Dissent essential in open society: Hamid Ansari

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New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) Dissent is of critical importance in an open society and its suppression could metamorphose it into an illiberal and ethnic democracy, former Vice President Hamid Ansari said on Tuesday.

He was speaking here at the formal release of his latest book “Dare I Question: Reflections on Contemporary Challenges”.

A compilation of his speeches and writings, the book (Haranand Publications/Rs 795/239 pages), examines the question: What is it to be an Indian?

He said that the pre-launch media publicity tends to suggest that the book may contain “some version of a kiss-and-tell tale but it is not true”.

“What is it to be an Indian is the question that I have raised in the preface… there is apprehension that India’s democracy could metamorphose into an illiberal, ethnic democracy based on principles of a social-political philosophy called Hindutva,” Ansari said.

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He stressed that the meaning of nationalism in the context of India’s plural society and composite culture needed to be “inclusive” and move beyond mere “tolerance” to “acceptance” of diversity as a civic virtue.

The former Vice President said that secularism in the Indian context means symmetrical treatment of the different religious communities, defense of minority rights, and prevention of bigotry.

“There is an evident decline in adherence to the rule of law norms and in the efficacy of institutions — legislature, executive and judiciary. This is resulting in public disenchantment and is a matter of concern,” Ansari added.

The book contains speeches of the two-time Vice President delivered during the last year of his second term, and some during the subsequent months.

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In the book’s preface, Ansari commented on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks made during his farewell event.

“Dare I Question” was launched by former Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, Indian academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta, political journalist Aditi Phadnis and Haranand Publications Founder-Chairman Narendra Kumar.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present on the occasion.

–IANS

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