Tuesday, 24 November 2015

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Excuse me...Did you just say 'Intolerant'?

                The Modi government has somehow found a way to stay in news for the wrong reasons for quite some time now. Be it the FTII row, or the most recent spree of bans being imposed, the opposition has tried to rip apart the government with every ammo they've got. The Prime Minister failing to take a hard stance on these issues hasn't helped their cause either. But the real question to consider here is...Is the situation really so bad? Is intolerance really on the rise as claimed by the opposition and a section of intellectuals and artists who have started protesting by the 'Award Waapsi' campaign? Has my country...a birth place of four major religions and one that has deep rooted principles of secularism and harmony for ages, suddenly become intolerant in a matter of few months? Why is the country which has a long history of religious and cultural assimilation suddenly debating the rising intolerance and extremism.
Now, I may have been away from the country for more than a year, but one just cannot read enough about the recent happenings back home. It pains me to see the cheap vote bank politics being used by the government and the opposition alike.

There are concerns that intolerance is on a rise. Though the opposition had failed even more miserably to take on the fringe elements of the society during their term, they have made this their agenda to take on the government. Now, this is kind of expected from them. But the real concern is, the intellectuals in the country have started to feel insecure and are raising their concerns, calling the country 'Intolerant'! They have taken resort to returning the awards given to them by the government for achievements in their respective fields. The question here is...Do the actions of certain fringe elements make my country intolerant? I myself am totally against the recent bans being imposed by the government and I equally condemn the recent killing at Dadri and the brutal murder of Mr. Kalburgi, and yes, swift and harsh actions need to be taken against the perpetrators. But these occurrences don't make my country intolerant. When people are lynched, face blackened, or abused, it is a serious failure of law and order situation, but in no way does that make my country intolerant. There have been countless such occurrences in the past, infact a lot more ghastly ones and all equally condemnable. The common Indian is as much ashamed of the Sikh killings of '84 as he is ashamed of the Ayodhya and Gujrat riots. But it is the desire to go on, the belief that there is a greater good in the society, that makes us secular and tolerant. I am a firm believer that India has been one of the most tolerant country for ages, especially considering the diversity in religion, culture and way of life of the people who live here. You hardly ever get to see such a co-existence of different religions in any other country. Now, with such a diversity, problems are natural to arise. But the biggest achievement of ours as a successful secular country has been our ability and willingness to accept, bond and learn from different cultures. There were, are and will always be those extremists who will try to manipulate the crowd's sentiments for their gains. But those elements don't make my country intolerant.

There is no country which doesn't have their own internal problems. United States, a country which we all look up to as an example of a successful state, has been battling racism since ages. But the Americans don't call themselves an intolerant state! For me, the very fact that every individual is free to voice his opinion, may it be for or against the government itself proves how strong the foundations of our democratic principles are.

What we all need to understand here is that the recent row is not painting a good picture of our country as a whole. The international press has taken notice of these happenings. A recent Moody's report has warned that there is a rising religious strife in the country. Being people of eminence, your words will be taken seriously. It is your responsibility to protect the international outlook towards the country. Of-course you have the right to protest...of-course you have the right to voice your opinion and concerns. But won't it be more effective if we mount pressure on the respective state governments to take swift actions against the perpetrators of the recent killings instead of generalizing the actions of some extremists? Having said that, I am equally against the recent uncivilized reactions that some of the celebrities received for expressing their concern. Although our views differ, and I think that your statement was irresponsible, I will defend till death your right to say it. I only hope that these eminent personalities who wield the power to drive the change, realize that such statement of theirs has a significant impact on how the world looks at our country. We need to understand that two extreme stands are being taken here. But in reality, the intolerance atmosphere is being exaggerated, and lets accept, intolerant sections have always been there.

To all those who are concerned about the growing intolerance, let me remind you that not long ago, this was the same country where the Supreme Court opened its doors at midnight to hear the last plea of a convicted terrorist. This is the same country whose people tolerated the hero's farewell given to a convicted terrorist in a city which he blasted a few years back! This is the same country which respected the decision of a section of society when they said that they cannot sing the national song 'Vande Mataram' as it was against their religious beliefs. Just as it is wrong to label Islam as violent after a few stray terror attacks, it is equally wrong to label my country intolerant after a few stray incidences of violence. To quote a Saudi Arabian columnist Khalaf Al-Harbi, “In India, there are more than 100 religions and more than 100 languages. Yet, the people live in peace and harmony. They have all joined hands to build a strong nation that can produce everything from a sewing needle to the rocket which is preparing to go to Mars. I must say that I feel a bit jealous because I come from a part of the world which has one religion and one language and yet there is killing everywhere. No matter how the world speaks about tolerance, India remains the oldest and most important school to teach tolerance and peaceful co-existence regardless of the religious, social, political or ethnical differences.”

India, from ages has been a multi cultural, multi ethnic society with a vibrant democracy. There is a reason we call this country 'India' and not 'Hindustan'. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism have together shaped the course of Indian history, and have had a reflective influence on our way of life. So excuse me for taking offence when someone calls my country intolerant!

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