• It wasn’t the first launch of Congress leader and former Union minister Manish Tewari’s latest book “Tidings of Troubled Times” – it had already been released in the national capital nearly two months ago. But apparently looking for opportunities to strengthen his political base in his home town, where he had first emerged as a student leader, he chose to hold one launch of the book in Chandigarh as well. The invitation for the event, held at the English Department auditorium of Panjab University on Thursday, had mentioned that Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh will be present, but he did not turn up. “I believe he has been caught up in more important matters than a mere book launch,” Manish Tewari remarked, clearly disappointed with the development.

A promo of the book on Amazon.com describes it as a collection of the writer’s articles published (in leading newspapers) in 2016-17. Among the areas he largely focuses on are the new surge of the religious right, turmoil in the Kashmir Valley, legal affairs and the country's foreign-policy dimensions. Many of these articles appeared in the Indian Express, Hindustan Times, the Asian Age and the Quint. Tewari had earlier authored another book ‘Decoding a Decade: The Politics of Policymaking’.

Photo By: Life in Chandigarh

In conversation with Indian Express Resident Editor Nirupama Subramanian, after the launch of the book, Tewari reserved bulk of his political punches for the BJP saying right through the 42 months of the Modi led NDA government there has been a deliberate attempt to muzzle freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Constitution as a fundamental right. Any criticism of the establishment, including the military establishment, is being dubbed as anti-national and seditious, he maintained.

Under the circumstances the civil society has to be extremely vigilant and thwart all attempts to polarise the people on every conceivable issue. He said the resent reverses suffered by the BJP in the students union elections in some universities and the turning tide against the ruling party on the social media are indications of a changing mood in the country, which needs to be encouraged if sanity has to prevail.

He also suspected that the belligerent campaign against the Hindi movie ‘Padmavati’, even before its vetting by the Censor Board, was a ploy to polarise the voters in the run up to the Gujarat elections and he won’t be surprised if the whole hullabaloo over the movie dies down after December 14.

Tewari insisted that the President and the Vice President need to shed their rubber stamp tag and act as activists against flagrant and clear violations of the provisions of the Constitution by the government.

In this connection he thought former President Pranab Mukerjee should have stood up against the dismissal of the Uttarakhand government and postponed the action till after the trust vote was done.

He also mentioned the episode when while demitting office Vice President Mohd. Hamid Ansari observed that the minorities were feeling insecure. While Ansari was right in saying so, what stopped him from voicing these views all the more than three years the same atmosphere was prevailing, he asserted.

Regarding the Indo-Pak relations, Tewari said he did not see any major breakthrough in the logjam till the time that the Indian government and the Pakistani Army was fully on board in any parleys.

On Indo-China relations, he said it was in the interests of both India and China to maintain friendly relations. India had to strike a balance in its relations with US, USSR and China and not lean too heavily on any single power, he added.

Earlier, introducing the book Dr SK Sharma, Prof. Emeritus, Energy Research Centre, Panjab University, said the articles carried holistic views on vital contemporary issues faced by India from within and without. These include institutional challenges, state of nation, and freedom of speech, impact of geopolitical environment and role of super powers in the country’s neighbourhood.  

Dr Sharma said Tewari discusses every issue not only from the present perspective but provides historical background to present a clear picture to the reader.

The writer looks at the issue of triple ‘talaq’ not from a religious perspective, but an entire new one by tracing the history of great injustice towards women starting with ‘sati pratha’, which the reformists at different times fought against, Sharma informed.