Mr. Hamid Ansari’s brilliant speech on nationalism, secularism and cultural pluralism has come at a time when many of us are experiencing an environment filled with fear, suspicion and intolerance. We all know that the imagination of the new nation that the leading stalwarts of the freedom struggle created was based on the ethos of cultural syncretism, pluralism and a broadly secular state aiming at collective welfare. As we pass through the turbulent times it is important to be aware of this heritage, and renew the lost spirit. It is in this context that The New Leam adores Mr. Ansari for his speech.
However, a question ought to be asked: how do we create, nurture and sustain a mind that is in tune with the ethos of cultural pluralism and liberal –secular pursuits? Possibly, the way our children are socialised in families and educated at schools has something significant to do with the way they eventually choose their politics and see the world. Hence, as liberal educators have pointed out, education- both informal learning at the family level as well as formal, institutionalised school education- has to be immensely nuanced for inculcating in the child’s mind the liberal values for living in a heterogeneous, multi-cultural society. This requires a high degree of empathy, awareness of multiple traditions and religious practices and pedagogic tools that encourage the learner to cross parochial ties, mix with other communities and continually engage in dialogic conversations. It is in this context that The New Leam believes that no emancipatory politics is possible without emancipatory education.
If we are willing to take Mr. Ansari’s words seriously it is high time we began to look at our families, our neighbourhoods and communities and above all our centres for learning.