I n politics, perception is more important than facts. If the Congress had kept quiet in the Maharashtra assembly, the BJP would have gone to town, saying, “Look, the Congress is supporting all those who refused to say Bharat mata ki jai.” I don’t know under what circumstances the Congress decided to support the resolution. But had the Congress remained silent, it would have been seen as though the Congress was supporting Owaisi. The fact remains that, on such occasions, if the party doesn’t take a stand, in the kind of polarised politics we are witnessing, the party is likely to lose out. This could be one reason why the party legislators felt compelled to support the resolution.
And what’s wrong in saying Bharat mata ki jai? Owaisi has not been able to explain why he doesn’t want to say it. I don’t subscribe to the view that someone should be forced to say it in Parliament or assembly, but at the same time, they should explain why they don’t want to say it. This was the slogan during the freedom movement—and Bharat includes Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians. The best definition was given by Nehru, who said the victory of each citizen of this country was the victory of Bharat mata. After this kind of explanation, why should anyone oppose this?
As far as soft Hindutva is concerned, it is a word coined by the media. First, I don’t subscribe to the term Hindutva, and I accept neither soft Hindutva or hard Hindutva. It has nothing to do with religion. The stand on the Babri Masjid was different. The decision to open the lock at the site was not a decision of the Congress party; it was a decision imposed by a court. There was a civil case between two contesting parties and the there was no way in which the (Congress) government of that time was involved in it.
On the demolition of the Babri Masjid, I have always held that the Congress need not have taken the stand which it eventually took when we went for laying the foundation stone of the Ram mandir. This was a decision taken at the highest level, but in such matters, you should not play one side against the other; you shouldn’t antagonise the other group. The Babri Masjid issue was a sensitive issue, and taking a stand on it should have been avoided by the party. It would have been better if the contentious issue of the Babri Masjid was decided by the court. Even in the Shah Bano case, it would have been better if we had not succumbed to the pressures of Islamic orthodoxy, which was opposed to giving certain rights to Muslim widows.
In both, the Babri Masjid and the Shah Bano issues, we should have been more patient. And we have to remember that we are in the 21st century; what was relevant thousands of years ago may not be relevant today.
—As told to Bula Devi
(Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh is general secretary of the Indian National Congress.)