The NDTV Dialogues: Politics of 'Secularism' vs 'Communalism'
New Delhi: On this episode of The NDTV Dialogues, we focus on an issue that has increasingly been dominating our headlines, 'Communalism', the rise in communal violence in the run-up in the 2014 elections.
Following is the full transcript of the show:
NDTV: Good evening and welcome to the NDTV Dialogues, tonight we focus on an issue that has increasingly been dominating our headlines, 'Communalism', the rise in communal violence in the run-up in the 2014 elections. Riots for votes, divide and rule, what are the real factors at play here? How has the Indian polity dealt with communalism in the years after partition? What have we actually learnt? And what are the mistakes that we keep repeating, again and again? Joining me tonight on this, Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, Professor Achyut Yagnik, Professor JS Rajput and Sudheendra Kulkarni. Dr Gandhi, thank you very much for coming in tonight. As we speak, we know of course many thousands of people are still in refugee camps created after Muzaffarnagar riots. And in your new book, you really discussed what happened in the violence leading up to partition, during partition. Do you see parallels of what's playing out here in the India of 2013?
Dr Rajmohan Gandhi: Yes. The stark reality of 1946-47 was the polarization that has taken place. And the inflammatory rhetoric from both sides is what played the large part in the terrible killings that took place. So, certainly in some parts, I have not been to Muzaffarnagar myself but from what I hear, polarization has taken place there too. And people are in refugee camps, and people were killed. And so we have to learn from the past. So there is no doubt that we have to find a way out of this polarization. India is a country for everybody. Perhaps I would also like to refer to the extremism in Pakistan, and the fact that the victims there, especially in the Khyber-Pashtun province, are these courageous Muslims who want Muslim-Hindu friendship, who want Pakistan-Hindu friendship. These are the followers of Badshah Khan, whom we all love as Frontier Gandhi. 800 of them were killed in the last few years, the Awami National Party's leaders and workers. And these people are facing up to communalism and extremism in Pakistan with incredible courage. Recently also these people have been killed. This Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the Information Minister in NP government, his son was killed. But he is fearlessly tackling communalism and extremism. If we are discussing communalism, in India we should also widen our view a bit and recognize the amazing heroism of these people in Pakistan, who are standing up for extremism and violence and communalism in Pakistan.
NDTV: Mr Kulkarni if you could pick on that thought. When we look at parallels, there are also many, many differences. We have seen recent talks about the riots; that riots could not happen in modern day India with growing economic welfare, especially in rural India. They said it's rare to see riots occur here. What's your analysis of what actually happened in Muzaffarnagar? Not just that, but also the rise in incidents also being reported in different states, many seen in the lead up to the elections.
Sudheendra Kulkarni: You know what happened in Muzaffarnagar is most certainly reprehensible. But I think that we should understand the issue of communalism and communal violence in a broader and more historical context. We must understand what has happened in our long history, to know what is happening today. Since, today's discussion is in the context of the book written by Shri Rajmohanji on Punjab, I think the history of Punjab, the very tragic history of Punjab has many, many lessons for us to understand what's happening, and how to overcome today's challenges of communalism. I am really struck by what he says towards the very end of his remarkable book, "For tomorrow's sake, can we learn from yesterday?" This is a challenge we are facing. I believe that the great heroes of Punjab have a lot to teach us. The first hero of course was Guru Nanak, the second hero, as he has so very lucidly explained, the second great hero of Punjab was Bulleh Shah, the great Sufi poet. The third hero, in the more recent history is Mahatma Gandhi. And I want to read one particular small passage, which goes to the heart of what we are discussing in even the context of Muzaffarrnagar, "Gandhiji's assassination 1948 by extremists Hindus, on 30th January 1948, in New Delhi, affected both Punjabs, that is the west as well as the east. That is of course India. "Each one of us" and that is said by a Muslim leader Mian Iftikhajaruddin, he says, "who has raised his hand against innocent men, women and children during the past months; who has publicly or secretly entertained sympathy for such violent acts, is a collaborator in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi". So If you want to stop communal violence today, we must really purge ourselves of communal thinking, communal feelings. And replace them with love, concord, understanding, and that is the great learning from this book.
