Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said though secularism is one of the most fundamental ideas of modern democracy, it is under challenge in India right now and a secular person is not only called an anti-national but even citizenship could be questioned.
Mr. Chidambaram made these remarks while delivering the keynote lecture at the formal launch of a collection of essays, Vision for a Nation: Path and Perspectives, edited by Ashish Nandy and Prof Akash S Rathore.
Former Vice President Hamid Ansari and former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh were present at the launch along with CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
The book is the first in a series of books, under the aegis of Samruddha Bharat Foundation (SBF), containing essays from some of the biggest intellectuals as part of a project to develop ideas and themes that are being called as ‘Rethink India’.
“If you call yourself a secular today, there are people who will call you anti-national. There are people who will say you are speaking the language of Pakistan. If you are secular, your patriotism is in question. And many of these people will also have their citizenship questioned. That is the point of danger we seem to have arrived at in the last few years,” he said.
The former Finance Minister said that while the founding fathers had laid the basis of Constitutional citizenship, now the idea of citizenship is being linked to race, language, culture, and religion.
“If this definition is applied, many of us will become diminished citizens,” he said and added that ‘earlier it was part of theoretical ideas of the Hindu right like V D Savarkar and M S Golwalkar, but now it is part of the political project of the government’.
Referring to the on-going protests against the citizenship amendment act (CAA), Mr. Chidambaram drew parallels with Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience.
“I am very that people who we thought will not come out of their homes, will not come out too the streets, will come out to brave the cold, water cannons and lathis are now actually practicing civil disobedience of Gandhi Ji,” he said.
The launch was followed by a panel discussion that included Sayeeda Hamid, Prof Mridula Mukherjee, Prof Ashish Nandy, among others.