Intolerance – What and Why? An Indian Perspective
To begin with, what is intolerance? Let us avoid any bookish definition and put it in simple words. An example perhaps?
Suppose Mr. X likes chicken and all his family and friends love chicken too. Next to Mr. X’s family lives an old couple who are Vegan. They simple don’t eat anything non-veg as their religious belief forbids them from doing so. Mr. X however somehow has no religious faith and wants the old couple to relinquish their religious faith as well. He calls upon his friends and family members and forcibly enters the old couple’s house and threaten them with torture or throw the couple out of the community if they don’t eat chicken. Mr. X even asks the local shops and traders to stop selling goods to the old couple unless they eat chicken and give up their religious faith.
What do you deduce from this example? Here is what can be deduced:
- Mr. X and his friends and family are behaving radically.
- Mr. X and his friends and family are forcing the old couple into giving up their space.
- Liberal space for the old couple has shrunk and they are forced into giving up their faiths and beliefs and practices.
Mr. X is therefore not at all tolerating the freedom of the old couple. He and his friends are discriminating, violating social rights of the old couple and taking away the equality that the old couple deserves to have. In short, Mr. X and his associates are intolerant towards the old couple.
This is called intolerance.
In short, intolerance is where some people are simply unwilling to let others people live in a way they want because their way of living is way different from these people. It is not just way of living. Some people may simply be intolerant to caste, religion, beliefs etc.
Because of this intolerance, the following things happen:
- Hatred takes birth.
- Hatred becomes driving force for crime.
- Denial of basic rights take place.
- Coercion and corruption takes place.
Do you think these are signs of a healthy community or society? Do you think, these factors help a nation grow under peace and prosperity? The answers to both these questions are NO!
Intolerance in Indian Context
Only last year towards the end and even towards the very beginning of 2016, there was a lot of fuss throughout India about India becoming intolerant. The Modi government came under severe criticism that it is making India an intolerant nation.
Why like that? A few things happened. It is well known that BJP or Bharatiya Janata Party has ties with radical Hindu groups. In less than one and a half years after BJP assumed power at the center, the radical Hindus started sweeping across the nation. The country slipped into unrest and in an unfortunate turn of events, the radical Hindus ended up killing M.M. Kalburgi – a well-known literary figure who hailed from India.
BJP was accused of staying mum on the issue. While that was one instance, some other events unraveled too. Muslims were tortured in name of so called ‘cow protection’. Of course, here came the question of religious intolerance.
Did Modi government retaliate or stayed silent? Well, it did! Arun Jaitley called revolts by literary sections of society (like returning of literary prizes) as manufactured revolt. Mr. Jaitley even said that all these literary and popular minds who are demonstrating against BJP are basically intolerant towards BJP.
The question is, ‘who is right and who is wrong?’
Is India really becoming intolerant under BJP regime? Is BJP really a threat to secular views of the nation? Is India really against India being a democratic nation?
Let us find out the answer to this question in a tabular format:
|Salman Rushdie’s novel banned on grounds of being controversial||Banned during Congress rule in 1988 when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Ministers.|
|Muzzafarnagar riots of 2013 – 42 Muslims died, 20 Hindus died||Happened in 2013 during rule of Congress.|
|Assam riots of 2012 – 77 people died. Riot was between Bengali speaking Muslims and Bodo community||Happened in 2012 during rule of Congress.|
|Bharatpur riots of 2011 – clash between Meo Muslims and Gujjars in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur – 8 died and 23 were gravely injured||Happened in 2011 during rule of Congress.|
|Dhule riots between Hindus and Muslims – 200 injured and 4 dead||Happened in 2008 during Congress rule.|
|Aligarh riots between Hindus and Muslims – left 5 people dead||Happened in 2006 during Congress rule.|
The above table is a screaming testimony that India was as intolerant before as it is now. The only problem today is that now we see the signs of this intolerance, thanks to deep reach of social media and its openness where we can easily raise our voice.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have made it easier to connect and express. Earlier, the penetration of these social media platforms was limited because of several reasons which are:
- Limited reach of Internet.
- Limited reach of Internet-enabled mobile devices.
- Higher cost of Internet and electronic gadget.
Of course, these drawbacks in communications infrastructure allowed Congress to get away with events that showed intolerance among Indians. Just because communication platforms have managed to get people together were liberal section of the society can retaliate, it doesn’t mean that previous government didn’t have stained hands.
Where are Indians going wrong?
When it comes to intolerance, Indians are plain wrong. We have developed a propensity of forgetting our past. We try to live in the present and we are more than happy to blame anyone who crosses our path and ideology. We often forget that somewhere or the other, we are ourselves the entities of the herd of people we tag as intolerant.
We need to fix our thinking. The blame-game is always easy. What’s really difficult is to step up and do something to right a wrong. Giving away literary awards isn’t going to kill intolerance in India. Such acts only show the dumb side of those laureates. What they should do instead is step in among people and join the crusade of killing intolerance. Throwing away accolades only reflects their very own intolerance and they call themselves the crusaders against intolerance. Irony!