NDTV: We all share that. It's actually a wonderful angle to bring Dr Rajput on, because really the history, that we read in books like this, and the history that is taught in our textbooks, and we have seen that you face that charge of communalising education when you were a Director of NCERT. The textbooks, the kind of history that is taught to our children, moving beyond that too, because you had an UPA regime and tenures of their textbooks and I am sure changes back and forth, and whether they decentralizing? And how they are coloring their textbooks, the issue of history that we teach our children. When we talk about removing communal thoughts and violence, it actually has to start from childhood. How do we actually see that happen? Why is that education is also such a volatile tool in this?
Prof JS Rajput: You see what Mr Kulkarni has said we have to find out solutions. After all you learn from the past experiences, can find solutions. And to find solutions in the long-term basis you have to go to schools, colleges, universities, you have to go to education. I have seen this book. And I'd like to say that history writing is a very tough job. To bring objectivity fully is almost impossible. But in India what has happened history writing has been ideologically constrained. And when the ideological constrained history is written, the facts sometimes convert themselves into fiction. I am not a professor of history, but I was supposed to fight a case in court of Punjab and Haryana, about a paragraph, where some people wanted it to be deleted and NCRT said no we will not delete it. When I read it, I only had to put a signature just to go to the court. I felt bad. I felt, yes, if this is the image of Guru Tegbahadur ji, then how should we develop him into a hero? And people worship him but here we are denigrating. I didn't do anything. I went to some historians. I consulted them. And they told me, this history has been written depending only on the personal sources, and other sources also. All experts are here. And I went on meeting, meeting people, and I found yes, some changes are necessary. I refused to fight that case. I went to the original authors of the book, presented this to them. They of course declined to help me. And then other things happened. The point is after Muzaffarnagar is over, after sometime we will forget it. We have forgotten many such instances. For example, thousands of people were displaced from Kashmir, they are also somewhere in this country, and we have not been able to solve their problem. It doesn't matter whether a particular party rises or not, we should take as citizens of India, that within a country you cannot create more. My heart goes to these children who are in the refugee camps in the Muzaffarnagar. What is happening to their education? What happens to celebrations? And how much impact we are creating on these children? Now later on when they grow up, will they forget these scars? And there education comes in a big way. You have to continuously see that every education institution is an institution who are integrating people, for making the children realise and internalize that we have to learn together, to live together, to prosper together. These are few key sentences. And towards this, you are referring to textbooks, we had proposed that every teacher is a teacher of religiosity, teacher of value inculcation, character development. And in teacher education programmes we must focus on these areas. Unless and until we do this, the fabric of the country remains in doubt.
NDTV: In fact just to pick up, for instance we talked of textbooks. Prof Yagnik, one interesting point is how we look at riots, when we look at the Gujarat riots, the counter argument is why is their 1984 riot forgotten? When we talk about Muzaffarnagar refugee camps, the point made, what about children who've grown up in Kashmiri, Pandit children, refugee camps? You have seen refugee camps also in Assam. Why is that it seems to be no holistic unbiased, you talked about two schools of history, there is almost two schools, if you see riots as well?
Prof Achyut Yagnik: In 1969 it was the worst riot after Independence. 2000 people were killed in Gujarat. So we have a longer history after Independence compared to many other states in India. Then we have riots in 1985, then 1986, '87 and '90 after Advani's Rathyatra also, and then 1992. So we have a series of riots. And as far as rural area is also concerned, I think I should tell you, in the first time even the tribal, not only rural, but tribal people of Gujarat participated in '87. And it was Narendra Modi and BJP at that time who in a way started politics of yatra. And that politics of yatra became the issue. After every yatra you find, whether in '87 or in '90, every yatra you find series of riots at many places in Gujarat.
NDTV: Dr Rajmohan Gandhi, the same question in a sense to you. Do you find that a preferential treatment in the way the media discusses or analyses to even look at some riots? For a sense Assam, the situation there was, somehow isn't a straight issue as Hindu-Muslim, but there were other facts at play, but still a riot where you had people in refugee camps, you had killings. We have this happen in the 1984 riots as well. Some would argue that the first, this issue of cleansing or targeting of official administration being, turning a blind eye to people being killed, happened in 1984. Are those contemporary history lessons that we ignore, are seen playing out again and again? If 1984 hadn't happened, would 2002 have happened?
