Hamid Ansari warns India could become ‘illiberal’


New Delhi: Former vice-president Hamid Ansari termed India’s electoral democracy a “success story” but said there was apprehension that it could metamorphose into an “illiberal” democracy based on the principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva.

Speaking at the launch of his book on Tuesday, he said “correctives” were essential, and it was the duty of the citizens and of the civil society to raise questions.

The book was launched by former chief justice of India TS Thakur in the presence of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, CPI(M) secretary general Sitaram Yechury and a host of other leaders.

Ansari said he is concerned as a citizen about the contemporary debate in the country relating to three things: The principles of the ideological foundations of India, what is the condition of the institutional structure put in place by the Constitution, and the implications of these for the Indian democracy.

Talking about the book, he said, “Our electoral democracy is a success story, but it has not transformed itself into to a substantive, inclusive and participatory democracy.”

There is apprehension that it could metamorphose itself into an “illiberal, ethnic democracy based on the principles of a socio-political philosophy called Hindutva, whose core concepts circumscribe the ambit of citizenship”.

 Ansari said his approach to his book Dare I Question? Reflections on Contemporary Challenges has been spelt out in the preface and he has raised the question ‘What is it to be an Indian’. “This takes us firstly to the meaning of nationalism in the context of India’s plural society, our composite culture and the resultant need to be inclusive and move beyond mere tolerance to the acceptance of diversity as a civic virtue,” he said.

Secularism in the Indian context means symmetric political treatment of different religious communities, defence of minority rights and prevention of bigotry, Ansari said.

Political democracy, as BR Ambedkar said a long time ago, must be based on social democracy, he said, adding that dissent is of critical importance in an open society. “There is an evident decline in adherence to rule of law norms and the efficacy of institutions — legislature, executive and judiciary. This has resulted in public disenchantment and is a matter of concern,” Ansari said.

The book, brought out by Har-Anand Publications, is a collection of Ansari’s speeches and writings, made mostly in his last year in office and some in recent months. “The pre-launch publicity given to the book by the media tends to suggest that it might contain some version of a ‘kiss and tell tale’, nothing could be further from truth,” he said.

Thakur, while speaking on the occasion, hailed the book as one of the “finest pieces of literature”. Talking about Ansari’s address at National Law School Bengaluru where he spoke about unease among minorities, the former chief justice said they evoked responses and comments, some of them critical.

He said when you judge those comments, you need to keep in mind that these remarks are coming from some who can is qualified to talk about how minorities feel in this country. Thakur said Ansari has a clear understanding of the challenges facing the country. He also urged the former vice-president to pen his memoir next.

Political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in his remarks at the event, said terms of religious identities should be avoided and rights should be seen in terms of freedom and equality of all citizens.

Press Trust of India 



  1. English should be simple and clear for every one to understand and not only few people.I hope Hamid Ansari former Vice President will understand it.

  2. I do not know a lot about Hamid Ansari but he too has joined so called ‘secular’ list of people who would not miss opportunity to have a dig at Modi’s government. By referring to Hindutva (rather than Love Jihad as antidote) even I don’t know what it is being a Hindu. Its not a like a chemical property of an element- it is way of living. But when the so called minorities, especially Muslims in Kashmir start calling India as occupier then surely he should deride them as illiberal. I was, as a young Engineer stationed in Malegaon during late 1970s in Maharashtra which bizarrely had 80% Muslims population and it was not unusual to witness how they swore by the Pakistani cricket team and supported them. He is no different to a Muslim politician who immediately poses as a victim after a terrorist attack or becomes an apologist. India does not need such books and comments, just look at the progress Modiji has influenced over the last four years and judge the outcome