Minorities at Cross Roads: Comments on Judicial Pronouncements by Fali Sam Nariman

The elections in April-May, 2014 this year have put a strong majoritarian Government in power at the Centre. I welcome it

Whilst I welcome a single-party majority government, I also fear it.

Fear it because of past experience with a majoritarian government in the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies: when the then all-Congress Government had unjustifiably imposed the Internal Emergency of June 1975. And rode rough shod over the liberties of citizens.

I cannot forget it nor can I condone it.

My wife and I have lived through it and we know how a very large number of people suffered.

Traditionally Hinduism has been the most tolerant of all Indian faiths. But – recurrent instances of religious tension fanned by fanaticism and hate-speech has shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain. And let me say this frankly – my apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face because, and only because it is believed and proudly proclaimed by a few (and not contradicted by those at the top): that it is because of their faith and belief that HINDUS have been now put in the driving seat of governance.

Jawahar Lal Nehru was a Hindu.

But he never looked upon the diverse and varied peoples of India from the stand point of Hinduism. He wrote in that most inspiring book “The Discovery of India” that “it was fascinating to find how the Bengalis, the Canarese, the Malayalis, the Sindhis, the Punjabis, the Pathans, the Kashmiris, the Rajputs, and the great central block comprising of Hindustani–speaking people, had retained their particular characteristics for hundreds of years, with more or less the same virtues and failings, and yet they had been throughout these ages distinctively Indian, with the same national heritage and the same set of moral and mental qualities.

Ancient India, like ancient China (he wrote), was a world in itself. Their culture and civilization gave shape to all things. Foreign influences poured in and often influenced that culture, but they were absorbed. Disruptive tendencies gave rise immediately to an attempt to find a synthesis.

It was some kind of a dream of unity that occupied the mind of India, and of the Indian, since the dawn of civilization. And that unity was not conceived as something imposed from outside. It was something deeper; within its fold, the widest tolerance of beliefs and customs was practiced and every variety was acknowledged and even encouraged. This was Nehru’s great vision of the diversity and unity of India.

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