Dr Rajmohan Gandhi: Indeed. Sadly in recent years in India sometimes opposition politicians and officials have also taken a partisan line. Not openly sometimes, but it has happened. He said I have written this book with Gandhian perspective, that wasn't my intention at all. It is not a Gandhian perspective Punjab, no. As far as possible one can make mistakes of course. But it is an objective assessment. And this story ends in 1947. But since '47 Jawaharlal Nehru and others also on the national scene, always tried to include and teach the whole of India, that we are one. That to dislike somebody because he is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Jew is wrong. Muslims are not our enemy. Hindus are not the enemies of the Muslims. And again and again, not just him but many others used the national platform in a very bold way to teach. We talk about textbooks, but also national leaders teach a country. That kind of teaching has been missing in recent years. Bold teachers. Now these Pashtoons that I mention have been sacrificed because they say Muslims and Hindus are friends. Hindus are not our enemies. India is not our enemy. They are facing bullets in the forehead day after day. They are that kind. Vajpayee ji did it, frequently also. But I think that needs to be done, in a much bolder way, that the Muslim children are, in many places, not only in Pakistan, but even in India, that Hindus are really against you. And Hindus children are being taught that the Muslims are foreigners, they should all have gone to Pakistan. That kind of poison has to be frontally, boldly tackled by people, who are respected, loved by the country. That has to happen in addition to all that you said about textbooks.
Prof Achyut Yagnik: I think we should learn from Ashoka and Akbar both. And we learn that, we realise that India is a civilization entity, and universal love is the message, without any discrimination.
NDTV: I wanted to ask Mr Kulkarni today, who is active online as well, its ironical that secularism is almost considered as a dirty word like communalism. Nowadays we call secular, secularism is almost considered as bad as being called communal. We had interviewed Mr Guha a few weeks ago who made the point that the word 'secularism' has been denigrated. He prefers the word pluralism. How have we got to a stage that it's almost seen if I am pro-majority so that's communal, and it's all right with me. How have we reached the stage today?
Sudheendra Kulkarni: I think this is because of the politics played in the name of religion and religious mobilisation, one way or the other. It really pains me when some people call secularism 'sickularism' and it's not just in India, in Pakistan secularism is a dirty word for a large number of politicians, who want to play the Muslim politics. If secularism is good for India, how can secularism not be good for Pakistan, and Bangladesh or for any other countries, which are multi-religious? And more and more countries in the world are multi-religious. Therefore, secularism has to be regarded today as a universal ideal not just in India. But secularism not just by preaching but by practicing. And here I feel especially in context of India, I really strongly feel there is a need to bring Hindus and Muslims closer by heart. Heart integration, not just by preaching in National Integration Council, but heart integration between Hindus and Muslims, which to a great extend is going top be aided by normalization between India and Pakistan.
NDTV: You were on the Lahore bus?
Sudheendra Kulkarni: And I am very happy that Rajmohanji mentioned Vajpayeeji's contribution. I was in the bus to Lahore in 1999. It was a very sincere effort. He went there as a messenger of peace. And not only Vajpayeeji, I want to mention here even the contribution of Advaniji. I had accompanied Advaniji to Pakistan in 2005. You know it was a very bold initiative. He spoke from his heart. And here I would like to just mention one small omission in your book Raj Mohanji that you did not refer to Advaniji's visit to Pakistan, especially to that part of Punjab. This book is about Punjab. Katashraj temple, ancient temple from Mahabharata times, the restoration of that and he went there at the invitation of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sujat Hussian. So, this was a great initiative of some enlightened leaders of Pakistan and enlightened leaders of India that if we promote these kinds of initiatives in Pakistan, in India, that will create India Pakistan coming closer, and to the extent that we will have a big breakthrough in communal harmony in India and of course communal harmony in Pakistan too.
NDTV: But of course Mr Kulkarni after the bus came Kargil. We have two Punjabi Prime Ministers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They met cordially in New York. And we have seen the worst shelling happening currently on the international borders. So there is a sense of cynicism even amongst politicians who want to make a bold statement. Many said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh staked quite a lot politically on that meeting, when the outcome is this.
Sudheendra Kulkarni: It's good that you have referred to this. These are two Prime Ministers who have come from Punjab, the land that has suffered the greatest tragedy. I remember what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, even in 1999 he was the Prime Minister, the state banquet. He said for India and Pakistan to come closer we do not have to make a voyage like Columbus to America. The distance between India and Pakistan is a distance between Amritsar and Lahore, only 72 kilometres. So we don't need, the implication was that we don't need any external interference, and just a few weeks ago the same Nawaz Sharif says that Kashmir issue can be solved only if US intervenes. The bottom line of all that's happening between India and Pakistan is there is no solution to either the Kashmir issue or the Pakistan India dispute. War is no solution. External interference is no solution. We have to come closer ourselves. It has to be our effort, the effort of Indian people, Pakistani people, Indian leaders, Pakistani leaders. The sooner this wisdom prevails, the more confident and more optimistic we can be of the future.
