An Year of Politically Engineered Intolerance
The best possible answer, I found to the question whether India could ever be intolerant while going through an International bestseller novel ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ few days back. Here, John, a leading character of the novel while speculating about the possible sojourn of the another prime character of the novel Mr. Julian Mantle states that, “Perhaps he had settled in India, a place so diverse that even a restless soul like his could have made it his home.” The recent ‘Intolerance debate’ was sparked by few extremely unfortunate incidents. These ill-fated episodes include the lynching of a man belonging to Muslim Community by an alleged Hindu mob on the grapevine of eating beef at Dadri in western Uttar Pradesh, the cold-blooded killing of rationalist MM Kulbargi in Karnataka etc. The ‘Intolerance debate’ arrested the national attention after a certain section of writers, artists, scientists etc. started returning their awards like ‘Sahitya Academy’ and other such awards which they had received in their respective fields to register protests against rise in intolerance. They while returning their awards, incessantly kept targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP regime, for such intolerance and made a centralized attack on him and his Party. According to them, the present regime in the leadership of Narendra Modi is solely responsible for rise in intolerance.
The history reflects the present and mirrors the future. Though, it is not genuine at all to question the integrity of each of these award returners individually but it is also not a hidden secret that most of them have a biased and preconceived historical notions about the present ruling establishment in the Centre. Their leanings towards a particular soci-political ideology is not a hush-hush. The arguments and concerns of these writers, both ring hollow and appear to be tendentious for several reasons. They while maintaining a centralized attack on the PM and BJP, hardly fulminated against the respective State Governments for its failure to maintain law and order as the same is a ‘State Subject’ which falls under list II of the Indian Constitution. These incidents which were the outcome of a colossal failure of ‘Rule of Law’ were intentionally coloured religiously to malign the present ruling establishment which also led to the defaming of India’s reputation on International Podium. They cherry-picked these aberrations to make a federal case out of it to prove that India has become Intolerant. If one swallow does not a summer make, one incident of lynching a man by a fanatic Hindu mob for whatever reason doesn’t make our entire country intolerant. The sudden halt of ‘Award Returning campaign’ after Bihar assembly elections results bears a strong testimony that this was a highly orchestrated campaign conducted by Opposition Party through a proxy of individuals committed to identical or similar ideology.
This is a matter of record that all these individuals who have returned their awards were nowhere to be seen to register their protest during much more calamitous conditions like Anantnag riots 1986, Bhagalpur riots 1989, Meerut riots 1987 and 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. They didn’t protest and chose to be tight-lipped when Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ was banned or Taslima Nasrin was hounded and kept under house arrest. They maintained intriguing silence over MF Hussain’s perverse painting of Hindu Goddess. Is it just a mere coincidence that all these incidents didn’t shake their Conscience once but one Dadri did or does it just indicate a clandestine agenda? I strongly believe that there is no intolerance in the country, however I don’t believe that by merely proving these individuals biased or tilted towards a particular ideology, the existence of tolerance can be proved. This is a very vital question which has emerged and which needs to be proved with substantial facts and evidences.
In my opinion this ‘Intolerance debate’ has two facets, one is legal and the other is political. It is an undisputed fact that the ‘Law’ ultimately prevails and thus is dominant over ‘Politics’. A country becomes intolerant only if it’s Constitution and the laws which govern its people are intolerant. But our Constitution and laws are the most tolerant among others. It is tolerant to the effect that the Supreme Court of India opens at wee hours of the night to hear the petition of a convicted terrorist and continues to hear till barely an hour before his scheduled hanging. An entire nation doesn’t become intolerant merely because a fanatic Hindu mob lynches a man to death or a perverted criminal assassinates a rationalist thinker since such a mob and a perverted criminal doesn’t represent the country. It is only the deeply entrenched tolerance and immense respects for the values, cutoms and other socio-religious affairs of the minorities that has hitherto restricted our legislators to enact a ‘Uniform Civil Code’ despite a clear mandate under Article 44 of the Constitution. Had the India been Intolerant, the well-known Singer Adnan Sami would not have requested for Indian Citizenship and a commodious sufferer of Intolerance Taslima Nasrin would not have wished to spend her entire life in India. I still remember that Interview of Balasaheb Thackeray to Arnab Goswami in May 2011 in which he openly said, “I am a political cartoonist. I know the political side of the thing. You are overpowering the other 4 pillars of your democracy. Your democracy, not my democracy. I don’t believe in democracy.” It is even hard to imagine for a man living in China or Saudi Arabia to question the way of their governance. It is an unprecedented beauty and the extreme tolerance of our nation and democracy that allows a man like Balasaheb Thackeray to happily live and even rule a part of this nation without believing in its democratic system. Therefore, as long as this nation continues to run on its Constitutional principles and laws, intolerance may exist politically but not practically.
(ROHIT KUMAR is 4th year B.A.LL.B Student of School of Law, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha)