Growing intolerance a threat to secular traditions

By Satish Misra. Dated: 12/7/2017 2:07:56 PM

Intolerance has been not only growing in the country but is assuming violent proportions. India, as nation, is regressing fast. On a close analysis of the reactions to Bollywood films 'Padmawati' and on 'Games of Ayodhya', one cannot escape the assessment that there is something seriously wrong in society.
Directors of the two films Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Sunil Singh have received death threats from activists of the ruling BJP and its mentor Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS). ABVP leader from Aligarh Amit Goswami announced a reward of Rs one lakh for chopping off the hands of the 'Games' film director Singh who is a former MLC and presently heads Lok Dal in UP.
Earlier both Bhansali and actor Deepika Padukone who has played the role of Padmawati in the film of the same name had received death threats and rewards were announced for those who killed them. Games of Ayodhya was refused certification by the Central Board of Film Certification CBFC) and then the makers of the film appealed before the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The FCAT cleared the release of the film and now it is slated to be shown in theatres from coming Friday-December 8.
The film is understood to be dealing with the controversial subject of a Hindu-Muslim love story that is set against the backdrop of the Babri Masjid demolition on 6 December 1992 in Ayodhya.
So before the showing of the film, the ABVP activist said that movie wrongly shows that Lord Ram's statue was installed in a "deceitful" manner in the temple by Hindus.Goswami went on to add that he would give Rs one lakh to any person who chops off the arms of the director of the film. He claimed that neither the Constitution nor any law allows anyone to hurt sentiments of any religion. He issued a warning to the State government saying that it should rethink before allowing the film showing in the state.
Possibly, such threats are issued to remain in headlines and can be dismissed as non-serious, yet it cannot be denied that pollution of intolerance is choking the breathing space in society creating deeper fissures among communities and castes. Environment of intolerance towards dissent, different opinion and other view has been growing in the country for several years now but situation has particularly worsened after coming to power of the Modi government in May 2014.
Violence in the name of cow protection or marriages between Hindu girls and Muslim boys has been on the rise. Even Dalits are becoming victim of such violence.
Even former President Pranab Mukherjee, while still in office, had expressed concern over rising intolerance in the country. Referring to an incident of mob lynching in 2015 in the biggest state of Uttar Pradesh, the former President had made a strong appeal for maintaining the core civilizational values of diversity, tolerance and plurality. "Indian civilization has survived for 5000 years because of its tolerance. It has always accepted dissent and difference", Mukharjee had said.
Minorities particularly Muslims are feeling insecure, as their representation in elected bodies has been gone down over the years. The 2014 general elections have resulted in one of the lowest Muslim representation in the popularly elected Lok Sabha. Only 23 Muslim could be elected to the 16th Lok Sabha. There is no representation of Muslims from the biggest state of Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha.
Few days before relinquishing office, former Vice President Hamid Ansari expressed concern over "enhanced apprehension of insecurity amongst segments of citizen body, particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians. Underlining the values of pluralism and secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution, Ansari had said that cultural nationalism is an "illiberal form of nationalism" which "promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism".
Killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh in September this year is yet another manifestation of this growing disease. These utterings and incidents need to be seen in a much wider perspective.
For little less than three decades, revivalist movement led by some organisations prominently among them being the RSS has been gaining traction.
While Ramjanmsthan temple was the face of the movement, there was much more to it than meets the ordinary eye. Those behind the revivalist movement were far more interested in recapturing their territory that they had lost to rationalists and constitutionalists. These forces mobilised masses in the name of belief and their Hindu identity clearly challenging the prevailing order. Strategy was to create a feeling of hurt among the majority community and pitching them against the minorities particularly against the Muslims who were responsible for the decline of Hindu power. Myths were created and falsehoods were systematically spread.
In this backdrop, rise of the RSS, the BJP and hundreds of its sister outfits needs to be seen and comprehended. While the BJP government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could not enforce its agenda since it had to function under constraints of the coalition politics. Moreover, the persona of Vajpayee was shaped during the country's freedom struggle and this too acted as a restraint. Still a progress was made however small it was.
Ten years of the Congress-led UPA government from 2004 to 2014 created a fertile ground for the return of the BJP. People, looking for a change, were promised a dream world of fast trains, smart cities, millions of jobs and higher standards of living for the poor as well as the middle class by none other than the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who had created an ideal state that could work as a model for others.
However, as real problems of unemployment, decent housing, education and health could not be solved, only way to retain political power is to polarize the society to reap the political benefits by consolidating Hindu votes. This is what is happening in the ongoing assembly election in Gujarat. The ruling party is fanning the imaginary fears of Muslims among the Hindu majority.
Where will it take the country in coming months is a question that no one seems to know the answer. Former US President Barack Obama seems to understand but those in power are apparently looking the other side allowing the disease to grow.
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.



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