NDTV: Dr Rajput, just bring you in also on the issue of secularism. Many have felt that secularism is often interpreted very conveniently by some, for instance you were very keen on introducing some religion, not based, but some education related to religion, looking at very indigenous system, but somehow that the definition of secularism meant that the introduction of yoga in school would be seen as pro Hindu. Do you think that perhaps looking at the meaning of secularism has today to be updated?
Prof JS Rajput: Allow me to say some of my personal experiences. In 1978 research study was conducted under my supervision in Muzaffarnagar, Etah, Etawah and Moradabad. 111 schools were taken up. The idea was why Muslim children do not go for higher education? Their enrollment in these districts were, we had a very considerable Muslim population, it was comparable to others, proportionate to their population, but after 12 or 13 years they used to drop out. That study we conducted. You know what we studied? We called it school culture, the annual function, themes of the drama and debates, photographs that you show, what are the celebrations the whole year and there we found that up to 11 or 12 years of age these children participate in everything, irrespective of any religion, they participate in Ramlila, they participate in Rakshabandhan. But as they grow up they realise that nothing happens on Eid. And slowly and slowly they separate. So my understanding from that study was that all the riots, their seed lies in social distancing and more than that the distrust that we create, that we have to take care of. And I came to NCERT, I was very conscious of this. That is you are talking of religious functions, you have to take a comprehensive and holistic view. And we did it. The most important suggestion that was made at that time and which I would very much like to repeat, amongst these historians here also. We said secularism does not mean closing your eyes to the existence of religions. We are a multi-religious society. Religions are there. Our people are religious. Our state is secular and there is no contradiction between the two. In fact personally I would say that only a truly a religious person can be truly secular. Some not agree, but this is what I feel. So we proposed that basics of all religion, now this language took several days to put this paragraph. Basics of all the religion must be made known to every child. They should know the commonalities and learn to respect the differences wherever these exists. At higher stages they could study the comparative philosophy. Next, teachers have to be very objectively trained for being objective in imparting this basic acquaintance with the basics of religion, because if you give the basics to the child he will realise the commonalities himself. And once you realise the commonalities you develop respect. If I do not know about your culture, if I do not know about the basics of your religion, I will listen to them on the roads and this is always negative. I had learned all the things very negative to Islam and I am still continuing that work. I am editing a book. I have told my Muslim scholar friends why don't you tell us what is good about Islam? Even they do not know much about it.
So this type of dialogue has to be started professionally also, academically also that we know what are the communities. For example truth is common, peace, non-violence, righteous conduct and love. These five values no religion say they reject them. This whole issue has gone to Supreme Court also. The Supreme Court said on 12th September 2002, that making the children learn about the basics of all religions will strengthen secularism in India. These five values should be tried and attempted by every teacher. And they went to the extent, which I would very proudly repeat within time, they said, 'This should have been done 50 years ago'. This was their greatest achievement. When Muzaffarnagar happened I thought, 'Yes' within a few months we will forget Muzaffarnagar. And then we started talking something else and this also will become a number in the long list of the communal riots. Secularism in a way has been politicised. I am convinced it has been politicised and that is why it has lost its grace. Use of this term is not because it has done very graceful. I, myself use it in a very derogatory sense. Because in my society everybody is religious and I cannot close my eyes. I have to accept that part if I know good things about Islam.
NDTV: If I say Professor Yagnik what Professor Rajput talked about was a politically controversial bombshell at that time, but just looking, perhaps taking this theme out of politics of secularism or communalism, the issue that many are saying, is that why are we seeing instances coming up is because one lesson politicians seemed to have learnt is often fear pays, pays when it comes to votes and the issue would be perhaps, we will protect you, we will protect this caste, we will protect this religion, we will protect this majority and that's what we are seeing at play here. Do you see that happening?
