If there is one word that occupies headlines in India nowadays, it is intolerance. Every newspaper and news channel is debating about the rising menace of intolerance. The killings of popular literary figures such as MM Kalburgi and Gouri Lankesh by extremist groups have disturbed sensible persons across India. More than forty writers, poets, and essayists have returned their literary prizes and many protest meetings have been held. Intolerance is an unacceptable situation for many people who accept the views, beliefs or behaviour which differ from their own. It may give rise to the high level of hate crimes and discrimination in society. It does not allow people to live with equality, non-discrimination, freedom or other social rights. Intolerance in society generally arises due to caste, culture, gender, religion or any practice which is unbearable to them. Freedom of expression will continue to remain under siege unless all groups accept that people can have different opinions and beliefs in a free country.
India is facing a growth of intolerance and religious fundamentalism which has taken place in recent years. Politics surely has a role to play in this, as it promotes intolerance. It will lead to chaos and the breakdown of the constitutional machinery.
Our Indian tradition teaches us tolerance, our philosophy preaches tolerance and our Constitution speaks of tolerance. We cannot dilute it. Regrettably, over the years, tolerance has been replaced by the rising menace of intolerance, which strikes at various areas of human creativity such as essay writing, music, drama, painting, movies etc.
Intolerance stems from the invincible assumption of the infallibility of one’s belief and dogmatic conviction about their correctness. An intolerant society cannot tolerate expression of ideas and views which challenge its current doctrines and conventional beliefs. One criterion to determine whether a country is truly tolerant is the extent of dissent permitted. A tolerant or free country is one where people can have different opinions and beliefs and have equal rights in voicing them without fear of legal penalties or social sanctions.
Tolerance is considered as a good quality in a man and it is absolutely necessary for peace in society, whereas intolerance leads a person, people or society to disaster. People quarrel with each other as they cannot tolerate each other’s behavior, beliefs and practices. Intolerant people become unable to take a correct decision about someone’s views or activities just because of intolerance of a different view or activity.
Intolerance is a dangerous and unacceptable quality which should be prevented from growing. It destroys the growing power of any county by instigating racial violence. Intolerance is of various types: religious, social and personal. Religious intolerance occurs when people of one religion do not allow others to follow the traditional customs and beliefs of theirs and always try to subjugate them. Religious intolerance divides the nation in the name of different religions. But India has no official religion; we belong to a secular democratic country.
Today we have reached a stage where expression of a different point of view is viewed with resentment and hostility and there are vociferous demands for banning these views. The banning itch has become infectious. Sikhs are offended by certain words in the title of a movie; Christians want the movie ‘The Vinci Code’ banned because they find some portions hurtful. The ban on this movie was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The prestigious Bhandarkar Institute at Pune, where Jame Laine had done some research, was vandalized. That was mobocracy (rule, domination and vandalism by mob, a large group of people or masses) in action. The exhibition of MF Hussain’s paintings was stopped by intimidation followed by vandalism of the premises. The exhibition ‘The Naked and the Nude’ at the Art Gallery in Delhi was threatened with dire consequences because it was considered obscene by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Women’s Wing. The musical performance by a teenage girl rock band in Kashmir was coerced into silence because the music was considered un-Islamic by a popular religious leader. Fortunately, our Supreme Court has been a valiant defender of freedom of expression. The well known actor Khushboo faced several criminal prosecutions on account of her remarks on premarital sex and its prevalence in metro city which were considered against the dignity of Tamil women and allegedly ruined the culture and morality of the people of Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court quashed the criminal proceeding on the ground that “under our constitutional scheme, different views are allowed to be expressed by the proponents and opponents. Morality and criminality are far from being coextensive. An expression of opinion in favour of non-dogmatic and non-conventional morality has to be tolerated and the same cannot be a ground to penalise the author.”
Violent protests over Padmavat, a Bollywood epic, reflect the still prevalent intolerance in Indian society. Tolerance is an essential quality for a painless life. On the other hand, intolerance separates people living in society and it acts as a divider of the nation. It creates disrespect and enmity between people. Intolerance at a personal level is considered the main cause for murder, rape, divorce etc. It creates conditions of dislike, refusal and quarrelling among people. Sometimes it creates a social distance between different people.
Today media plays an important role in increasing public awareness and knowledge regarding all social issues. Social issues include many topics such as like poverty, violence, corruption, bribery, suppression of human rights, rape, discrimination and killing in the name of honor. Today TV, newspapers, radio, internet etc help us to understand the realities of life and make us aware of all social issues without any hindrance. Media must play its role properly to maintain tolerance in society. Sometimes incorrect information creates confusion and anxiety among people. Thus, it is the duty of media to convey the proper news to its audience. It should select positive images to promote tolerance, understanding and cultural sensitivity.
India is a democratic and developing country, where the habit of tolerance develops through the guidance of its elders. Education also plays a significant role. Education is the best way to promote tolerance and peaceful co-existence in society. Student should be given a tolerant atmosphere in school, so that they can respect different cultures and understand them. Government should take necessary steps to provide a healthy social environment for all. Intolerance should be tackled carefully. A healthy social atmosphere makes the citizens of a country confident and happy. Controlling the rising intolerance in our society can save the soul of India.
Javed Akhtar, in one of his remarks in 2016, said, “There are people who say intolerance has risen to a dangerous level in society, I don’t believe it. There are people who say there is no intolerance in society. I don’t believe them either.” He further added, “The fact lies somewhere in between. The fact is that Indian society is and was always intolerant. There are certain segments of society – they are always at war.” Therefore, we can say that there is a need to change the perspective of these extremist people to have peace in society.