In Conflict with Ourselves – in the Kingdom of Intolerance

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The US president Barack Obama speaks of the growing incidents of religious intolerance in India. He has done it in India during his recent visit to the country; and he did it again, though more explicitly, after his return. India persists in his thought and focus.

Religious intolerance is not new. America has experienced it considerably, and has also instigated it indirectly elsewhere. But then, all in the name of peace and democracy, or covertly, oil and economy. American President perhaps knows his self-conflicting predicaments; but wonders how India, a soft power, embracing secularism through an unwavering commitment of its founding fathers, could slip into intolerance.

He is right indeed. India of Mahatma Gandhi cannot. Any such incident must be termed as an exception. If you get many such incidents, you can still increase the number of statements of contempt, and the incidents still can be called exceptions. That is how the later practitioners of secularism understood the term.

India is well on the road of prosperity even if it may result in a glaring division of prosperous and poor. India is well ahead of many others as a flourishing democracy even if it may end up in corrupting the very premise of creative freedom and respect to alternate views. But then, do not lecture us. We have many in government and outside with better understanding of our society and the path we take.

We can have AIB comedy show practising insult comedy. It is uninteresting and repetitive, blatantly promoting the humdrum stars of Bollywood. It has people declaring themselves as cosmopolitan, liberal and freedom-seeking individuals. It also has a big following among predominantly diabetic population, largely being exposed to the outer world through electronic media and web. On the other hand, we have saffron brigades – our moral police contingents. They would want that no foul language is spoken in comedy shows while they would love to practise insult comedy within temple premises in the presence of women and children.

We are now intolerant. It is a reality in India – like anywhere around the globe. We are in the kingdom of intolerance – abound with dogmatic commitments to our past and hypnotic views of the future.

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