Prof Achyut Yagnik: No that is happening. But I think when we look back we realise that for Indian state, secularism was the concept. And Gandhiji also endorsed it in the Karachi Congress. But Gandhiji was also talking about sarva dharama sambhav. But first the State should be secular, but for society, an individual, they should believe in sarva dharma sambhav. That is very interesting. What he is telling you know Professor Rajput is that you will have to learn about other religions also and you have to respect. It is also very interesting that when first in 1915 after returning from South Africa, when Gandhiji wrote about the Ashram vrath, you know then sahishnunatha was the word. And then he was thinking again and again that sahishnutha is the proper word. So in 1930 you realise, that when he wrote from the jail he wrote, instead he changed tolerance or sahishnutha to sarva dharma sambhav. So I think when we discuss this we should think from angle of the state, how state should behave and how society and individual. So for state I still believe that secularism should be the ideal, for state. But I also understand that our politicians, they have used afterwards, particularly after 1970 also, the word secularism in a different way. I think time again we should always talk about sarva dharma sambhav.
Prof JS Rajput: Sarva dharma sambhav. Sarva dharma, samadharam. When we were discussing this term also came up, some people suggested basically samadharm also, sarvadharm samadharm. My religion is best for me but your religion is best for you and we respect each other because there is so much common in us. And the other point was develop respect for the differences wherever they are. That is very important.
NDTV: I just want to, yes of course
Prof Achyut Yagnik: Only, only one sentence. That is very interesting that Kakasahib Kaledkar you know suggested samadhar, what you are talking about, sarva dharma samadhar. Then Gandhiji said no, not samadhar because one also, other, that means that you are still thinking about your religion in a different way you know. So he suggested sambhav, because sambhav is a more deeper meaning than samadhar.
Prof JS Rajput: Sir, initially yes it is samadhar, as a child grows up it is sambhav
Prof Achyut Yagnik: Yes
NDTV: I actually wanted to ask Dr Gandhi the importance of words; the importance of what politicians say and even don't say, interestingly we see the development mantra been talked about in elections, we talk in terms of growth in elections. Yet we leave aside this basic issue, but we keep seeing these eruptions in different parts of India, of states. Do we think by papering it over we are talking about inclusive growth, whether it is in growth or development? One view is that people of India are not interested in any outdated concept, communalism, secularism, religion issues; we are interested in jobs, development and growth. Do you think we are ignoring the tension or tugs, which make up India today?
Dr Rajmohan Gandhi: So there are two things, the tensions are very real and we try to paper them over, we try to forget them, we think development and all that will unite everybody and that everybody will forget those but that is not the reality. There is a lot of tension; there is a lot of suspicion; there is a lot of enmity. But on the other hand, the people of India and I would say the people of Pakistan are on the whole wonderful people. They may have prejudices but they don't want to fight and hate and kill. And they keep their prejudices under control. But we have to recognize both these realities that basically there is a lot of soundness in our people and it is also true of Pakistan. Pakistanis are not all horrible people and Pakistanis must not think that Indians and Hindus are all horrible people. They are not. The vast majorities in both the countries are wonderful people. But I think from time to time, whether it's national leaders, professors or teachers, have to teach all the people they come in contact with, that there are these tensions but we must overcome them, there are ways of overcoming them. And as far as India and Pakistan are concerned we have to have a very firm policy that of course we will deal with extremism, terrorism if it attacks us. But we have tremendous warmth for the Pakistani people. They are not our enemies. Pakistanis are not our enemies and Pakistan must be taught that Indians are not their enemies, likewise between Hindus and Muslims and so anyway, that's it.
NDTV: So why, I would ask specifically, there are those who would attack and the Left specifically on this and the Congress have attacked Mr Modi, saying that he is not acceptable as the Prime Minister because of the Gujarat riots and failures on his watch. His supporters will say that Amit Shah has said in Uttar Pradesh, in fact that look at the Gujarat record, ten years after the riots there are no riots, we have controlled the situation and we are the people who can keep India secular in a true sense and safe. Which argument would you buy or which do you think here is more resonant at this time?
Dr Rajmohan Gandhi: Whatever be the success, there's also a debate about that relative success or great success in Gujarat. The fact that those terrible incidents took place and that there has not been a wholehearted expression of regret. That does affect the situation. There is no doubt about that. So to imagine the talk of development will completely silence those misgivings, those fears, those anxieties they have, is completely unrealistic. So remember India is going to play a very large part in the world as a whole. What is to be the image of the new India as far as the world is concerned? We are a power in the world, now we have the India-China agreement, but India can't present itself in the honourable, wonderful way it should present itself with this kind of lurking anxiety, that is there going to be some kind of a second rate treatment of some people in India or is India for everybody without any doubt what so ever. So that is a challenge that Mr Modi and the BJP have to recognise.
