On Monday, President Prab Mukherjee articulated a major issue that is beginning to be of legitimate concern to the entire tion. He expressed serious apprehensions over whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are on the wane in the country. “Humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstances. Assimilation through receiving is a characteristic of the Indian society. Our collective strength must be harnessed to resist evil powers of the society,” the President said. Though one wishes that President Prab Mukherjee was a little more specific in what he wanted to put across, there is no gainsaying that in several recent acts of violence, whether relating to food habits or modes of expression or the treatment of divergent views on foreign policy, we have encountered increasing levels of intolerance. The killing of M.M.Kulburgi in Kartaka, of Mohammad Akhlaque near Dadri or the painting of Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face black for arranging the launch of the book by a former Pakistani diplomat are tokens of gross intolerance that run counter to the age-old traditions of tolerance and catholicity that have been the hallmarks of the Indian ethos. And the total failure of the Prime Minister to condemn such acts of intolerance in the strongest of terms has somehow given people the impression that such acts of intolerance will be countenced by the establishment as long as they are not directed at the majority community. This is the kind of image that we cannot afford to project considering that the people of India chose to create a secular democratic republic rather than creating a theocratic state as two of our neighbours have done. In fact, the intertiol community would have had no reasons to blame India if it had chosen to become a Hindu State after independence. After all, the painful and gratuitous partition of the country in 1947 was on the basis of religion. And had India decided to become a theocratic State after having granted to the Muslims what they had aspired for, there would have been no reasons to blame our leaders. But our very ethos has been one of acceptance, tolerance and generosity over the centuries. There could be no valid reason to change our mindsets, our thinking and our culture just because the demands of a handful of Muslim leaders led by Mohammed Ali Jinh had been conceded with the partition of India. In any case, even today we have the second largest Muslim population in the world and a Muslim population that exceeds the total population of Pakistan. As such, the concern of President Prab Mukherjee relating to the climate of growing intolerance in the country is a very legitimate concern. And he also has a valid point in our having to harness our collective strength in order to resist the evil powers of society. This is because experience has taught him (as it has taught most of us) that it is the evil powers of society that have a way of combining, consolidating and of remaining together much better than good people. Over the ages, evil forces in any society have demonstrated their ability to thwart the forces of good largely because of their capacity for consolidating and staying together with far greater tecity. It is time we changed the accepted pattern by good citizens coming together and deciding to stay together to counter all evil forces that threaten collective actions and institutions that threaten our cherished values. After all, in the ultimate alysis, all unfortute aberrations of society represent a failure to uphold and sustain the best elements of our value system.
A Valid tiol Concern