Chidambaram, Tharoor & Yechury ‘Reimagine’ India at Book Launch
Chidambaram said the focus of secularism has today shifted to the test of citizenship.
Former Prime Minister and Congress stalwart Dr Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, 5 February, launched Vision for a Nation: Paths and Perspectives, a collection of essays edited by author Aakash Singh Rathore and notable psychologist Ashis Nandy. The event was also attended by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
Speaking at the book launch, Chidambaram said that the fact that authors had to rethink what constitutes the idea of India even after 70 years of independence is something “to be unhappy about.” According to him, this means that someone has “struck or is attempting to strike at the very root of what constitutes the Indian republic.”
Speaking on recent developments in the country, Chidambaram said that “citizenship has become an object of attack” and that the debate on secularism has shifted to defining who is a citizen.
Referring to internet shutdowns across India and the sustained one in Jammu and Kashmir, Chidambaram said that when the state bans internet, “it denies them digital citizenship.”
Echoing Chidambaram, Tharoor spoke of what he called was a “fundamental assault on the foundational ideas of our republic.” This, he said, created the a moral need for a positive and constructive dialogue on what constitutes India.
Tharoor further added that if ordinary citizens are “seduced, cajoled and cudgeled” into supporting the views of the government, it becomes even more important to rejuvenate the discussion on the ideals that originally constituted India.
Yechury said that the country today reflects three battling ideologies – secular democracy, economic independence and a religion-based approach to nation building.
“Hence, we are at a defining moment where we must chose what sort of vision we want for India.”
Questioning the idea of what constitutes a nation and who determines its dominating ideals and definition, the book sheds light on how the 2019 general elections were fought on “narrow, religion-based nationalism; evoked fear that Pakistan threatened the body politic; and raised aloft the banner of national security over other concerns.”
The authors assert that none of the ‘narrow’ issues that the election was fought on had any connection with ‘real facts’ like falling economy and rising unemployment.
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