Aligarh: In a direct reference to government's recent decision to change the name of Aurangzeb Road in Delhi, noted Indian writer and a member of the Nehru–Gandhi family, Nayantara Sahgal on Thursday reiterated that intolerance is a serious issue, warning that the country is currently going through turbulent time.
Pointing out that certain extremist ideologies are attempting to destroy the diversity in India, Nayantara Sahgal who was among the first to return the Sahitya Academy award in protest, said, “These people should however understand that by changing the name of Aurangzeb Road in Delhi, they will not be able to wipe out the rich history of India."
"In 1947, some extremists demanded Pakistan and now some extremists are demanding a Hindu nation", Sahgal said while delivering the 6th KP Singh Memorial Lecture held at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to mark International Human Rights Day.
"It is necessary for us to tell these extremists that India had rejected the ideology of hatred at the time of independence and partition, and the Indians will reject it again", she added.
She further said that extremists are trying to change our history, our social system, our sciences and school curriculums with the myths central to their ideology.
While reminding that India had a learned man like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as the first Education Minister, she said, "It is sad that today some extremists are trying to bring irrationality even in what is taught in schools."
“From the spate of murders of Indian writers and scholars like M M Kalburgi to the recent Dadri mob-lynching case, there are indications that there are schools of thoughts who believe that India is only for the majority community,” she added.
She further said that certain people now want a country where public speech, eating habits, alternative ideas, are all subservient to a restrictive interpretation of a single majority religion.
Stating that the ongoing protests by writers, artists, scientists and historians in India “has nothing to do with politics”, she said, "When emergency was imposed by my cousin and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975, I was amongst the first persons to voice my dissent."
“I returned the Sahitya Academy award not because I was directed by a political party but because the growing intolerance is being fostered by the present government and these horrific murders are only a symptom of a deeper malaise,” said Sahgal.