Ansari concerned over regional divide


Mumbai : Vice President M. Hamid Ansari Tuesday expressed concern over the attacks on north Indians in Maharashtra and anti-Maharashtrian backlash in some north Indian states saying the constitutional rights and duties of people were “under stress”.

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Addressing a gathering after giving away the Jamnalal Bajaj Awards-2008 here, Ansari said: “Equally disconcerting is the propensity in various quarters to explain such behaviour, or explain it away.”

Recalling Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s words “to keep in mind the emotional integration of India”, Ansari said the time had come to act upon it with a sense of urgency.

“Would India’s premier city, Mumbai take a lead in this matter? It represents the cosmopolitan spirit of India, embodies the entrepreneurial energy and the will to succeed among common masses. Any other depiction of Mumbai would be to lessen it and deny its history and its ethos.”

He said that neither “the politics of our polity be confined to the many little corners of India, nor should our citizens be confined to their corners” in their vast land.

The vice president said the challenge was principally in the urban landscape. Today, 30 percent of our population lives in cities, by 2050, it is expected to touch 50 percent.

“Have the implications of this in social terms dawned on us? Cultural chauvinism and linguistic jingoism are inherently exclusionary. Would there be space for them in these urban conglomerates?” he wondered.

He said the world today was in the midst of financial woes caused by irresponsible speculative market activity. “Its principal victim everywhere is the common man, raising questions about the efficacy and the morality of the system.”

Referring to Gandhiji’s values and ideals, Ansari lamented that the Father of the Nation has been confined to tokenism – remembering him twice a year and restricting his image to statues and currency notes.

“We have forgotten his message that the poor in India have no stronger identity than their poverty. His ideals did not exist in a vacuum. Gandhian values led us to the constitution of India.”

However, Jamnalal Bajaj – whom he described as Gandhiji’s fifth son – after whom the awards have been named, would not have subscribed to such a depiction of the market, he said.

“Jamnalal Bajaj imbibed and espoused the Gandhian ideal of trusteeship and reduced these to a set of rules of ethical behaviour in business. In Indian culture, this is known as the dharma of a Vaishya,” he explained.

Earlier, the Vice-President presented this year’s Jamnalal Bajaj Awards to Phoolbasan Yadav, Tushar Kanjilal, Biswanath Pattnaik, and Louis Campana.