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Rising Hoax Of Intolerance In India

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Practising Advocate, Gujarat High Court. Tweets @KunalVyasAdv Blog

Over 40 writers have returned their awards to the National Sahitya Akademi over the ‘rising intolerance in India’. Returning an award appears to be a grave act and implies crisis although it is a symbolic gesture. According to these writers, the intolerance is such that their freedom of speech and expression is under threat.  We need to understand what is being seen as ‘intolerance’ today.

Mr. M M Kalburgi, a Kannada Poet was allegedly murdered by two men in his house in Dharwad, Karnataka which gave rise to the discussions on ‘rising intolerance in India’. Was this the first murder in independent India? Was Kalburgi the first artist to have been murdered in India? If the response to these questions is in negative, where does the question of intolerance arise? It could be a ‘normal’ murder case, where the reasons are much more personal than those having a national impact. Would it not be wise for the award returnees to stay silent till the investigation and the subsequent court proceedings are over?

Next incident which is seen as rise of intolerance is the ‘lynching’ of a man in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh by a mob of Hindus since he was suspected to be eating beef. Whether the man was eating beef or not, murder in broad daylight by a mob is unacceptable and the murderers should be punished by Courts. India cannot accept the mob-culture and it must be turned down appropriately. But can this murder of a man in Uttar Pradesh be seen as a pan-India problem? The unfortunate incident took place in Uttar Pradesh, where Akhilesh Yadav led SP Government is in power. Why then, are no fingers being pointed at him for the lapse of his Government in maintaining law and order? Nobody, in senses and sane mind has justified Dadri killing.

The third incident which is seen as a direct attack on the freedom of speech and expression is the incident of black-painting the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni by Shiv Sena activists in Mumbai before the book launch of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Former Pakistan Foreign Minister. Painting one’s face black, just because he does something contrary to one’s wishes is unacceptable. But what was Kulkarni doing in the first place? Book launch of a former Pakistan Foreign Minister in Mumbai. Is the Shiv Sena not correct when it says that book launches can happen, firstly let Pakistan probe into the 26/11 attacks and punish the guilty? What has Pakistan done since 2008? Figures unambiguously show that the ceasefire violations by Pakistan have not come down. As a matter of fact, an Indian film ‘Phantom’ was banned by a Pakistan Court on a Petition filed by Hafiz Saeed, one of the key conspirators behind the Mumbai Attack. I don’t remember anyone standing up for Kabir Khan, director of the movie. Was it not a case of violation of fundamental right of speech and expression? It is understood that the ban was in Pakistan, but a statement could have come in support of Kabir Khan, if the writers are solely concerned about the infringement of freedoms.

I do not intend to divulge into the details of the politics behind awarding these people in the first place and to decipher their political affiliation and to understand whether the act of returning awards is due to their political loyalty. This link would suffice that purpose.

These incidents cannot be enlarged and seen as a mood of the nation. Most certainly, it cannot be linked to the party in power. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi met the President over ‘rising intolerance in India’. Were Sonia, Rahul and all the writers returning awards deaf and dumb when the UPA Government was at its tyrannical peek in the recent past by jailing every other person for facebook posts disliked by them under the guise of Section 66A of the IT Act? Was this not intolerance exemplified? The Government was directly involved. There was absolute intolerance even to a facebook post. Why was no protest staged then? Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist was also arrested under the same provision and he protested then. I don’t remember any of the award returnees raising their voice then, in support of Trivedi.

The basic confusion that is being sought to be created is between the ‘rising violence’ and ‘intolerance’. There is a very fine line of distinction between the two and they cannot be equated. Intolerance is a state where even a slight rift would convert people into rebels. What is on the rise is violence and not intolerance. This occurrence of rising violence is global and not restricted to India. Not that it doesn’t require attention, but labeling violence as intolerance amounts to disrespecting all the peaceful citizens. Has France been termed as an intolerant nation by their own media and artists after the Charlie Hebdo shooting? No. The reason is that the killing was singular and individualistic in nature, which cannot be generalized to be read as intolerance in the nation. Is it not the same case with our Country? Murders have happened, investigation is going on, criminal jurisprudence is still relevant and Courts still exist to punish the guilty. What is the difference this time around?

There is no intolerance, either religious or otherwise in India. A country with a population of over 1.25 Billion is tolerant and sane. A couple of incidents do not determine the mood of the nation. Those interested so desperately into tasting the intolerance may visit a few of the neighboring countries on the west and determine for themselves, if India is tolerant or not. (They are not being asked to move to those countries. India would tolerate their return as well.) Those journalists (read the one caught assaulting a mob in New York and the one involved in Nira Radia tapes controversy) merrily manufacturing the hoax of intolerance in India are not being harmed, which itself shows that the nation is tolerant enough. The best the BJP can do is to ensure that no stupid and insensible statements are made by their party members. Even 1 such statement is portrayed as the stand taken by the whole of the nation. Distancing and condemning such statements would not do much good. This nation has endured numerous internal as well as external attacks, and will stand this one too.

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Practising Advocate, Gujarat High Court. Tweets @KunalVyasAdv Blog
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