Saturday, 18 October 2014

Do We Really Want Change {Part-2} : Our Cultural History Of Tolerance

This is the 4th article in the reality series, and is the second part of the article Do We Really Want Change?

The sad reality of growing intolerance is readily seen in Modern India in any number of facets of Modern Life. While it can be argued, and argued with conviction that intolerance is a fact of Modern Life regardless of nationality, the fact remains that this is a truism in India - a nation known not for intolerance, but for  the exact opposite. And that is what makes it an especially sad reality. 

While the divides that pervade modern life in India are a subject unto themselves, ranging as they do from caste to rich-poor to religion, and are thus beyond the scope of a blog-post; a few questions can nevertheless be asked of  ourselves in such outlets as blogs and social media. The first and most pertinent of these questions is what I deal with in this post - how is it that the most tolerant and open people on the face of this planet have been reduced to such a sad scene of rapidly breeding intolerance? 

Please note that I am not referring to religious intolerance alone- let me be specific on that point. I am referring to our growing rejection of competing but less prominent views - for example, our entire NaMo fan following, our decreasing acceptance of discourse and open sharing of views on contentious aspects, and increasing propensity to get into bitter fights over competing views. 

I am referring to our blind unthinking devotion to public figures, our habit of accepting anything without conscious thought, our herd mentality, our growing insecurity in the sphere of religion, our lack of peaceful or calm acceptance of divergent views - as was seen with crystal clarity in the recently concluded elections of a few months ago. 

At this point of time in our life as a nation, it is vitally essential that we, all of us, read these lines from Swami Vivekanand : "I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world tolerance and univerasal acceptance. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth... Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and The Hindu has recognied it. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only be realised or thought of, or stated through the relative and the image, crosses, crescents are simple so many symbols - so many pegs to hand spiritual ideas on. The Hindus have their faults, but mark this - they are always for punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of their neighbours. - Swami Vivekanad, Chicago, 1893."

India is the land where people of all types of thoughts, religions, practices, lifestyles, skin-colours settled; where everyone was accepted, and their space respected; the land where Jews found peace; the land where religions were born and grew without concomitant violence on the scale seen elsewhere; the land where everyone was only a human being. That much is not conjecture; it is plain and simple fact. This is the India that was - a land of philosophy, and highly advanced people who were comfortable with themselves and their identity. 

This was a land at peace with itself; a land that had learned to accept radically different and divergent views and mindsets, religions and races without excessive pain and violence; where everyone had a place to stay, a land which was an open and welcoming land. It was also a land of deep thought and analyses, a land which gave birth to a stream of thinkers like Aryabhatt in science to Panini in Literature; it was  a golden land that was the cradle of civilization, civilised thought, and relative calm and peace. 

This was a land where open discussion was the norm rather than the exception. As late as the 1800s there are recorded events of open religious discourse and open vibrant discussion even on religious matters in an apolitical atmosphere of relative calm and quiet - a mature, advanced discussion between mature, thinking and highly civilized people - a land which was tolerent, quiet and at peace. 

It is this habit of openness, of questioning in an open, mature and highly civilized fashion that have  led to the famous scientists or thinkers or philosophers of ancient and medieval times to propound their works, and lay the ground for the advances that came later, as immortalised in that famous hindi song - Jab Zero Diyaa Mere Bhaarat Ne... It is this habit of tolerance that allowed people of divergent views to co-exist, and prosper together from pre-historic eras; it was this open habit that led to India being called The Golden Land. 

A look at Modern India will belie all of the above in its totality. We have become a people who can heckle a TV reporter for challenging one of our admittedly best Prime Ministers; where the slightest challenge to a famous figure leads to street protests; we have become a people and a land where open discussion on religion is now next to impossible. We have become a land where open discussion on the problems that confront India is totally absent and where in its place symbolic gestures can be idolised, of which there are examples aplenty. 

I have been deliberately circumspect in this article, as I want to avoid a head-on confrontation, and in its place just want people to think - why cant we accept views divergent to ours - be it in religion, or in politics? In both cases, I have alluded to real-world examples; in these matters, it is best not to be more specific. Why cant we stop idolising, rise above our herd mentality - especially when, given our history of tolerance, we possess the innate habit and inbuilt culture to do exactly that - be tolerant, thinking and analytical?

The key point here is that the problems the nation faces require a circumspect and thoughtful approach in some facets, and a mature, thinking and analytical approach in others. Our history is proof that we have both traits, and in abundance. High time we recognised our own potential, rose above these damaging habits, and took the nation to where it belongs - at the top of the totem pole- The Land Of Gold, Sone Ki Chidiyaa, The Land Of Noble People  {Aryavarta} - the land, nay, the wonderful land that it used to be. 

Jaago, Sonewaalon!

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