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Democracy That Gags Criticism Sinks Into Tyranny: VP Ansari's Parting Shot

‘A democracy is distinguished by the protection it gives to its minorities. A democracy is likely to degenerate into a tyranny if it does not allow the opposition groups to criticise fairly, freely and frankly.’

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:August 10, 2017, 6:35 PM IST
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Democracy That Gags Criticism Sinks Into Tyranny: VP Ansari's Parting Shot
File photo of outgoing Vice President of India Mohammad Hamid Ansari. (Getty Images)
New Delhi: The mild mannered vice-president, Hamid Ansari, in his final, valedictory address delivered a stinging blow to the ruling party. Quoting India’s first vice-President who later became the President, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Ansari said a democracy which doesn’t give space to minorities and opposition groups degenerates into a tyranny.

‘A democracy is distinguished by the protection it gives to its minorities. A democracy is likely to degenerate into a tyranny if it does not allow the opposition groups to criticise fairly, freely and frankly the policies of the government.’

Ansari went on to quote Radhakrishnan as saying, ‘But at the same time minorities have also their responsibilities. While they have every right to criticise, their right of criticism should not degenerate into willful hampering and obstruction of the work of Parliament. All groups, therefore, have their right, and their responsibilities.’

This is not the first time Ansari has talked about increasing attacks on minorities in the country. In a recent interview he gave to Rajya Sabha television, he talked about “apprehension” and insecurity among Indian Muslims because of the rising number of attacks against them.

“Yes it is a correct assessment, from all I hear from different quarters, the country; I heard the same thing in Bangalore, I have heard from other parts of the country, I hear more about it in north India, there is a feeling of unease, a sense of insecurity is creeping in,” he said.

When asked about the instances of lynching, ghar wapsi, murder of rationalists, Ansari described them as “breakdown of Indian values”.

He said these incidents showed a breakdown of authorities at different levels and remarked that the “very fact that Indianness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought.”

In his speech Ansari said that he had spent his 10 year tenure playing by the book just as an umpire in a cricket match or a referee in a hockey match. He also recalled a small anecdote, a conversation he had with “an eminent leader no longer with us”.

“After tomorrow you’ll be troubled quite a lot. I sympathise with you and advise you that no matter how much noise we make [in the Parliament] please don’t let anger reflect on your face. Please keep smiling…we aren’t enemies of the nation and all it will take to subdue us will be a smile on your face.”

A few minutes after he expressed his thoughts, Ansari was attacked by several BJP leaders. One of them was BJP national secretary, Kailash Vijayavargiya, who said Ansari was now looking for a political job.

“He couldn’t talk like this before but now he is outgoing, in search of a political role he is making such statements that are inappropriate for a person at such a position,” Kailash Vijayavargiya told a news channel.

Retorting to Ansari’s remarks, senior BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said, “(There is) no better country than India for Muslims and no better friend than Hindus.”

In December last year, former President Pranab Mukherjee had also spoken against “divisive political agenda.” “Polarizing debates only deepen the fault lines in public discourse. Disruptions, obstructionism & unmindful pursuit of divisive political agenda lead to institutional travesty,” Mukherjee had said.

Ansari ended his speech with an interesting couple from Faiz’s nazm ‘Marg-e-soz-e-mohabbat’ (dirge for the passion of love):

'aao ki aaj khatm hui dastaan-e-ishq
Ab khatm-e-aashiqui ke fasaane sunein
'

‘Come now that the tale-of-love has ended
Let’s now listen to the end-of-love tales’
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