NDTV: Wouldn't that apply to the Congress as well as 1984 because you write so much about Punjab, though not of course about this?
Dr Rajmohan Gandhi: Of course, but as far as 1984 is concerned, yes we may rightly say that the cases against those who have been involved have not been pursued vigorously enough but certainly apologies have been made. Apologies have been made and they should have been made and they have been made. That has not quite happened in Gujarat. I agree with you, Congress rule in many states has also seen riots, seen violence. Absolutely. No doubt about it.
NDTV: In fact Mr Kulkarni the alternative point of view being presented, some in fact within the Congress had pointed also to the irony of the fact that Mr Advani was now being seen as the mascot of secularism versus Mr Modi, of course who remember the politics of Rathyatra, the killings ensued, the riots ensued after that. You of course have been very close to Mr Advani. Looking also at what happened specifically in Uttar Pradesh, Muzaffarnagar, after all happened under Akhilesh Yadav's watch. Why did he not face the same criticism that Mr Modi did in Gujarat? Do you think there are double standards of play also when we look at politics of communalism?
Sudheendra Kulkarni: There should be no double standards whatsoever, because if there is double standards you will lose credibility amongst the people. And such leaders cannot really advance the cause of peace and harmony. As far as the BJP is concerned the demolition of the Babri Masjid was not just an error but it is a gross violation of the Hindu ethos. And the BJP must take blame for that but we do not have to go into the history of that particular issue. The context we are discussing, Punjab, you know it shows great lessons for us on how to go forward. You know there are not only Punjab but all of India, the periods of harmony, the instances and episodes of harmony and coming together, the periods of peace are much, much longer than the episodes of conflict. This is the point that Rajmohanji has made in this book you know, with great lucidity and that is what we should learn.
NDTV: But why I asked you, because I think perhaps moving from Punjab to Uttar Pradesh, because in a sense what the Rathyatra, leaving aside the Babri Masjid demolition which the BJP has claimed regret for, but the Rathyatra, the politics of the Rathyatra, moving from the politics which brought the BJP to power, not just Uttar Pradesh but at the Center. But moving on from what one would say the Samajwadi Party politics. Samajwadi Party, ally of the UPA and the Congress government, which the BJP would say is minority appeasement and that's what led to these riots. So actually it's safer in a sense to have a Mr Modi-like figure in charge than to have an Akhilesh Yadav and Mr Advani cannot claim secularism now as a cloak when he led the Rathyatra.
Sudheendra Kulkarni: You see the history of the Rathyatra and what led to it is complex. But we must also, every political party learns from its history and from, I think, from the compulsions of democracy. Democracy is a great teacher and that is what we should be proud of, that unlike many countries, India is a democracy and democracy can be misused. But Democracy, the people's will, also gets imposed on the thinking and practice of the politicians. The contribution to peace and harmony has come from different political parties. No single party can claim either credit for it or no single party can be completely blamed for disturbing peace and harmony. Therefore we need a different kind of political dialogue in our country. You know this constant blaming each other will not take us anywhere. Let us be more objective. Let's be more loyal to truth, historical truth, contemporary truth, which is what we should acknowledge. You know the Congress people should acknowledge the fact that leaders like Vajpayeeji and Advaniji made very sincere efforts to bring India and Pakistan closer. Advaniji, of course, paid a very heavy price for it. Similarly the people in the BJP should acknowledge that Dr Manmohan Singh is making a very sincere effort to bring our two countries closer. There should be more dialogue between the leaders of the Congress and the BJP. Because the issue of Kashmir and the issue of India and Pakistan normalization, it can only be addressed through a very strong robust national consensus. You know today this lack of dialogue between the leaders of the Congress and BJP on very important international regional issues is hurting India, is weakening India.
NDTV: And internal issues as well, given the point of the National Integration Council. Where do we debate issues like that? The final round of this Dialogue, Professor Yagnik, Professor Rajput. First Professor Yagnik. Just because we are talking about the context of Gujarat and now UP, when we are looking at a potential anti communal violence bill, which is just coming up, also of course we are seeing the worry about, we see the government warn that the communal incidents are rising in the run up to the 2014 Elections. Do you see India going forward? What do you think we are going to see in the six months before the elections? Has Muzaffarnagar riots, the history of riots taught us any lessons or are you a bit cynical about what's going to happen in the riots?
