Wednesday, January 1, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM opposes ‘rigid’ Hindutva
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 31
Seemingly tormented over “two distinct voices” that have emerged “louder” after the Gujarat elections, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today distanced himself from the type of “Hinduatva” which “protects obscurantism and injustice” and pleaded instead for one that is “reform-minded” and not stuck in the “grooves of the past”.

While disagreeing with “narrow, rigid and extremist” interpreters of Hindutva, the Prime Minister asked Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism saying “Let our two countries agree to promote mutually beneficial trade and economic ties”.

In the musings titled “Let us celebrate and strengthen our Indianness”, on the lines he penned during a holiday in Kumarakom in Kerala two years ago, Mr Vajpayee said from time to time the theme of unity and diversity provoked intense debate, even controversies.

Making a veiled attack on champions of Hindutva saying the concept was being projected by “some people in a narrow, rigid and extremist manner”, the Prime Minister said this was “an unfortunate and unacceptable interpretation” that ran contrary to Hindutva’s true spirit.

“I wish to comment on two distinct voices, which have become louder after the Gujarat elections. On the one hand, secularism is being pitted against Hindutva, under the belief that the two are antithetical to one another.

“This is incorrect and untenable,” he said maintaining that secularism was a concept of the state enjoining upon it the duty to show respect for all faiths and to practise no discrimination among citizens on the basis of their beliefs.

In this sense, the Prime Minister said, India had been secular since the beginning of her known history. “We chose to remain wedded to secularism even when Pakistan was carved out on the basis of the spurious and communal two-nation theory. This could not have been possible if the majority of Indians were not secular.”

In an apparent reference to the Sangh Parivar outfits’ campaign on Hindutva, Mr Vajpayee said “on the other hand, Hindutva, which presents a “viraat darshan (all encompassing view)” of human life, is being projected by some people in a narrow, rigid and extremist manner — an unfortunate and unacceptable interpretation that runs contrary to its true spirit.

“Hindutva is an integral understanding of the entire creation, showing the way both to the here and the hereafter. It emphasises the inseparable relationship between the individual and society, as well as between man’s material and spiritual needs.

“Hindutva is liberal, liberating and brooks no ill will, hatred or violence among different communities on any ground,” he said, adding that Hinduism’s acceptance of diversity of faiths is the central feature of secularism in India.

“We need to affirm and promote that true understanding of Hindutva which is forward-looking, not one that seeks to take us back; that which makes us capable of meeting the challenges of the modern world, not one that is stuck in the grooves off the past; that which is reform-minded, and not one that protects obscurantism and injustice, against which all the reformers of the past have fought.

“If understood and practiced in this enlightened sense, which is how Swami Vivekananda and other great patriots propounded it, the current controversy over Hindutva will be seen as wholly unnecessary”, he said.

Asking Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism, the Prime Minister said: “someday— hopefully soon — the people and rulers of Pakistan will realise the futile and counter-productive nature of its Kashmir policy”.

“Let the two countries agree to promote mutually beneficial trade and economic ties, strengthen cultural relations and encourage greater people-to-people contacts,” he said.

For the past several years, the rulers in Islamabad have, almost as a last resort, surrendered to the temptation of targeting India with terrorism, inspired by religious extremism. Innocent children, women and men are being routinely killed, temples are stormed, our symbols of democracy are attacked, and our security forces are challenged all in the name of a holy religious war and ‘freedom struggle,” the Prime Minister said and added that “this campaign of jehadi terrorism, too, is doomed to fail”.

Pointing out to pressing tasks confronting the country in the New Year and in the years ahead, Mr Vajpayee said that the government was determined to accelerate the pace of implementation of numerous developmental initiatives that had been launched in recent years and to unveil several new ones in the New Year.

Characterising many of these initiatives as various components of the “Connectivity Revolution”, the Prime Minister said highway connectivity and rural roads connectivity were two of the most ambitious infrastructure projects since Independence. We are also strengthening the rail and air connectivity in our country. Telecom connectivity, internet connectivity and the attendant IT revolution have rapidly modernised our economy and society”, he said adding that another important dimension would soon be added to it in the form of the river connectivity project.


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