The Intolerance Debate : Are We More, Or Less Tolerant?

The intolerance debate has been raging for some time now; high time we tackled this bear by the horns, challenged it and defeated it. But, in order to do that, it is essential we understand the nature of the problem facing us.  It was as I was making this effort of trying to understand intolerance that a striking possibility occurred  : that we might actually be getting far more tolerant than we thought!



PROLOGUE


This first occurred to me when I noted how Dilip Kumar and other Muslim actors had to change their names in order to broaden their appeal. We have moved a long way since then; now not only do film stars not change their names, but can confidently go ahead without a care for their names. Modern India can now showcase famous names across trades and professions showing that professional discrimination has been steadily decreasing to what I hope is now near-zero.


This latest question occurred to me on reading some period literature of the late 1800s and the early 1900s;which showcase the status of our society as it was at ground level in those trying times. As compared to that period, in my opinion we have moved far, far ahead and have become far more accepting and tolerant. Sure, intolerance remains; but it is nowhere near what it was earlier. Sure, problems remain; but nothing quite so serious as compared to before.




SANAATAN DHARM


Santaani resurgence is not a new phenomenon, and has always been present since the times of the early 1800s at least; neither is the division in our society along various lines from caste to politics, That is the price we are paying for colonialism; that is the price of our independence, I have no doubt that eventually we shall triumph; my confidence in my mother, my India is total in that regard, As is my confidence in at least my religion : Sanaatan Dharm, wrongly known as Hinduism.


We have two choices : focus on the negative message of intolerance, or further the positive message of tolerance. I choose to take the latter path : can we spot current trends towards tolerance? I can, More than several, and in the here and the now...


There is far more than meets the eye, in that this isnt just a political issue as much as it is a classic socio-political issue arising out of the entire sequence of events that can be traced back decades, if not more. The past events have given rise to a minority of Sanaatani followers in India who hanker for a more fundamental approach; a set of people who set store by Sanaatan Dharm as the central religion, and the pole of Indian polity as well as society


Note : I refer to Hinduism as Sanaatan Dharm, by its original name. There is no historical or religious basis for the term Hinduism; basis my more than 36 books reading of Indian History, almost all reviewed on my blog.


There is still a segment of people who regard Muslim rule as alien, who still quote the wars and the violence in the Mughal and Slave Dynasty periods, who insist that Muslim rule was far more damaging than the British rule, You can read blogs, articles on the mythical 1000-year slavery, or the other aspect online on any number of platforms, or on comments. Hopefully this is still a minor matter in India


What is happening isnt just a political affair; it is a socio-political affair. And unless we factor in all factors, any conclusions we reach will be erroneous. And the past has a tremendous bearing on the present; any number of current events can be found as proof. Please read the comments on various sites, and note the tenor of the comments, and how they hark back to the "golden" period of Sanaatani rule for vivid proof of this. We have no choice but to face down the events of the past, and prove the reality, separate the chaff from the substance, and lay bare the reality,




FACTORS OF THE PROBLEM, AND THE ANALYSIS


The problems we face today have their genesis in several factors :

* History
* Social Developments and Churning
* Politics
* Religion


But more of these in later articles; To cut things short for now, it isnt a matter of do-this-as-my-forefathers-were-done-this-to-them. It goes much deeper - into a hard-wired inferiority feeling in some Sanaatan Dharmis, wherein they regard the period 1300-1700 as a period when the Golden rule of Sanaatan Dharm fell by the wayside. The problem with this narrative in vogue is at many levels and layers; for starters - the assumption of Sanaatani political rule is itself debatable, given the non-political nature, by and large, of Sanaatan Dharm. Further, the interplay between political factors and the cooperation of local kings also goes ignored in this narrative


Second, the assumption that Sanaatan Dharm fell is itself, to me, a deep insult; the way I see it, we Sanaatanis did not fall; despite the heavy persecution that was periodically visited upon us for the past several centuries, While the Abrahaminic Religions totally eclipsed the earlier society in just about the rest of planet Earth, we followers of Sanaatan Dharm remain, as we were, resilient, resolute, unchanging, with the same cultural and religious practices as in 500 or 1000 plus BC, perhaps even 4000BC Plus!.

