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Incredible India now intolerant India

Incredible India now intolerant India
Every Indian is privileged to be a free citizen and the freedom of speech and expression is one of the Fundamental Rights granted to all Indians in India. But it is a shame when this freedom is misused, controversy rages, and the image of the nation takes a dent. “Intolerance” is the most media-focused issue in India these days, although the meaning of this word may be subjective.

No one in India is above the law. So why this debate? A group of intellectuals, litterateurs, artists, educationists, and scientists have become part of this debate and criticise badly. This sends out wrong signal abroad. Foreign newspapers published headlines that say “India is becoming intolerant”. It is high time all Indians understand that any such news published in any Indian newspaper about a country being intolerant is probably not intolerance. Does it mean there is nothing happening in other countries of what happens in India? The situation in India is much better off than many other countries. But the intelligentsia looks like they are falling prey to some petty politics, and hence, reacting adversely.

“Intolerance” got highlighted after the mob lynching incident in Dadri which was based on the primary issue of consuming beef. Some discussed it in a negative manner as if the government’s decision to ban Beef is a crime. Why did no one raise the matter the banning pork in America’s federal prisons? Similarly, there are examples of writers being murdered, killings of foreign nationals in many countries. But those issues hardly ever get discussed or make headlines in Indian newspapers. Even instances of violence of greater intensity, bigger incidents than the murder of Kalburgi have happened in India earlier, but no one had raised their voice then. So why now?

Where were these critics when a Fascist regime was imposed in India by Indira Gandhi in the name of Emergency during 1975-77, and the even more violent incident of anti-Sikh pogrom unleashed by the Rajiv Gandhi government in Oct-Nov 1984? Not only these critics, but also those dozens of writers, artists, and noted intellectuals who have been returning the National Awards must come forward and explain.

Some are of the opinion that these acts are orchestrated from behind the scenes and stage-managed for political purposes, yet everyone needs to seriously ponder over the issue to realise the truth. If the issue has really troubled those selective individuals, intellectuals, litterateur, artists etc., then why had they not raised their voice during any other regime when India had faced a similar situation and even worse? Unless the reasonable answers to these questions satisfy the people of India, the currently floated “Intolerance” theory will not work.

Now, it is pertinent to look at the version of celebrities like Shahrukh Khan and Amir Khan. The issue of Shahrukh Khan has cooled down and many of us know how Shahrukh Khan had passed those comments. Till November 24, Amir Khan did not have any version regarding intolerance. Suddenly he broached the issue in the name of his wife. He pinpointed the issues for Muslims by mentioning about his wife who is a Hindu, though many quote her to be an atheist. So who are really worried, Muslims or Hindus? What was the necessity of Amir quoting his wife for such a statement when his credibility is more than his wife’s? It is difficult to digest.

Amir has a track record of criticising BJP and Modi. His anti-Modi Petition in 2005, anti-Modi campaign regarding Narmada dam issue, Vadodara riot in 2006, and post 26/11 blog against BJP are some examples. Similarly, Shahrukh Khan has a record of speaking against the BJP after 26/11 in 2008, after the Prophet Fiasco in 2009, and in an interview to Outlook Magazine in 2013.

These celebrities have their own way of presenting things. They belong to the elite class and earn in crores. They own multi-million companies. Whether they do anything wrong or right is inconsequential, but they always catch the media’s attention. The Indian Government has also recognised their contribution and awarded them with civilian awards from time to time. Hence, they must think twice before passing any comments on any sensible matter as their views influence public opinion.

However, they talk on any sensitive issue without foreseeing its consequences. Are they really concerned about their followers, the common people or just wish to get their own benefit of publicity? What is their contribution to the neglected people if they are really worried? How can one be a self-proclaimed voice for the neglected group without having made any significant contribution for their betterment?

Where was Amir’s observation when Indians tolerated his film PK despite the misuse of names and pictures of gods? Indians watched and made his film a super hit. According to famous author Taslima Nasreen, Amir would have faced dire consequences had PK been released in any other country like Bangladesh or Pakistan. India suddenly became intolerant although Amir was campaigning for India as incredible. He was highly paid for the “Incredible India Campaign” and also for “Atithi Devo Bhav.” Many social media messages portrayed him as a good social messenger for “Satyameva Jayate”, his programme. But, he was highly paid just to host the show. Presumably, these facts do not matter for such a celebrity. Had they been really concerned for the society and had they really wanted to do something for the common cause, maybe they should have done all these campaigning free of cost. They have completely different faces and value systems. Indians have made Amir and Shahrukh celebrities, and they do admire them. They are eminent for their fans and followers. Is it justified for them to criticise India, or to find a solution to it and act accordingly if they really find the situation in India is getting worse day by day?

No one hesitates to talk about the real issues like inflation, price hike, and other such social matters currently gnawing India. But, somehow it is hard to understand the chorus of intelligentsia against growing intolerance as it is not in good taste. Certainly, the sentiment of the great scientists, writers, film makers, etc. on every issue could be endorsed, but not always their approach and style of presentation. Probably it is meaningless to expect anything for the nation from them who are in the race to augment their own name and fame. 

What happened in the last 6-7 months that prompted them to narrate India as intolerant? Has anything extraordinary happened in comparison to what the country faced in past 30-40 years? Why are such reactions coming when India is making it big globally; when FDI is increasing, when foreign entrepreneurs are keen to establish their business in India?

In many fora, the Prime Minister has reiterated that India is the land of Gandhi and Buddha. He has clarified that there is no place of intolerance in India and also acknowledged the incidents like Dadri lynching, Murder of Kalburgi etc. The law is allowed to deal with it. All concerned citizens need to understand that India needs unity, not division. India should not be plunged into a situation which would allow other countries to take advantage of the noncooperation within our nation.
Sidheswar Misra

Sidheswar Misra

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