Friday, 27 November 2015

The Intolerance Debate and Its Genesis

The big question in front of us as a nation is how do we proceed, given the recent spate of events around tolerance and intolerance perceptions? We are seeing the emergence of two clear camps – which I prefer to call The Tolerance Brigade and The Intolerance Brigade. Each sides sees no merit in the others’ position, with one side actually pulling out all sorts of tactics-  both logical & cogent, as well as illogical and insultingly extreme bordering on direct personal verbal and written abuse. At times, this abuse goes beyond all controls to become extreme and personally targeted and attacking on Social Media as well.


THE DEBATE

First, the great Debate. One and a half year ago, there was no hint of any debate, any thought, any link or any movement or even any fear of the rise of intolerance, by and large. The discourse was around corruption, development, discontent with ruling powers, the rise of NaMo and the debate is caused, and the national mood was around positive aspects. Even in the debate around NaMo, it can be argued that there was no polarisation – at least nothing as compared to what we are seeing nowadays around intolerance; sure there were politically charged statements flying around, but that is a far cry from what we are seeing currently.


So how did the situation come to this scenario, this extremely vitiated scenario that we see? There is some merit in the statements of the Tolerance Brigade that this is impacting India’s image, truth be told. What has happened in the interim that justifies such a vitriolic response around this entire debate? How did this debate actually arise? What is its genesis? Why are some people feeling the need to voice their insecurity, cutting across Party and Religious affiliations?


For one thing cannot be denied – this cuts right across the cross-section of our society, with people from all walks of life giving urgent voice to their discomfiture, which includes people from a variety of political parties in addition to the normal people from all places. By no stretch of imagination can such  a variety of people speak up just for the sake of it, or just for publicity, or just like that. Further, given that I have also met a number of common people who are also feeling the heat, in their views, of rising intolerance, this is a potent question that needs answering – the question of intolerance.


 What has transpired in the past few months since this new Government that explains this rising debate? What is its genesis? Readers are free to connect the dots, everyone is aware of exactly what has transpired since May 2014. Irresponsible utterances by fringe elements of the Hindutva Brigade, leaders which has been picked up by the Media as well as Social Media, are just one example. {Note – I did not single out any party here, not even the RSS, which is doing a great job in the social arena, spreading our culture & religion, fighting Westernisation as well as fitness through its shaakhaas}


There have also been some sad and even tragic incidences that have happened; the aftermath of those incidences, as well as the utterances could have been handled much better which would have stopped or at least delayed this debate and this polarisation; but what is done is done; no point crying over spilt milk. What we need to learn from this immediate past is what is pertinent for us as a nation.  The point for us, the take-away is the undeniable fact that  there have been some incidents that provide a base for the feeling of intolerance; statements which both are and were completely avoidable, in addition to some sad incidents.


A lot more lies to this; this alone cannot explain the tide of statements and reactions this has let loose in Social Media as well as normal discourse in addition to the political potpourri it has curdled. The silence of the Government, or at least perceived silence, is another aspect. It is beyond debate that a stronger response right at the start would have stopped this; let us hope the Government listens to and learns from this – which I am certain it will, given its overall mature approach. Nothing stated so far in this article explains away the current deluge of opinions and debate on this issue. Beyond all of this, beyond the Government, the utterances, and the incidents, are we the people. And we stand indicted today; indicted today by the present deluge...


WE THE PEOPLE

It has been stated by the Tolerance Brigade that the incidents alluded to above do not mean the entire nation is intolerant -  something I ascribe to fully. A series of articles have appeared from a range of normal Indians hauling coals over the Intolerance Brigade; statements and articles from Sanaatanis, Muslims etc. A few sporadic incidents and statements do not, should not and cannot be the basis for the indictment of an entire people – that I completely agree with. India, that paragon of Tolerance, cannot be indicted as an Intolerant nation.


But these same people would do well to remember that we are a democracy, and people are entitled to their opinion – just as you are to yours. The Intolerance Brigade has as much right to its views as the Tolerance Brigade has to its views. And, given that their fears are based on hard facts and incidents, their position has to be taken into consideration and granted; that there does exist some problem,  some issue that needs to be tackled. Ridiculing them is not the solution; doing so is in fact quite dangerous, as it completely ignores the fringe elements that have caused this.


The response to this entire spectrum, right from the start, has been focussed around personal attacks, insults, targeting, ridiculing and outright ostracization attempts. Is this any way to build a dialogue or solve an issue? Or is it actually exacerbating the problem? Ok, so the person {some person, any one – any Tom, Dick or Harry} is feeling slightly edgy – how do you tackle this? By attacking him and ridiculing his feelings? This will reinforce his earlier feeling of insecurity! So what even if the insecure person spoke publicly? Isnt it feasible to counter his or her arguments in a controlled and logical manner – while also granting that the base feeling of intolerance is present, but only in a fringe segment?


In place of logical arguments, the Intolerance Brigade gets responses like “Haraamzaadaa”, “Kamina”, Go to Pakistan, Who asked you, and much much more. The person’s integrity is questioned, patriotism is questioned, and far more. What is the impact of such irresponsible statements? Rather than sit across the table, talk and assuage concerns, r the people with their ridicule and personal attacks vitiate the atmosphere. Is voicing your opinion  a ground for asking to quit India?


Even I have been taunted with that!  Does it justify calling personal insults? Who is being more mature here?Even if you grant someone makes an irresponsible statement on the other side, does that call for an even more ridiculous and immature answer – or does it call for a measured answer?  Even if you grant that the initial statement should have been taken up privately, the uncalled for response from the public is also wrong. And two wrongs do not make a right.



And that is why, we as a people, stand indicted today in front of all. The Intolerance Brigade with its vocal statements should be more mature; given that I feel they are actually more mature than others, it is expected that they control themselves. And the Tolerance Brigade with its stupid, insulting and arrogant remarks are only serving to further muddy the waters vitiating rather than solving anything. All of us – we, the people - stand indicted. 


In line with my arguments above, I shall now not place any article on my Blog on this matter for the next few weeks or months... One cannot argue or speak logic in such an atmosphere, when the tiniest comment leads to taunts of Go To Pakistan. and/or personal insults, when even the most simple article leads to massive arguments with some of my close friends and family. The only way to deal with this is disengagement, and let things settle down for now. There is no point in further muddying an already muddy lake... 


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