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Former Vice President M. Hamid Ansari has said that India is feared to be turned into an illiberal, majoritarian democracy where religious minorities would not be equal citizens but “on sufferance” and underlined that democratic institutions have been “eroded very seriously” in the country.
“The basic concept that I have used is what is a liberal democracy and what is an illiberal or ethnic democracy. An illiberal democracy is one which prescribes the limits within which you can be a full national,” Ansari said in an interview with NDTV on Thursday, ahead of the release of his latest book “Dare I Ask”.
“What is Indian nationalism? Our nationalism is defined by the Indian Constitution. It is inclusive. It includes the entire citizen body. Now an effort is being made to circumscribe that, to say that if you do this you are less of a nationalist. That is when the problem comes in,” he added.
Asked if he feels that India is feared to be turning into a majoritarian, illiberal democracy, Ansari said: “Yes, yes. There is a good deal of writing on this subject.”
On ministers garlanding lynching convicts, he said: “They are sending a message to their core following and to the rest of the citizen body in the country. And that is what is worrying.”
Asked if there is indeed a growing unease among the Muslims in India, the former Vice President said: “I think the media is full of reports of incidents which cannot but cause unease. Whatever the reasons might be, wherever the incidents may have happened, but if you take them in their totality, there is a sense of unease.”
Without naming anyone, he said that if there is violation of law and of constitutional rights of a section of citizens, no person whether “up the ladder or down the ladder” entrusted with the enforcement of law can escape the blame.
“The rule of law means what? That before the law everybody is equal and the principles of law would be implemented. That’s all. The division of responsibility is well spelt out in our Constitution and administrative system. But you cannot say that ‘X’ is responsible, ‘Y’ is not responsible,” he said.
Commenting on India’s foreign policy, Ansari – a career diplomat – observed that series of writings by competent practitioners and observers of Indian diplomacy have expressed concern over the direction of its neighbourhood policy.
“Our general policy by and large is fine. But it’s bad in the context of neighbourhood. Ultimately, everybody looks how you are managing your own periphery, your own neighbourhood. Your standing in the world is affected by how you are dealing with your neighbours and I think somewhere we have reached a point of impasse with our neighbours which has to be corrected,” he said.
Defending Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s remark that if BJP gets another shot at power at the Centre, India would be turned into a “Hindu Pakistan”, Ansari said that Tharoor was entitled to draw his conclusions based on the saffron party’s well-established texts.
“Mr. Tharoor is an erudite, well-informed man. I think he was commenting on some basic text of a political party. Now if you go to that text and he draws certain conclusions, you can’t find fault with him.
“If somebody has said in black and white that if tomorrow I become the ruler of India I will scrap this or scrap that, then people are entitled to draw their conclusions about the implications of scrapping this or that,” he said.
Asked how he feels on being trolled on the social media by the hate brigade, Ansari said that he stays away from social media and thus does not get to read the hate messages.
“Ignorance is bliss. I am glad I am not on Twitter. I am quite happy with my level of technology which is end of 20th century but not 21st century,” he said.