Of tolerance and intolerance - an independent view in Indian context

Tolerance is a word that has been discussed a lot in the recent times in India. This article is an effort to discuss the difference between tolerance and intolerance and also to understand why one need to be open to different opinions. The article is with particular reference to India. Read on with a free mind.

'Intolerance' has almost won the title 'Word of the Year 2015'. We have had intolerance, tolerance, tolerance of intolerance and intolerance of tolerance and what not! Does that mean that we must give some serious thought as to why this word has been uttered, spoken about and discussed so much in the past few days or months, to be precise? Tolerance was always a part of our life whether it is as tolerance in the positive sense or as intolerance in the negative sense.

About tolerance and the Indian background

But what is this tolerance all about? Is it a characteristic that symbolizes acceptance of something which we do not agree to or is it about adjusting to something which we do not agree with. There is a difference between accepting and adjusting, if I am not wrong. By accepting, I do not mean that one should agree to what cannot agree to; but certainly it means the acceptance of the undeniable fact that if I have the freedom to believe that x is y, the person on the other end definitely has the freedom to believe that x is x. So, it is not basically about accepting facts but about accepting the freedom of another; it does not mean that one is ready for a compromise but is ready to accept a different opinion and to give such an opinion a space to exist in the domain of one's thought process. Adjusting on the other hand is a bit more complicated proposition because of its vulnerability to change. You adjust with another person's opinion without accepting his opinion or freedom to hold an opinion which is a dicey situation because you reserve the right to change your stance at any given time; there is no application of mind and can be termed as an effort to satisfy the need of a situation. It is more circumstantial in nature and is susceptible. In this context, we may safely conclude that tolerance should relate to acceptance and not mere adjustment.

While what I am saying may be considered particularly in the context of India today, it will not be out of place to mention that intolerance level is rising high across the world in different forms and is almost a threat similar to global warming if I may put it so. Religious unrest, racist attacks, fight for supremacy and so many factors are contributing a lot to this dangerous growth of intolerance. But the word has a special significance when we speak of it in relation to India because of her unique diverse features.

The Indian culture itself is based on tolerance. Heard of the old Indian belief 'Athithi Devo Bhava'? It means guests should be treated like God. And we have been doing it all along. We have allowed different religions, languages, cultures, traditions, beliefs and all that is different to flourish side by side in our rich soil. And to add to our history and culture, we made sure that our Constitution enshrined this principle of tolerance by ensuring equality to all her citizens. So, when did we become intolerant? Or is it that we were never tolerant? Is it that we were adjusting all along and had actually never accepted anything that was against our beliefs and thoughts? I don't think so. Our culture always was to embrace differences. This intolerance we are witnessing today is certainly not a new addition to our basic character but then it was never thought of with the same vigor and enthusiasm as it is done today. Is it because some sections of the society that had been enjoying the super status till date while entertaining an inert feeling of being neglected has suddenly found a savior; somebody or some body who will recognize their fear and make efforts to alleviate the same? If that is the case, there is a need to worry because it can mean the beginning of the disintegration of the basic plural fabric that hold this great nation together, and that is not at all a welcome change. At least I feel so!

I am not totally ruling out political interference in the wide publicity being given to growing intolerance but would it be wise to turn a blind eye to the facts on ground? They say don't eat beef or that those who want to eat beef may do so out of India. Now who gave them this right to dictate terms? Are they empowered by the Constitution? No. In that case, would it be wrong to presume that they have been actively or passively empowered by those who are holding Constitutional positions? Why should somebody else decide what we should be wearing, eating, writing or speaking? As long as we are not violating any existing laws or the moral or societal ethics, why should somebody be worried? Why can't it be like you eat what you want and let me eat what I want? I think that is tolerance. I don't mind being direct in saying that it is some fringe fanatic groups among Hindus who are behind all these dirty games. If they think that they can force in an ideology among the liberal citizens of India, I strongly feel that they are wrong. It would do well for them to realize and understand that Hinduism is a way of life and not just a religion. Why emulate Islam or Christianity when it comes to wrong practices? One ought to be sensible enough to face criticism, especially when one is on a higher pedestal. It is not that the world will come to an end if someone criticizes you. Let them be free to express their opinion. You must be large hearted to take what you want and discard the rest or even discard the whole thing but there is no point in trying to silence those who hold diverse views. If a religion is so fragile that it would get demolished by a drawing or writing or for that matter any means of expression, I think it has no reason to survive.

Winding up

One has to admit that there is an atmosphere of discomfort across the nation that needs to be addressed lest people who are waiting for opportunities, within and outside, take advantage of the situation. We need not tolerate any kind of extremism. Let anyone who defies law be brought to books and handed over punishment prescribed by law. Let no one be allowed to sneak under the veil of religion to create unrest in the country. It is not the question of majority or minority; it is the question of national unity which is being put at stake and we need to wake up at the earliest so that no further damage is caused.


Author: Kailash Kumar01 Mar 2016 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

Historically evolution of exemplary tolerance among Indians might have been a product of many attacks and invasions and longish periods of rule by foreign rulers like Mughals and Britishers, like the process of tempering of steel in which the metal develops elasticity and hardness by repeatedly reheating and cooling. Certain streaks of memoirs of those days of oppression might still be surviving albeit in a very diluted and faded form in the minds of people on getting passed on from generation to generations, which get erupted on slightest provocation in the form of communal hatred and riots. However the author has touched a very sensitive though relevant issue and presented a well analysed and balanced account on the same.

Author: Partha Kansabanik01 Mar 2016 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 7

Read the article of Mr. Saji Ganesh. The article has emotional overtones but is totally devoid of rational logic. The detailed observation may cause another article. So I am mentioning my responses very briefly. Some of my responses are general in nature and some give specific examples, of course in Indian context.

(a) India is perhaps the only country in the world where majority communalism or intolerance is a reaction to minority communalism or intolerance. Nowhere in the world we see similar instances.
(b) The last census of the country depicts percentage increase of two religious minority communities. This is an abnormal phenomenon, which political leaders and so-called left-leaning sociologists are trying to put under the carpet.
(c) If we study the statistics of criminals in jails in India, we will see the percentage of criminals of a particular minority community far outnumbers its overall population percentage. The left-leaning sociologists are wrongly trying to explain this phenomenon from socio-financial point of view, which is not correct.
(d) If the people should not monitor or prohibit eating of beef, the same standard should also be applied everywhere in India in respect of pork or ham. But in actuality, this is not so in many parts of the country
(e) India is the only country where the majority population has to become internal refugee in its own country.
(f) India is the only country where the religious majority is prohibited to build its place of worship (Lakshadweep).
(g) India is a country where conversion to minority community is ignored or indirectly encouraged, whereas conversion to majority community is frowned upon.
(h) India is the only country in the world where extreme vulgar words about the Gods and Goddesses of the majority community are allowed in the name of freedom of speech, whereas criticism of the prophet of another religion lands a person in jail.
(i) The Constitution of India is clearly biased in favour of minority communities.
(j) India is facing two types of problems to its sovereignty, one from outside (from ISIS) and one from inside (Mughalisthan project). Another prominent religious minority community is slowly but steadily engaging itself to convert the tribal people by wrongly utilising their ignorance and simplicity.

These are some of the causes of so-called reactive intolerance from a section of majority community. These people should not be ridiculed or targeted, their genuine concern must be addressed. However, I stress that this intolerance is totally reactive in nature. If the cause is addressed, this intolerance will automatically fade away, because the basic tenets of Hinduism is not only tolerance, but also peaceful co-existence.

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