Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met his match in Kanhaiya Kumar, noted writer Nayantara Sahgal today said as she praised the JNUSU president for his speech at JNU after his release from jail and his subsequent “rational” interviews to the media.
“Kanhaiya Kumar has electrified India with not only his speech in which much passion prevailed, but also in the interviews that he has given to the media where much rationality, much common sense, much quiet measured talk and a command of facts prevailed,” she said here.
“We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for taking us out of that molasses of depression which many of us had fallen into for a while. Mr Modi has met his match in Kanhaiya Kumar,” she said at the launch of Rajmohan Gandhi’s latest book “Understanding the Founding Fathers”.
According to Sahgal, Gandhi’s book is essentially a response to the criticism meted out at the founding fathers of India by two men — Swami Sachidanand of Gujarat and Perry Anderson, an American Marxist scholar.
The author writes in a “defensive” mode explaining that India is not what Anderson says and that Indians do not value the things that the Swami does.
Sahgal, niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, said it was imperative for the countrymen to be offensive, particularly in the current scenario, when “facts of our recent history are being totally falsified and education and culture are really in a battleground by our ruling government”.
“In this day and age where everything that we value, the whole meaning of India and what India stands for is under dangerous attack, we need to be on the offensive. Everyone of us needs to stand up and be counted and speak out… We never need to explain ourselves to any one,” she said.
Contradicting Gandhi, who writes in the book about the existence of a “temporary cement” of a common enemy holding India together during difficult times, she asserted it was instead a “permanent cultural cement” that bound the country, and that it was the latter that prevented the country from collapsing under the attack of Hindutva forces.
“What does not fall apart and has not fallen apart for centuries is a permanent cultural cement. It has been ineradicable through centuries. That is basically what holds us together and which the advocates of Hindutva are now trying to destroy,” she said, adding being a Hindu, born and brought up in Uttar Pradesh, she considered herself a “Muslim by culture”.
Sahgal accused the BJP government of trying to “appropriate” Ambedkar and wondered if it actually believes in his radical views on caste.
“The present government is trying to make an icon of him. I don’t know if the government has read what Ambedkar writes in his book ‘Annihilation of Caste’ and I quote him, ‘If you wish to bring about a breach in the system, you have to apply dynamites to the vedas and the shastras. You must destroy religion of the shrutis and the smritis’,” she said.
Referring to the ongoing debate over nationalism, historian and politician Sugato Bose, who was also present at the book launch, cited Mahatma Gandhi’s strong disapproval of the discrimination against any religion or community.
“When Mahatma Gandhi was in Nuakhali in search of peace, as a sanatani Hindu, he said I am a Muslim and a Christian at the same time…He said in Bihar, ‘Is it nationalism to crush the 14 per cent of the Muslims in Bihar?’ And the same question can be asked in a Gandhian way about Muslims in India today,” Bose said.
The TMC leader also pointed out that the book was a powerful rebuttal of Anderson’s charge that Gandhi was “Hindu revivalist”.
“It shows that if you go through the entire collective works of Mahatma Gandhi, there is not one word of deep seated prejudice against any other religious faith and community. Gandhi’s evocation of Ram Raj was completely different from the meanings that have been given to that phrase in today’s politics,” he said.