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The climate of intolerance and its side effects

, November 8, 2015, 0 Comments

intolerance-side-effects-marketexpress-inA lot has been talked about and written on this subject in recent days. A fear psychosis has gripped the nation and its intellectuals. There is a growing apprehension that intellectuals are losing the freedom to express their views. So a large group of eminent writers started a protest by returning the awards they had won for their literary contributions. Joining the protest was filmmakers, scientists, artists, historians and so on.

The Finance Minister added fuel to fire by criticizing these protests by saying these were manufactured protests. Such a criticism coming from the nation’s Finance Minister was very insulting to the eminent intellectuals who had expressed their protests. The Prime Minister continued to maintain his silence as if nothing of importance was going on.

Instead of criticizing the intellectuals who protested, the government of the day should have risen to the occasion, taken note of the fact that all is not well and promised remedial action. But nothing of the sort happened. We cannot overlook the fact that today we have an insensitive government that does not tolerate criticism and dissent.

There has been a lot of controversy relating to the consumption of beef in the country. Though the law in this regard is not uniform all over the country, in general, there is an   understanding that consumption of buffalo meat is not prohibited while the same cannot be said of cow meat, consumption of which is legal only in certain states. Matters took an unfortunate turn when a certain individual was actually assassinated by a mob on the mistaken apprehension that he is preparing to consume beef.

This incident of killing was seen as an example of the atmosphere of growing intolerance in the country. The sad part of the episode was that certain elements of the population who had affiliations with the ruling party at the centre proceeded to see the issue as one where the perpetrators of the crime were to be shown leniency in the matter of criminal investigations.

While I was about to write this article I listened to the news that an eminent historian had made a comparison between the RSS and ISIS. This can be seen as a reaction of the intellectual class in the country to the response of the government to protests by people of eminence. There was also a statement from the Union Home Minister that people who protest should give suggestions on how to tackle the problem. In what follows, we outline a few measures the central government can take in order to deal with the problem:

The Prime Minister should make a strong and uncompromising statement condemning fringe element making hate speeches and acting is such a way as to cause disturbance in the law and order situation.

The Minister of Culture at the centre had become a controversial personality and invited condemnation from many in the intelligentsia. He should be shifted and allotted a different portfolio.

Action should be taken against people holding positions of responsibility and also fringe elements indulging in hate speeches causing disturbance and law and order problems.

The government should enter into a dialogue with eminent people who vented their protest against growing intolerance in the country by returning awards and other means.

The government should acknowledge the fact that some things have gone wrong and take remedial action in the matter.

The government should strive to remove apprehensions on the side of intellectuals that there is a threat to freedom of speech and expression. The government should provide an assurance to the intelligentsia that they can live and work in this country without fear of being intimidated or being subject to physical attacks.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of MarketExpress – India’s first Global  Analysis & Sharing Platform or the organization(s) that the author represents in his personal capacity.