By Lekha Vijaya:
The word ‘intolerance’ is gaining unexpected popularity in our country these days. While some argue that there is no such intolerance and it was some cooked up agenda of the rival parties, in another wider section of the populace their opinion is rising up against the ‘rising intolerance’ in the country. It seems to me that the word ‘intolerance’ itself is perceived with much intolerance by both groups. Following the trend set by Nayantara Sehgal, a dozen writers and rational thinkers have relinquished various recognitions of the Government like the Sahitya Akademi award and Padmabhushan, citing the rising cultural intolerance in the country. And the recent controversy surrounding the comments made by Aamir Khan is a continuation of that story. While a section of the people hail the cause, another claim it as a belligerent action to tarnish the image of our nation in the international scene. I personally view this is as a gesture of one’s protest, which is well within the boundaries of the rule of law of the land.
One should remember that, every Indian citizen is guaranteed with the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The rationalists and literary scholars of our country had always upheld this right and protested whenever that right is at stake. It is nothing new. This can be seen during the period of Emergency too. When the Indira Gandhi government suppressed the freedom of expression during the Emergency, then also a protest of a similar kind happened. But the hefty censorship imposed on the media during that time might have kept such voices of dissent at a minimum coverage. There is no such censorship now and so all the voices of dissent are can be taken note of. And the influence of social media has its share too in the mass coverage received in these protests. How a personal opinion of Aamir Khan has demarcated his life and opinions with social media trolls is an example of this. I wonder why such a personal comment of an actor is creating ruckus in a country which has more pressing problems like death due to poverty, open defecation, rape, child marriage etc.
The main reason for the sudden upsurge among the scholars and rationalists is the looming silence from the authorities. The fringe elements seem pretty much on the loose these days, attacking the plurality and secularism of our nation (be it the Dadri incident or the murder of M.M Kalburgi, etc). The killing of the rationalists like Pansare, Dhabolkhar and the still evading culprits behind these murders are a cause of concern. One should note that the latter two were murdered during the time of UPA Government regime, not the NDA. The protest is not against any untoward incident that happened during the period of NDA alone, but the altogether rise of fringe ideologies in the country. A word of assurance from the Government to Indians is the need of the hour.
Contrary to this, the statements made by the members of the ruling party are only augmenting the fears. The pseudo-secular views of a section of political parties are not helping either. The oppositions are kind of utilizing the situation for a political favor. The end result is nothing but confusion and concern among the minorities, free thinkers etc. In the chaotic situation, we expect a strong statement of pacification from the responsible people and the absence of it for sure will raise eyebrows. As long as strong action are not meted out to fight this at least by a strong word of condemnation , our rational groups are obliged to join hands against this intolerance.
Intolerance and communal riots were present in India all through these years since Independence, one cannot ignore that fact. On certain occasions the spark will turn into a big blast of fire which attracts widespread condemnation. As responsible citizens, each of us has the right and duty to express our opinions against these. And for the writers and scientists in India, they have a great major role in this. And they should in the manner they prefer, provided the conditional clauses of fundamental rights are not violated, should oppose such events. Free thinkers in India had expressed their oppositions through their writings and in other manners in earlier occasions too. That is not showing wrath against any political party.
What I want to say here is that one should be given the space to express his/her opinion. If that opinion is attacking the truth you have every right to correct it. But if it is hurting your pride, deal with your conscience before correcting.