Prof Achyut Yagnik: I am not cynical at all, and I think both 2002 as well the recent happening in UP, they have taught real lessons to people of India. I have no doubt about that. But I think to move in that direction, not only political parties but also the intelligentsia we have, also the literati you know, they should and media also, because the cultural resource you get from number of quarters. So media, then academia, and they should move in certain direction with this aim and objective, that not only India, but what kind of sub continent, what kind of the world we want. And what is going to happen with our 7th generation, it is not only for the environment that we think about our 7th generation, it is for the social fabric also that we should think, and whether we are moving in that direction or not. So it's a joint responsibility. So I would like to suggest or request rather that not only the political class, we should not depend only on the political class, but the media, academia and the literature also, particularly literati also. They should move in a certain direction, should think about this so that the next generation receives. Now what is happening that not only textbook, earlier we were discussing about textbooks, but even from literature also you know or even in the universities also. What is happening in Gujarat today, the Muslims are treated as second-class citizens, no doubt about that. What is happening in the universities of Gujarat, you find only RSS people as Vice Chancellors. And it is difficult to say what kind of message they are giving. That is happening in Gujarat today. So I would suggest instead of focusing more on the political class, we should focus more on media and academia.
NDTV: Professor Rajput final words to it
Prof JS Rajput: My point is very simple. He has talked about the intellectuals and literati, refers to the appointments in Gujarat. I am naturally reminded what happened to me, I was given an award by the UNESCO. UNESCO awards are not given on the recommendations of ministers and political parties. After the new government came in 2004, they wrote to the UNESCO, don't give him the award. And eventually I had to go to the High Court. The High Court imposed a fine on the government of India and then I got it in 2009. My tickets were ready and then I was stopped. So these things do happen, they happen on both sides. My simple point is, as Sir you were mentioning, why should we not trust the people of Gujarat? If they elect a certain party or a leadership of certain individual, how can we say that those who elected a Congress government or some other government were very intelligent and these Gujarat people are not? This humiliation is being inflicted on Gujarat people, number one. Number two, who conducts the elections; the Central government, the elections of 2014 will also be conducted by the Election Commission of India and it will ensure that everybody is able to vote. Whatever emerges, because in democracy it is the common man who is the most important person, let them come. People have every right to say against each other and they will do it and in anyway continue to do it. But in no stage we should distrust the people and their consensus.
There can be a serious difference of opinion whether everybody in a particular community in Gujarat is a second-class citizen. We should also examine what happened in the NDA times and last point I would like to make is, whosoever becomes the Prime Minister of India will not be a monarch. He will have to have a group of people together and naturally in this country it is inherent in our DNA that we are secular as a whole, whether we belong to Hindus or any community whatever. Essentially we are all secular. We want to live together. We want to work together. We want to prosper together, but as I said politicians sow the seeds of distrust. They separate out. Why should we keep on saying we should have a special tribunal for the Muslim young people. You may have a message for a particular community, but this one statement distances other community from the Muslims. It's not a question of any particular party I am accusing. I am saying people must assess what is the perception of the common man. The common man doesn't like it. In a school if there are two girls, one belonging to one community will get a scholarship, the other one which is economically poorer gets nothing. How will they respect each other? These are the issues, which have to be examined very seriously if we want to have a peaceful, cohesive society in future, and that there is no alternative to that. I have said it already
NDTV: Looking ahead finally, Dr Gandhi the politics of hope versus the politics of fear and politics of divisiveness. The anti communal violence bill also falls into that trap some would say. Looking ahead what do you see us playing out right now?
Dr Rajmohan Gandhi: It's a very complicated situation. It's an uncertain situation. But I agree that the people of India must be trusted. The people of India must be trusted and the common sense, sanity, wisdom of the people of India will eventually. Sometimes it may take a while, and sometimes some leaders can also do a lot of damage. But the people of India, I have my faith in them.
NDTV: Well we do have to leave this Dialogue here. It's been wonderful to get all the many different perspectives. Lots more happening before 2014 but I think more of the focus should be on India and not the elections. Thank you all very much for joining me this evening, thank you, thank you.
Story First Published: November 10, 2013 20:31 IST