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‘India is secular because Hindus are the majority’: Old video of Atal Bihari Vajpayee giving befitting reply to Javed Akhtar goes viral

Javed Akthar attempted to paint the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a radical Hindu outfit, which does not consider Muslims as equal citizens of India.

Former Prime Minister and late BJP leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had once schooled lyricist Javed Akhtar when the latter tried to paint the Hindu majority and the BJP as communal. The video of the confrontation has now gone viral on social media.

During an interview with Pritish Nandy and co-host Javed Akhtar on ‘Face Off’ in 1998, Javed Akhtar claimed that the ‘communalism’ of the majority community in several countries is shrewdly disguised as nationalism.

At about 17:26 minutes into the conversation, he insinuated that ‘communal Hindus’ used nationalism as a cover for their deeds. “What is the definition of nationalism and communalism for the majority community?” Javed Akhtar asked.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee responded, “If a Hindu in India by virtue of his majority demands more rights for himself and seeks lesser for the minority community, then, I will call such a behaviour as communal.”

“If the rights are the same and it is guaranteed by the Constitution (with independent judiciary), vigilant press and elected representatives of the Parliament, then, the scope of injustice to minorities is significantly reduced,” he emphasised.

Vajpayee said, “India is secular not because of the BJP or the RSS.” Akhtar tried to interject saying “It is secular despite of them”. But Vajpayee continued, “Bharat is secular because 82% of its populace is Hindus. It is the thought process and philosophy of Hindus that make this country secular. Hindus are not bound by a single book, or a single prophet. Even an atheist is a Hindu. Hinduism embraces all.”

The BJP leader further added, “Now there is Human Rights Commission, and Minorities Commission. These were constituted by a State where Hindus are a majority. No one objected to it. Once Pakistan was formed, the Hindu majority did not seek an exclusivist Hindu Raj with no place for minorities.”

“There is no demand for Hindu Raj (theocracy) but Hindu Rashtra, which is entirely a different concept. None has demanded theocracy so far or the declaration of the Hindu Faith as a State religion or that Muslims be discriminated for the virtue of their religion,” he pointed out.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee said, “I want to assure you that. The concept of Rashtra is different. India wasn’t born in 1947 but an ancient civilisation…Sometimes the Hindu community should be thanked for upholding secularism in the country. “

When Javed Akhtar tried to drive a wedge between former PM and Advani

At about 10 minutes into the conversation, Javed Akthar tried to drive a wedge between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani by inquiring whether their ideology was the same or different when it came to religious minorities.

Vajpayee responded, “They are not different. Both of us believe in the same thing. In fact, our party believes in the same thing…Minorities are citizens of India and are entitled to equal rights and responsibilities.”

“There has never been discrimination on the basis of religion in this country. And this will not change even in the future. The BJP has made its stance clear that India was/is/ will be a secular state,” he added.

“Minorities in India should not live under any false sense of fear. Our rivals have created this fear in the minds of minorities by presenting us as ‘demons.’ But this game won’t last for long. Muslims have started to realise that other parties have exploited them as vote banks,” the former PM emphasised.

On relationship with RSS

Javed Akthar then attempted to paint the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a radical Hindu outfit, which does not consider Muslims as equal citizens of India. He claimed that such an idea is reflected in the writings of KB Hedgewar, MS Golwalkar and others.

While refuting his claims, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said, “They have clearly written that those who live in India and love the country will be treated fairly and won’t be discriminated against on the basis of religion.”

At about 26 minutes into the conversation, he highlighted, “The relationship with the RSS is of the people. All members of the BJP are not members of the RSS. As the party will grow in future, there will be people who are not associated with the RSS in any way.”

“They joined us because of our ideology…” he added. The former Prime Minister pointed out that there is no contradiction between the ideology of the RSS and that of the BJP.

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