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India can never be a Hindu state: Mani Shankar Aiyar
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India can never be a Hindu state: Mani Shankar Aiyar


Mani Shankar Aiyar is a symbol of unadulterated secularism and of a larger perspective in the Indian National Congress.A special invitee at the Congress Working Committee, Aiyar spoke recently to Madhyamam about the current state of affairs of the party and the nation.

How do you understand the present situation of the Congress Party? How to resolve?

Of course, the current situation is painful. Still, I cannot agree with the view that its full responsibility rests with the Gandhi family. I was not one among the 23 people who wrote to Sonia Gandhi regarding the election of a new Congress president. None of them asked me. I wrote another letter stating that I was with those 23 people. Rather than actually reviving the party, a revolutionary radical reform is required. Historically speaking, even in Nehru's time, the Congress had begun to decline after the Indo-China War. There are many economic, social and linguistic reasons for this.

Scholars like Ramachandra Guha are blaming Rahul Gandhi, but such arguments ultimately help BJP. Who else can rise as a national leader to take on BJP? Is it Sharad Pawar? Isn't he just another state leader from Maharashtra? The same limitations apply to Mamata and Naveen Patnaik.

Who other than the Gandhi family is nationally recognized in India? In the last election, Congress won 44 seats. It would have been limited to four without the Gandhi family.

What is the possible strategy for secular parties to contest in the next general election?

In the last election, 63 per cent of Indians did not vote for the BJP. Yet they won a majority of seats and came to power. We have to take into account our current situation to face the new election. A coalition of the Congress-led non-BJP opposition needs to be formed before the next Lok Sabha elections while maintaining the 'identity' of each regional party. There should be a 'Confederate Political Alliance'.

Is it possible that RSS and BJP declare India a Hindu nation in 2024?

India will not become a 'Hindu Nation' even if it is 2534 and not 2024. There is no greater national betrayal than calling this diverse country a 'Hindu Nation'. The Prime Minister says those who do not chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' are anti-national. So was Subhash Chandra Bose an anti-national? He used to 'Azad Hind Zindabad'.

The concept of 'Hindutva' was developed by VD Savarkar from the word 'Hindudom'. Hindudom is derived from the Roman word 'Christendom'. The term was used to describe the process by which Christian rule was imposed on others.

V.D. Savarkar never preached non-violence. Savarkar explains that it is the over-emphasis on non-violence that chained us in foreign domination. Savarkar never endorsed Buddha, Jain or Ashoka, because they all believed in non-violence. This aggressive ideology of Savarkar led to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by his followers.

Will the CAA-NRC return if the Covid situation changes? There are statements that preparations are underway?

Anti - CAA-NRC protest was one of the biggest protests that happened in the world. If that is introduced again, the protests will also return with greater force. It is unfortunate that the opposition parties, including Congress, have not been able to take the lead in these protests.

Secularism and pluralism being the soul of India, what is its future?

There is no other country in the world as diverse as India. Unity in diversity is the soul of India. The more we promote diversity, the more it will nurture the future of the country.

A glance at the diversity of religions shows that there are many sub-variants within each religion. India has no existence without secularism.

The Mughals who ruled India already knew this. Babur, the Mughal founder, came to India in 1526. In 1529, In his letter to his son Humayun, Babur said that if you want to rule this country, you must never interfere in the religious affairs of the people. This is the conviction that those who rule India today lack.

The Muslim population in the first census taken in British-ruled India in 1872 was 24 per cent. Although India has been under Muslim rule for 666 years, they formed only 24 per cent of its population which makes it clear that they did not try conversions. With the partition, a large percentage of Muslims in India went to Pakistan. The committee headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar found that the condition of those left in India is worse than that of Dalits and Adivasis. Thus the Committee recommended to the government that special consideration be given to that section. The BJP terms this 'minority appeasement. They deem the very word 'secularism' as minority appeasement.

Many of the best institutions in India are contributions of Christian missionaries. In that sense, their contribution is enormous. But today, December 25 has become 'Atal Bihari Day'.

A new book by Wajahat Habibullah states that Hindus were the ruling establishment in India since the 16th century. I called him and asked,"Was not India ruled by Muslim rulers during that period?.' He replied, "Even when the ruler was a Muslim, it was the local Hindus who actually ruled."

There are many social reasons for the spread of Islam in India. Prominent among them was the concept of social justice. The people of that time, who were suffering discrimination then witnessed the king and the native shoemaker making their ablution in the same pool and praying together at the same place, were naturally attracted to Islam.

Your statement that Narendra Modi and Amit Shah created a Palestine on our northern border was controversial, could you elaborate on that?

I have predicted that there will be another 'Intifada' (uprising) in Kashmir under the present circumstances. It is not there in Kashmir now. But let us not forget that the 'Intifada' in Palestine began after 40 years of perseverance and resistance. The protests that began in the streets later turned violent. The late Syed Shihabuddin once said that if the Palestinian people had adopted the Gandhian way, perhaps an independent Palestine would have been possible by now.

In order for integrity to prevail in a diverse country, special privileges must be granted to certain regions. Not only Kashmir but 11 states in India (including Maharashtra and Gujarat) enjoy special privileges under Article 371. Those who deliberately ignore the growing popular anger are nurturing 'intifada'.

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