New Delhi, Jan. 10: Ignoring her husband’s rising stock in the BJP’s cultural pantheon, Lady Nadira Naipaul today emerged from “Sir Vidia’s shadow” to raise doubts about the ruling party’s attitude towards religious minorities.
Barely an hour after deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani released the Hindi translation of Naipaul’s Beyond Belief and described him as “the second Indian after Rabindranath Tagore” to have won the Nobel Prize for literature, Nadira asked Advani whether his government considered the Muslims also as non-resident-Indians, during an interactive session on the Indian diaspora at the Pragati Maidan this afternoon.
The discussion was part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, where her Nobel Laureate husband was one of the star attractions.
Lord Navneet Dholakia, who was chairing the session, referred in his speech to Hanuman’s loyalty towards Ram and Sita; how he tore open his chest to show their images embedded in his heart.
“Similarly, if you tear open the hearts of millions of Indians living abroad, you will find the map of India embedded in them,” he said.
Lord Dholakia is a former chief of the UK-based Commission for Racial Equality’s administration of justice section.
His reference was picked up by Advani when he spoke. Advani said Dholakia’s remarks made him proud about the loyalty that the Indian diaspora have towards their country. Naipaul, who was seated on the dais, had already spoken.
But Nadira, who was sitting in the audience, could not resist getting up to ask what she said she had to ask. Without a microphone, however, her question was not very clear, though she made the point whether the Muslims and the secularists were also considered an important part of the Indian diaspora by the government.
If Advani was taken aback by the question, he did not show it. “I am happy that you asked this question. There is this misconception about our government. We are all secular. Though secularists cannot be treated as a religious group, secularism is ingrained in us. It is not something new we have imbibed,” Advani said.
Then, he added, perhaps in a dig at Nadira, whose Pakistani origin is well known: “India will never be a theocratic state. This is not in our history.”
He pointed out that, even in 1947, not a single demand was made in the Constituent Assembly to create a Hindu rashtra, though by then Pakistan was coming into being as a separate country for Muslims.
“What happened in Gujarat was unfortunate. It has saddened us. But such things have happened in other parts of the country in the past. They are aberrations. India will continue to be a secular nation,” Advani said.