In his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV, vice president Hamid Ansari said a feeling of unease and insecurity is creeping in among Muslims in India. The comment drew reactions from many BJP leaders including the Prime Minister, who took subtle digs at the outgoing VP.
India’s next vice president Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday dismissed allegations of insecurity among Muslims as a political propaganda, a day after his predecessor Hamid Ansari flagged a “growing unease” among the country’s minority community.
Though Naidu did not name anyone, his comments are being seen as a response to Ansari, who told a government-run TV channel on Thursday that insecurity was creeping in among Muslims in India and that there was a breakdown of Indian values.
“Some people are saying minorities are insecure. It is a political propaganda. Compared to the entire world, minorities are more safe and secure in India and they get their due,” Naidu said. Naidu’s political stand left many surprised as it came a day ahead of his swearing in to the country’s second-highest constitutional position, a post neutral of party affiliations.
In his parting interview to Rajya Sabha TV, Ansari also pointed out alleged failure of law enforcing agencies, seen as a reference to growing incidents of mob lynchings over cow smuggling.
Naidu, a former BJP president, cautioned against highlighting one community as it might result in adverse reaction from other communities. “If you single out one community, other communities will take it otherwise. That is why we say all are equal. Appeasement for none, justice for all,” 68-year-old Naidu said.
Naidu the second leader with an RSS-BJP background to be elected VP after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, also stressed that “India is secular not because of political leaders but because of its people and civilisation.” The BJP lashed out at Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took subtle digs at the outgoing VP.
“There might have been some uneasiness in you. But probably that worry will no longer be there for you. There will be the joy of freedom for you. You can act, think and talk according to your fundamental ideology,” Modi said during Ansari’s farewell, underlining that his ancestors were closely associated with the Congress.
“You have spent a large part of your diplomatic career in West Asia. After retirement, you worked in Minority Commission or Aligarh University, so your circle remained the same,” Modi added.
In his farewell speech, Ansari reminded the government and opposition of their duties, quoting India’s first vice president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to say, “Democracy can become a tyranny if opposition parties are not allowed to criticise government policies. The opposition also has no right to disrupt the House.”
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya questioned if Ansari was looking for “political shelter” after retirement. “I condemn his comments. He is still a vice president and such comments do not suit his office’s dignity,” Vijayvargiya said.
Ansari’s comments also drew a sharp rebuke from other RSS affiliates, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). “With his remarks that Muslims feel insecure in the country, Ansari has insulted the post of the vice president, the government and the entire Hindu community,” VHP joint general secretary Surendra Jain said.
“It is unfortunate that Ansari followed (Md Ali) Jinnah rather than adopting the paths of former president APJ Abdul Kalam and freedom fighter Maulana Azad,” Jain said. But Ansari found support from senior lawmakers including Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury who referred to the outgoing VP’s comments. The opposition parties accuse the BJP-led NDA government of not doing enough to rein in fringe groups targeting minorities since Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.
Modi had earlier spoken out against atrocities on minorities, especially by cow protection groups and asked states to take action but critics say it came too late.