By Majid Alam:
The people of India have learned through years of co-existence with each other that despite differences in mindset, faith, thought and social strata – on several occasions we have taken a setback on the tenets set up by the framers of Modern India. I have quoted the word ‘faith’ instead of religion, because whichever religion we profess, in that we haven’t forgotten to divide into sects, sub-sects and cults. History shows us that the majority of disputes in the country are related to the term, “propagation of our religion”. Fundamental Rights mentioned in the Constitution include Right to freedom of religion, meaning we have the right to choose whichever religion pleases us. The Fundamental Right also includes rights related to the freedom to practice and propagate religion. But past and the current incidents have shown the level of intolerance in the country and also proved that it is easier to victimize and incite violence on the basis of these distinctions. What is left apart from violence resulting among sects and groups, takes the form of discrimination towards the weaker and underprivileged.
The points that I am mentioning below are potent enough to destroy us. These concerns arise due to the intolerance we have for the ‘minorities’. The word ‘Minority’ should not be misinterpreted; as we have ‘social minorities’ i.e people belonging to depressed classes; ‘religious minorities’, i.e people belonging to the minority religions. ‘Think tanks’ and intellectuals also belong to the minority since their views and ideologies don’t relate to the popular conscience. Women have also been reduced to being minorities within their family and outside. Killing and spreading violence towards minorities can never be justified on any ground and the examples below re-iterate my concern.
It might not be a good idea to call it an end to tolerance in India, but I would like to define it as an end to humanity, after reading about the death of two minors in Haryana by the dominant caste in the region, the reason being a feud, resulting in a race to show who is dominant and who should remain suppressed.
Merely calling the incident an act of racial discrimination would only add to the countless cases pending in court without any resolution. I see the crime as an insult to Gandhi’s concept of Harijans and to the efforts of the noble man, B.R Ambedkar who remained devoted to the cause of the lower castes.
Barely two days after the incident, a similar incident was reported when a fourteen- year Dalit boy was killed by cops for stealing pigeons. Simply bragging about bringing equality won’t do us any good until we quit our double standards. Seeing the low representation of the depressed classes in premier institutes like IITs, IIMs, AIIMS and notable jobs like in bureaucracies and Corporate business, I believe that discrimination will only lead to a rift within the nation. Also turning our back to social evils will lead us away from our step towards development.
Bisara village of Dadri, barely a hundred kilometers from Delhi came into the limelight when a mob attacked a house killing Mohammad Akhlaq and injuring his son on the basis of a rumour that they possessed beef. Forensic reports later proved that it was mutton rather than beef in Akhlaq’s fridge. Beef is considered a sacred animal for Hindus and this is now a cause for concern since people get killed on the apprehension that they have killed the sacred animal.
On 2 August, 2014, Shankar Kumar was beaten to death in the Najafgarh area of Delhi while he was transporting dead cows and buffaloes. The news was also reported in the Washington Post on 30 September as “A mob in India just dragged a man from his home and beat him to death — for eating beef”. It is a shame for a country like India, that has been trying to secure Permanent Membership in the Security Council, when at instances it shows it hasn’t matured yet.
The first question that is raised here is whether ‘secular liberals’ and ‘think tanks’ have a free voice in the conservative attitude in India. The recent death of M. M. Kalburgi, an outspoken critic of Hindu idol worship, aged 77, who was mercilessly gunned down at his house, and similar deaths of Govind Pansare, the Communist leader and an activist, Narendra Dabholkar, a critic of religious superstition in 2013 proves the anger against ideological minorities in the country. The banning of books and writers going on exile for expressing their views against popular beliefs is common. The point is not to agitate against them and to not suppress what we think is against the established norms. The intelligent way would be to debate and allow the flow of debate in the country. Unfortunately, the level of our debate has fallen to such a level that we have reduced ourselves to derogatory comments on social networks when things don’t work the way we like. The problem isn’t limited to us. Media house debates have leaders clamouring for attention and the anchor has to yell to silence them.
Unlike other concerns, this issue is not only old, matured and fossilized through ages but is also an issue most debated about, most researched and highlighted in mainstream media. Though gender discrimination has been able to mobilise masses in support of it and amend laws to make it harsher, chances of progress seem vague. The violence meted out towards women include not only rape and domestic violence, but also eve-teasing and harassment at public places. According to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), everyday 93 women are being raped in the country. Leaving this aside, we have instances where women are not allowed to get educated and seek employment. Women get tortured for dowry, beaten on a routine, live an underprivileged life. Police often refuse to file an FIR when they complain and even if the case gets registered, the jurisdiction is beyond imagination. Citing the acts and laws related to women’s safety and empowerment here would be futile and would just complicate the issue.
The aim of a multicultural society is tolerance of different cultures, languages, ideologies and valuing them so that the idea of “difference” is preserved. Similarly, what beautifies India is its acceptance towards them and maintaining equal distance from them, so that none is discriminated against. The problem with us is that we try to deal with these differences according to the opinion forced by the majority. But, the majority couldn’t be always be right, sometimes leading to extreme errors, the examples of which are stated above. The continuing intolerance in India has led to many writers returning their Sahitya Akademi awards as a protest and the number is ever increasing. Instead of maintaining neutrality we should criticize what is morally wrong in every possible way.
Unfortunately, India has turned today into a “State of Nature” as has been portrayed by Thomas Hobbes; the Natural Rights of a person is to oppress others and the Natural Liberty of a person is self-preservance and the state is governed by a “Jungle law”. The government and the intellectual should condemn it publicly in their actions so that people are discouraged to do so. Education, which is limited to sums of mathematics and laws of physics should be liberal enough to welcome changes in the curriculum so that our students are taught to be rational. Judiciary has an important role to play, as strict and speedy justice would retrieve lost respect for laws. Above all, the best way is socializing and interaction. I believe that instead of restricting the depressed and forcing the religious minorities to live in ‘ghettos’, they should be empowered to equality and the essence of fear should be made to vanish through positive co-relation.