India: What Is This Intolerance Noise All About?

It has been there all the time—maybe sporadic in the past, but consistent in the last few years. We encounter intolerance at every step of our existence. At home, the random husband does not tolerate certain aspects of his wife’s personality while the random wife does not tolerate certain ways of her husband—this is excluding the serious concerns of infidelity or disloyalty. In-laws are hardly tolerated by many particularly in matters relating to money. Children do not tolerate parental ‘advice’. Step out of home and it is worse. Everybody out there is just obsessed of surging ahead of others—does not matter even if it involves pushing or thrashing. Vehicle drivers grimace bitterly at pedestrians for their supposed ‘indulgence’ on the road while the pedestrians lash out at the drivers for their supposed ‘monopoly’ over the roads. Why road rage cases are increasing all the time? Root cause of this is only intolerance. If you only brush against a car in a genuine case of accident without causing any damage you still run the risk of getting even killed. With easy access to weapons some youths shoot at the slightest pretext. And rising crimes against women? Root cause is again intolerance. A male dominated society cannot tolerate the sight of the empowered women. In workplaces many bosses never tolerate subordinates getting credit.

Such pent-up intolerance levels get channelized and organized along caste, linguistic, sociopolitical, religious and regional lines. Any such community then becomes the master to decide what hurts them or what is objectionable which leads to assaults on creative arts—books, movies, paintings or anything. For such communities the political parties come more as ‘ideologies’, and for them any political party coming to power means coming into power of an ideology rather than a provider of governance. In a society bitten into by corruption and nepotism intolerant groups have their way to a large extent for any government any time. History records how effectively a government has handled this menace at any given period.

And what about some of the intelligentsia who are giving up their public awards in protest against intolerance? Why have they noticed this phenomenon only now? It has been a fashion with many of the intellectuals to show off their anti-establishment stance while openly vying for all kinds of favors like cheap flats under special housing quotas, nominations, appointments and even awards. Some of them understand that getting an award allows them hog the limelight only for a short time and therefore perhaps they find it convenient to return the awards for even more attention and limelight. Some ‘experts’ feel that the present government has polarized the society, but intolerance has already done that. And, even the intelligentsia is getting polarized hopelessly into two distinct sections—one for returning and the other for not returning. Intellectuals—authors, artistes, filmmakers and all—have the power of the pen or the glamour to influence the hapless masses. So, why have they not considered making  even a belated campaign against intolerance trying to find out the root causes of the evil. For them, the ‘wing’ culture is so very important. Having a ‘left-wing’ leaning or being a downright ‘leftist’ is the heavenly thing inspiring them to look at all other ‘wings’ as dirty bourgeois entities, and this has a very important bearing on what they have demonstrated at the present juncture.

Mention has also to be made of the ‘commentators’ featured on news channels on raging debates on intolerance for being so intolerant of the others opinion—talking over each other, fingering, gesticulating and plain shouting. This is the inevitable result of a polarized society not due to government but to intolerance.

One theory is also gaining ground all the time behind this facade of ‘protesting intolerance’. That is, visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been emerging as the greatest challenge for the future prospects of all national or regional political parties. His inclusive developmental schemes, Digital India initiative, his innovative direct talk with the people and his spectacularly palpable impact on foreign soil are all set to take India to a never-before level, and this is bound to secure the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in power for many more years to come. Therefore, all opposition political parties are trying to come together by hook or by crook and to continue with an obstructionist strategy from the floors of Parliament to the streets. At this moment this theory cannot be dismissed easily. Perhaps Narendra Modi could not have happened to India at a better and more crucial juncture than this.

If we are not tolerant we cannot blame the government for that, we have only ourselves to blame. However, with a strong Prime Minister at the helm of a strong nation we can definitely hope for the best.


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