This Article is From Aug 01, 2022

Opinion: BJP's Targeting Of Ex Vice President Hamid Ansari

Democratic politics can be competitive, even acrimonious at times. But in a mature democracy, and that too one where there is the great civilizational legacy of civilized discourse-sabhya sanvad-all of this should happen in an ambience of civility and some degree at least of mutual respect. Alas, the world's largest democracy now considers the lowest, crudest, and most bizarre and uncivilized charges against political opponents as par for the course.  

The latest example of this is the charge by the BJP that former Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari, 'invited' Pakistan journalist Nusrat Mirza to India, and was on a stage with him during a conference on Terrorism in 2010. Nusrat Mirza has alleged that he passed on information to ISI. From this to conclude that Hamid Ansari was working with the ISI, as the BJP is insinuating, is nothing short of absurd. Ansari has issued a categorical statement that "I have never invited or met him". He has further clarified that the list of invitees for the "Conference on Terrorism" that he inaugurated on December 11, 2010, would have been vetted by the Ministry of External Affairs.

The government and people of Pakistan would be having a merry laugh that the BJP is prepared to believe what is obviously a deliberately mischievous statement by one of their journalists over the explicit denial of the former Vice President of India.


BJP's national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia showed a picture of Hamid Ansari allegedly sharing a stage with Nusrat Mirza at a conference on terrorism here in 2009.

Hamid Ansari, I have no hesitation in saying, is one of the most distinguished citizens of India. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1961. In his career as a diplomat, he has been Ambassador of India to Australia, Afghanistan, UAE, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Permanent Representative of India to the UN in New York. Following his retirement, he was Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, and later,  Chairman of the National Commission of Minorities. In 2007, he became the Vice President of India, and held that office till 2017 to become the longest-serving Vice President of India. In 1983, for his contribution to the Non-Aligned Summit and Common Wealth Summit in Delhi as the Chief of Protocol in the MEA, he was conferred the Padma Shri. As Chairman of the working group on 'Confidence Building Measures across segments in State', established by the second Round Table Conference by then PM Manmohan Singh in 2006, he explicitly mentioned in his Report the right of Kashmiri Pandits to return to places of their original home, adding that this right should recognized without any ambiguity and made a part of state policy. He comes from a freedom fighter's family.  His uncle, Dr MA Ansari, was the President of the Indian National Congress in 1927.  

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Hamid Ansari in a statement said "a litany of falsehood has been unleashed on me" and denied meeting or inviting Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza.

To allege that a person of such a long record in service to the nation and of such demonstrable integrity is in some way working for the Pakistani intelligence agency is not only laughable but an outrage. But a more worrying concern is that he is being targeted for having the wrong name.

Is a Muslim now, irrespective of the high Constitutional office he has held, and his manifest patriotism, still suspect, merely because he or she is a Muslim? This is, indeed, a grotesque interpretation of the slogan 'Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas'. Other questions arise. Did Hamid Ansari, in his position as the Chairman of the Minorities Commission, ask then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, some uncomfortable questions about the 2002 riots when the Commission visited Gujarat? Is he being targeted because he had the temerity to do so?  

The other factor is Pakistan. The BJP, at the drop of a hat, asserts its hyper-nationalism by accusing all and sundry of being in cahoots with Pakistan. In the 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar, Amit Shah publicly said that a victory of the Opposition alliance would mean a victory for Pakistan, where crackers would explode in celebration. This repeated claim of a monopoly on patriotism, where everybody else's patriotism is suspect, has by now become trite and tasteless.  If mere association with Pakistan is a criterion for doubting somebody's nationalism, then there have been enough of these 'transgressions' by BJP leaders. In 2015, PM Modi made a surprise and unscheduled visit to Lahore to wish Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday. From Lahore, he accompanied Sharif on a helicopter to his palatial residence at Jati Umra Raihind. This was the first time ever that Pakistan and Indian PMs travelled together. Did anybody question why Modi made such an over-the-top gesture to Pakistan? In 1999, then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee travelled by bus to Lahore. This was literally on the eve of the Kargil invasion. Could anyone question his staunch patriotism?  Besides, for a senior leader to be photographed with someone else in a gathering is hardly proof of a culpable association. For instance, a picture did the round on social media of Narendra Modi with Mehul Choksi. Does that mean that Modi was implicit in Choksi's financial frauds?  

The truth is that the level of political discourse has been plummeting for some time. It already reached its lowest point when PM Modi, in a speech at Palampur in Gujarat in 2017, insinuated that former PM Manmohan Singh and former Vice President Hamid Ansari were in a conspiracy with Pakistan to intervene in the Gujarat Assembly elections. He came to this absurd conclusion because they were present for a social dinner at the home of Mani Shankar Aiyar, where the Pakistani High Commissioner and a former Pakistani Foreign Minister  were also invited. Also present were a former Chief of the Indian Army and several eminent journalists. It was a social interaction but Modi in his speech said, "What is the reason to have such a secret meeting with the Pakistan High Commissioner? And while elections are on in Gujarat, what is the reason for this type of secret meeting?" The insinuation was clear and tantamount to accusing a former PM and a former Vice President of sedition. Arun Jaitley had to tender an apology in Parliament.

Similarly, the fact that one of the butchers of the Kanhaiya Lal murder in Udaipur, Riyaz Attari, has allegedly links with the BJP, or that a terrorist, Talib Shah, in J&K had connections with the BJP, should not be a reason to make the party complicit in the crime they committed. There has to be a stop to this kind of madness, or else India will become a vulgar Banana Republic.

Pavan K. Varma is author, diplomat and former member of parliament (Rajya Sabha).

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.