India

Final address as Vice President, Hamid Ansari speaks on nationalism, secularism and substantive equality

Annual Convocation of National Law School of India University
Hamid Ansari and JS Khehar Annual Convocation of National Law School of India University

Vice President Hamid ansari in his final speech made some crucial points on essentiality of pluralism and secularism in our democarcy. He was addressing the students and law professionals on 25th annual convocation of the National Law School of India University in Bengluru on Sunday(6th August).

In his address he made some very relevant and crucial point on neccesity of law in a democracy, he even quoted some prominent political philosphers like John locke and John Rawls who said ‘wherever law ends,tyranny begins’, justice is the first virtue of social institutions, and that in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled and the rights secured by justice and are not subject to poliotical bargaining or to the calculus of social interest, respectively. Refering to the Rawls he said the first task of political philosophy is its practical role to see, whether despite appearances on deeply disputed questions, some philosophical or moral grounds can be located to further social cooperation on a footing of mutual respect among citizens.

Taking into consideration the current situations of the country the vice president underlined the values of secularism and pluralism in the constituition. He said, Experience shows that secularism has become a site for political and legal contestation. The difficulty lies in delineating, for purposes of public policy and practice, the line that separates them from religion. For this, religion per se, and each individual religion figuring in the discourse, has to be defined in terms of its stated tenets.

The ‘way of life’ argument, used in philosophical texts and some judicial pronouncements, does not help the process of identifying common principles of equity in a multi-religious society in which religious majority is not synonymous with totality of the citizen body. Since a wall of separation is not possible under Indian conditions, the challenge is to develop and implement a formula for equidistance and minimum involvement. For this purpose, principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture since a conflation of the two obfuscates the boundaries of both and creates space to equivocalness.26 Furthermore, such an argument could be availed of by other faiths in the land since all claim a cultural sphere and a historical justification for it.

Vice President Ansari also pointed out the structure of equality that should persist in the Indian society he said, equality has to be substantive rather than merely formal and has to be given shape through requisite measures of affirmative action needed in each case so that the journey on the path to development has a common starting point. This would be an effective way of giving shape to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy of Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas. Vivekanand and Gandhi also found a place in the vicepresident’s speech in which referring to vivekanand he said ‘We must not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, as truth is the basis of all religions.

He even lay his perception on the deabate of nationalism that has become questionable in last two or three years, 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,’’ he said. “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 said.

The vulnerable condition of dalits, minorities also got vicepresident’s attention for them he said, It has to become an essential national virtue to promote harmony transcending sectional diversities. The urgency of giving this a practical shape at national, state and local levels through various suggestions in the public domain is highlighted by enhanced apprehensions of insecurity amongst segments of our citizen body, particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians. Intolerance and lack of acceptance of people has resulted in questions about our commitment to the rule of law and the emergence of arbitrary decision making and mob rule in society, he indicated.

The farm distress, Naxalite insurgencies, re-emergence of language related identity questions, indifference to excesses on the weaker sections of society, and lingering claims of local nationalisms cannot be ignored or brushed under the carpet, Ansari said. “The political immobility in relation to Jammu and Kashmir is disconcerting,’’ he said.

WeForNews Bureau 

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