Now that, I respectfully submit, is something truly special. We were there when Babylon rose and fell; and we are still here, in the 21st Century.


To the mainstream of Sanaatani people, it doesnt matter; we are more concerned with out duties and our lives; our scriptures are pretty much specific - do your duty towards nation, family and society. Nothing else matters. You are alive just for one reason : to do your duty to family and society, period.


But, to some people, the loss of political power in the early part of the 1st millennium onwards till the 18th century is proof of the mythical "fall" of Sanaatani power. There is a burning desire to see Sanaatani followers as powerful militarily and otherwise; they tend to forget that the real power of a Sanaatan Dharmi is, as per me, his or her internal strength and resolute and rock-hard belief system that has withstood centuries & millennia of epochal buffeting winds and changes.


To simplify, it isnt really about others; it is a burning internal desire to strengthen our own Sanaatan Society that is one part of the driving factor - giving rise to forces like the Sangh. Now this can be both positive as well as negative; that we need a Sangh, a body of social drivers that can ensure continued passing on of values and norms is beyond argument; I myself am a fan of the Sangh's socio-cultural activities, and how they strive towards creating a good citizen, as well as driving the power of our religion into their minds, as also inculcating a feeling of pride in our heritage, which are all positives. {I have used the Sangh here just as an example}


On persecution of Sanaatan Dharm followers : that is a statement that has some basis in fact, and there is no point denying it, Yes, we Sanaatan Dharm followers are, in my opinion, one of the two most persecuted people on this planet - and in our own land, to boot. We, and the Jews stand as exemplary people in the history of the Earth : no one has been persecuted as much as us, and by just about everyone. It is a matter of inconsequential debate as to who was persecuted more : {my opinion, The Jews have been through more than us} - and is an academic point.  

But who persecuted us really – the Arabs, or the British? And what about the active cooperation of local kings with the invaders? What about the various treaties and friendships that happened during medieval times? And why are we forgetting the active conversion campaigns of the European Christians? {Christians were here in India since almost 70AD, and had lived peacefully. It is only after the Europeans that conversions started.  All these, and other questions will need attending to.


While the World has learnt and grown up to accept Jews, The Sanaatan Dharm follower is still held to public ridicule outside India in any number of even mainstream outlets. It hurts, damnit - and I make no bones about it. So why doesn’t this strike a chord in us?


But the real challenge is in facing this hurt, accepting it - and moving on, We cannot afford to live in ignorance; that way lies disaster, leaving open the chance of manipulation by some forces. We have to face the history, grow up to it, look it straight in the eyes, and state: You are History, I am the present, and I shall learn from you, but not want to seek justification or revenge. The current set of people have done nothing to damage us, and thus share no blame. What is past is done with, and over. Let bygones be bygones; forgive and forget.


By not facing upto the past, we are leaving the field open for one-sided narratives that blame everyone except look inward, We need to introspect, understand and face our own faults that lead to this persecution, for that is the positive way forward, We need to understand that not everyone, even in the past, was out to get us; and that the persecution, while true, was not supported by all. We, now more than ever, need to face upto the history of our nation, and learn from it; learn from our fall from grace, understand the true reasons for our fall from grace, and connect these learnings to the present day. That is one way we can fight this rising tide.



In conclusion, in this set of articles, I shall attempt to look at why India is actually getting more tolerant each day; I shall try and analyse the reasons for the rise of the rhetoric around some aspects, try and present the fuller picture, and underscore that while challenges and worries remain : there is far more reason to be hopeful and buoyant than there is to be cynical and worried... Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

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