Sunday, 23 January 2022

Is India Becoming Intolerant ?


Our country defined as ‘secular’ in the Preamble is shockingly and increasingly moving towards severe religious intolerance. India is witnessing tensed times. The mounting incidents of rape, the non-stopping poverty, the everlasting inequality, the shameless corruption are only a few ongoing problems. There is one more problem that has slowed down a bit in early times as it has frequently been done throughout the nation’s history – Religious intolerance.

Religious Intolerance or intolerance towards other’s religious belief or practices has been a disease that we have been living with from time immemorial. To be more specific, it has been an affliction for India since the dawn of 20th century, and more so since the time of partition riots that accompanied the split of India-Pakistan. The incidents of violence and rioting have only increased from then onwards. It left some deep cuts and wounds. In 1984, Anti-Sikh riots, 2002 Anti-Muslim Riots and 2008 Anti-Christian Riots were the most notable instances.

While this undercurrent of intolerance has always stayed, it’s converted into a giant, untameable, nasty hurricane a lot of times. India is a land that gave birth to 4 religions and enshrined both secularism and free speech in its Constitution, was having a curious debate on: “Has the world’s biggest democracy become an intolerant nation?”

Religious Intolerance and Harassing Writers  

Intolerance is a serious issue with import ramifications both social and economic. The debate has started out of two separate disturbing trends. The first is murders of Indian writers. Back in August 2015, the Kannada Language scholar M.M Kalburgi was gunned down by a visitor to his residence. Kalburgi was a popular critic of idol-worshipping, a practice adopted by many Hindus. Kalburgi’s demise followed the murder of a Communist Leader in February, as well as the 2013 killing of a write who committed to bust superstitions. 

The second trend is increasingly violent reaction to Indians who eat beef. In September, a two-hour drive from New Delhi, a Muslim was beaten to death by Hindu neighbours. There was an announcement that was made at the Hindu Local Temple and from there on, emotions flared, a mob formed, and the Muslim target was identified. This horrific act turned into international news. For next two weeks, two more Muslim men were attacked. One was attacked on the rumour that he was reporting beef, the other was attacked for allegedly smuggling cows.

All this became a non-mature. Unfree, and closed society. A secular democratic, republic like ours should be ahead in promoting the increase of new and alternative thoughts and ideas. But the scenario we were dealing instead was where artists were not allowed to freely express their views and are rather unfortunately being harassed for it. As long as religion continues to be taboo subject in India. Our country will have a lot to become a mature society.

The response for the entire nation included an increasing chorus of anger which was on the government. Number of writers have given back their prestigious Akademi Awards to protest a lack of action. Even India’s central bank governor. Raghuram Rajan, made a rare foray into non-economic matters by calling for mutual respect and tolerance in public discussion.

Murders aside bans of the artist’s works have become a regular feature in our country. MF Hussain popularly called as Indian Picasso, was famously threatened and harassed by Hindu fundamentalists frustrated on his paintings and nude gods. He had no options left and hence left the country in form of self-imposed separation and unfortunately never got a chance to fulfil his desire of returning back to India even for only a short while. Many such instances have taken place over the years. 

The painful assessment for our Prime Minister Narendra Modi came from an analyst saying that the nation and Modi could “risk losing domestic as well as global credibility” if any further action was taken. In January 2015, a popular well-known Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan announced on his Facebook handle that he was giving up his writing work because of the protests against his novel Madhorubhagan, which Hindy and local caste-based groups believed denigrated Hindu gods and women.

Forceful Religious Conversions

Towards the end of 2014, Parliament’s regular legislative business was constantly disrupted over the attempt of Hindu groups to convert into Christianity and Islam. These shocking attempts were being made by Hindu groups who wished and continue to wish to convert India’s secular democracy into a Hindu country. The forced conversions were accelerated by intimidation and bribery. All this took place in Agra, Gujarat and Kerala. During the same time, attacks on other religious and their respected places of worship were also illuminated.

Petty Outrage in the Name of Religion

There are some more cases which were comparatively minor but are equally important are of same kind happened in Bangalore. An Australian student, who has a tattoo of goddess on his shin was harassed by a mob. He was taken to the local police station and he was forced to write a letter of apology for having such a tattoo imprinted on his skin. That mob threatened to skin him if he did not get rid of that tattoo. Because, it offended their religious belief. The sad part was however that was the police sided with the mod instead of resolving the situation in a fair manner. 

Some Are Fighting Back with Love and Harmony

The protests made by artisans, academicians, and film makers in this highly aggravated atmosphere has been really inspiring. They have proved everyone the true meaning of peaceful protest by giving their Akademi Awards back and petitioning the President. Bu what was more shocking to see was that even common people are taking small but very crucial steps to prevent this culture of intolerance. Number of people all across the country are coming out in the open and performing small acts that set examples of communal harmony.

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