoughts on a highly irresponsible remark by the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister. Here is what you had to say:
Question: Mehbooba Mufti says that if the BJP attempts to break her party, 1987 will repeat itself, with Salahuddin and Yasin Malik being born again. Do you believe that such forms discourse suits a former CM of a state?
You had to answer whether or not her statement was justified. “Wasn’t she the coalition partner of the other political party? Till yesterday they were partners and like all divorces, this has become acrimonious…”, you began in the faint attempt to diplomatically avoid the question, and still malign the BJP subtly.
You followed that up with the clichéd suggestion, of either “arresting Mufti if she contravened the law” or “respecting her freedom of expression”. I am nobody to tell you this sir, but I’m sure you understand that opinions do not always have to violate the law, in order to be frowned upon.
When Mufti suggests the emergence of new terrorists, that is nothing but an open threat. One does not have to violate the law, while saying such things, in order for its responsible citizens to pull up those who make such nonsensical remarks. And pushing that onto the so-called “other political party” that the PDP was “partners with”, does not take away from the fact that her comment was morally abhorrent, simply because it insinuates the occurrence of militancy in Kashmir. And it is even more unfortunate that you did not call that out when given the chance to, and further chose to put the onus on the government.
While it may not have been your intention, you more often than not, came across as the latter, especially when it boiled down to the controversial issues.
I am just a school-going student who was first introduced to your name when quizzed on my general knowledge some years ago. But I must tell you that, whenever we took your name in our ‘Social Science’ lessons, it would have to do with discussing the phenomenal responsibilities you undertook in the Rajya Sabha and the amount of objectivity you had to display in the debates. But when I see the opinions you consistently uphold, all I see is arguments and assumptions that ring hollow when revisited.
When I write this letter to you, my primary intention is to make clear, my justified discontent with your lack of clarity on the most pressing issues of national interest. And I must make it clear that such is the sentiment of many youngsters.