I was twelve when APJ became President. Also rooted for a second term in 2007. I have had the opportunity to meet him in person. But needless to say I was naive and bought everything that was sold in the media of this man’s ‘secularism’. His ‘activist’ status as opposed to the ‘rubber stamps’ that were previous Presidents. Urban upper caste India further elaborated that he read the Gita, played the veena and talked about ‘India being a developed nation by 2020’, denied his Muslim identity and hence is secular.
Now, I am not going to question a man who came from an impoverished background to head a country’s missile programme (even though I have no clue what his actual contributions are to science). But it is naive and part of the majoritarian caste Hindutva agenda to celebrate him without questioning what he represents.
1) APJ refused to be a Muslim in public and is considered secular because his public persona is rife with Hindu symbolism. Playing the veena, reading the Gita and meeting sadhus and sadhvis.
2) APJ’s ‘defence’ of Modi’s actions during 2002 in his book. Advani pointed it out in his blog last year.
3) APJ is a meritorious Hindu secular who was born Muslim is a better story than K.R. Narayanan’s rise from a poor dalit family.
4) He is praised for his oratory skills and his books. I would rate Wings of Fire along with Chetan Bhagat’s inspirational writing.
If you don’t buy the Hindu secular argument, then think of a fictional upper caste Hindu scientist who meets imams, does the namaz and observes ramzan every year. How will he be perceived? As a traitor or a scientist?
Again, I pay my respects to a man who ‘inspired’ me at a time when I didn’t know any better. But, please don’t force me to celebrate his ‘greatness’.