Ansari warns against “purifying exclusivism” seeking to replace the pluralist view of nationalism

Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today warned against the intrusion of a “purifying exclusivism” seeking to replace the pluralist view of nationalism and Indianness in existence for the past several decades after independence.
Delivering the 25th Annual Convocation address at the National Law School of India University here, Mr Ansari 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, characterized our thinking.
“More recently an alternate viewpoint of ‘purifying exclusivism’ has tended to intrude into and take over the political and cultural landscape. 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 added.
“While ensuring external and domestic security is an essential duty of the state, there seems to be a trend towards sanctification of military might overlooking George Washington’s caution to his countrymen over two centuries earlier about ‘overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty,” Mr Ansari said.
Citizenship does imply national obligations. It necessitates adherence to and affection for the nation in all its rich diversity. This is what nationalism means, and should mean, in a global community of nations, he added.
The Israeli scholar Yael Tamir has dwelt on this at some length. Liberal nationalism, she opines, ‘requires a state of mind characterized by tolerance and respect of diversity for members of one’s own group and for others;’ hence it is ‘polycentric by definition’ and ‘celebrates the particularity of culture with the universality of human rights, the social and cultural embeddedness of individuals together with their personal autonomy.’
On the other hand, ‘the version of nationalism that places cultural commitments at its core is usually perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism. It promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism,’ he said.
“What are, or could be, implications of the latter for pluralism and secularism? It is evident that both would be abridged since both require for their sustenance a climate of opinion and a state practice that eschews intolerance, distances itself from extremist and illiberal nationalism, subscribes in word and deed to the Constitution and its Preamble, and ensures that citizenship irrespective of caste, creed or ideological affiliation is the sole determinant of Indianness,” he said.
“In our plural secular democracy, therefore, the ‘other’ is to be none other than the ‘self’. Any derogation from it would be detrimental to its core values,” Mr Ansari said.
While framing the Constitution, India's founding fathers took cognizance of an existential reality of a plural society and culture imbued with considerable doses of syncretism. “Our population of 1.3 billion comprises of over 4,635 communities, 78 % of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories. Religious minorities constitute 19.4 % of the total. The human diversities are both hierarchical and spatial.
“It is this plurality that the Constitution endowed with a democratic polity and a secular state structure. Pluralism as a moral value seeks to ‘transpose social plurality to the level of politics, and to suggest arrangements which articulate plurality with a single political order in which all duly constituted groups and all individuals are actors on an equal footing, reflected in the uniformity of legal capacity. Pluralism in this modern sense presupposes citizenship,” he added.
Citizenship as the basic unit is conceptualized as “national-civic rather than national-ethnic” ‘even as national identity remained a rather fragile construct, a complex and increasingly fraught ‘national-civic-plural-ethnic’ combinations.’ In the same vein, Indianness came to be defined not as a singular or exhaustive identity but as embodying the idea of layered Indianness, an accretion of identities, Mr Ansari said.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala, Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Supreme Court Judge, Justice Dipak Misra, Minister of Higher Education, Karnataka, Basavaraj Rayareddi, the Minister for Law and Justice, T B Jayachandra, former Chief Justice of India, Dr. Justice (Rtd.), Rajendra Babu, the Chairman, Bar Council of India, Manan Kumar Mishra, the Vice Chancellor, NLSIU, Prof. R. Venkata Rao were present on the occasion.


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