At the final panel discussion of the Republic Summit 2018, which was addressed by Kamal Haasan and Union Minister Smriti Irani on the topic 'What's the 2019 narrative', the two politicians spoke to Republic TV's editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami on a range of topics. Here's all they said:
The first question fired to the two was on the topic of patriotism and national anthem:
Smriti Irani: Why should an Indian be apologetic about being patriotic or loving his country or loving his flag. Why would you then compel me to define my sense of nationalism, and divide us by saying, your sense of nationalism is a bit communal, and my sense of nationalism is secular. My perception is mine, and the constitution allows me that thought process. What is extremely interesting that while we speak about a surging India, there are many Indians who are told it is not cool to be patriotic. National anthem isn't played to test. Communities come together to celebrate one thing which is in common is that the get goose bumps that we get when Jana Gana Mana plays. People are proud that we as Indians, irrespective of our diverse craft and ideology, sang our national anthem and told the world, irrespective of our differences, stand as one.
Kamal Haasan: When you play a National anthem in cinema theatres, that's not the place to test it. Goose bumps happen when it is done in a proper atmosphere. I have had tears, experienced goose bumps when I went to get my Padma Shri. But if it happens everyday, it looses its effect.
It was then followed by a question asking Kamal Haasan about his views which hinted at linking religion to the narrative:
Smriti Irani: The fact that in our society, our community, we did not discuss religion, is being a bit naive. The word secularism doesn't mean absence of religion. Under one constitution, one flag, irrespective of caste and creed, you will enjoy all basic rights. The constitution says all are equal. We made APJ Abdul Kalam President during our tenure. We made him president because of his abilities and achievements.
Kamal Haasan: We decided to celebrate diversity with unity. There is a deliberate attempt to classify Hindu vs Non-Hindu. It is a Hindu nation by population. We are elder brothers, but we have to accept the younger brother. The accent of BJP is very Hindu. They will say the right words, the rhetoric is right. As you go down the cadre, you will see the heat.....We should celebrate Sajjan Kumar's verdict. I read about it, and I was happy. Justice prevails. There's no point of sidestepping.
Pointing out to a piece written by Kamal Hassan, wherein he spoke about 'Hindu terrorism', Arnab asked Kamal Haasan to explain his point while asking Smriti Irani to give her views on it:
Smriti Irani: As a nation, we are in consensus that terror has no religion. One gentleman spoke that he is fearful of Hindu terrorism, and he is now a janeudhari.
Kamal Haasan: It was an article written in Tamil, translated in English. It said Hindu extremism, not terrorism. I did not use terrorism. Anyone who wants to break up this country is going to the extreme and soon will indulge into terrorism. This country is a dream which sticks together. We cannot break this dream up.
Next up, the point of debate was cow vigilantism, for which Arnab Goswami asked Smriti Irani to explain the government's stand, giving the reference of Union Minister Jayant Sinha, who had garlanded those convicted for lynching, and Union Minister Giriraj Singh, who went to the police station and met VHP, Bajrang Dal leaders who were accused of having a role in communal clashes. Here's what she replied:
Smriti Irani: Our stated position and that we see on the ground is this: corrective action so that justice is delivered is taken. In the two cases, both the individuals have given their personal clarification on it. From the PM to every state govt, in pursuit of justice, nobody has been an obstruction to the judicial system. The PM, party president has time and again said, if there is case of law and order, go to the police station and seek judiciary. Why should you brush aside PM's assurance that this kind of breaking law, taking lives will not be supported? To say justice from PM's office will not stem is not right.
After that, Kamal Hasaan was asked about his proximity to those leaders and parties which sympathise with Maoists. Here's what he and Smriti Irani said on this issue:
Smriti Irani: What is revolutionary about killing fellow citizens, killing security forces. Nothing revolutionary about challenging the constitution. Dialogue cannot happen with nation on its knees, with guns on their hands. This is the narrative of 2019, at what cost you want victory, at the cost of the nation?
Kamal Haasan: Speaking of discontent, that is group which is showing discontent in a way I don't like. They have taken a stand, taken up arms, and that's wrong. Only way is not to shoot them up and have a dialogue. Any party or person, they cannot be allowed to break up the country. They still should be spoken to. You can fight. There should be dialogue even at times of war.