One resilient and recurring word that was used in abundance in the past year was ‘intolerance’. Be it electronic media or newspapers, and it occupied headlines in all of them. It was trending on social media and also was a topic of debate in the parliament.
If we take a look-back, these are some of those many instances that fueled the buzz on intolerance.
It probably started when the Government banned beef in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jammu, and Kashmir, which was a supposed move by the government to bring an anti-cow slaughter law. Many radical groups took it upon themselves to implement the ban. A 50-year-old man, Mohammad Akhlaq, was beaten to death, and his 22-year-old son was severely injured in UP’s Dadri over rumors that the family had consumed beef.
Dr. M M Kalburgi, the renowned Kannada writer, research scholar, and rationalist, was shot dead allegedly by extremist groups for his views on idol worship and Hindu rituals. The assassination sparked widespread protests across Karnataka and eventually turned into the most widespread collective revolt by the literary and liberal sections of the country against the government. More than forty writers, poets, and essayists returned their literary prizes to protest against the country’s rising intolerance.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of the Observer Research Foundation, suffered an ink attack by members of the Shiv Sena ahead of the launch of ‘Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Relations’ authored by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. Shiv Sena even got the concert of Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali canceled. It is noteworthy that to avoid any potential problems, the BCCI didn’t schedule any match involving Pakistan during next year’s ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Maharashtra.
When our Bollywood superstars like Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan commented on intolerance, they faced many backfires. Those backfires came not only from fringe groups but also from politicians and Bollywood actors and actresses. Social media went abuzz with trolls and memes. Both were asked to leave the country and move to Pakistan. The movie ‘Dilwale’ also faced many protests over Shahrukh khan’s comments on religious intolerance.
These were some of the incidents that led to the tolerance-intolerance debate in our country. But will it be fair to call the country intolerant in the wake of some of the unfortunate incidents in some parts of the country last year? Is it true that this intolerance wave was a result of our media being too negative? Or was it politically motivated? Have we, as Indians, forgotten to recognize our strengths, our achievements? Is it true that our country is becoming noisier and insensitive instead?
We as responsible citizens shall question ourselves, and we should not forget that no matter what, ‘Unity in Diversity’ has been the distinctive feature of our country.