Cautionary Warning: This article is NOT meant to change/sway/form your opinion. It is merely an attempt to direct the present intolerance discourse to another set of important issues, the ones that actually need to be in focus. If you plan to to troll/’unlike’/use foul language, in the comments below, in the name of ‘patriotism’, we plead you not to read further.
If someone was keeping a tab about what the Indians have been talking about in the last one month, the word ‘intolerance’ would probably appear at the top of the list. The debate about the decreasing levels of tolerance had been gaining momemtum for quite a few months, but the incident of an unruly mob sending a man to gallows on the allegation of him consuming beef accelerated the issue.
With writers returning their awards, top politicians denying that the change in the government at centre had anything to do with it, and students’ protests having made news all year, the issue of ‘intolerance’ got another booster shot when ShahRukh Khan tweeted about secularism on his birthday, only to be followed up by Aamir Khan talking about giving thought to leaving the country. More lately, several Congress politicians have intensified attacks on the BJP government, regarding intolerance, and only recently did Home Minister Rajnath Singh jump to the defense of his government. In the scope of this article, Edunuts tries to delve a step back, and realise the issue from, a different perspective, and highlight thoughts which are probably lost in this debate, which has taken a political and religious life of its own.
Intolerance as a concept is neither new nor surprising. In fact it is an innate part of human nature. Any behaviour which seems different from that of the self is considered a ‘threat’, for that is how the human mind is wired. Every historical development, and the course of evolution of the human mind and consciousness, can probably be underpinned to the concept of intolerance, for it is, and has been, responsible for wars, conflict, and disruptions, which ultimately shaped who we are today.
Make no mistake, intolerance, in its essence has been omnipresent in the history and even contemporary times, be it in the eastern or western nations, just the form or expression has changed. For what is intolerance? Dictionary defines it as an ‘unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one’s own.’ This unwillingness, and resistance to this unwillingness, has given rise to countries, states, revolutions, and even changed the global power dynamics in the last century.
Hence, to say that this is an issue that plagues ‘underdeveloped’ countries like India is a flawed argument. Intolerance, in its earliest forms was religious in nature, and religion has played, and continues to play an integral role in how people and the society think and form opinions, but today has become equally political, and cultural in nature. Nationally, though the minority has been safeguarded by the constitution, the majority has almost always tried to prevail their sense of understanding onto others. Social concepts, like the caste system, patriarchy and gender disparity also boil down to the concept of intolerance, and have been unanimously identified as one of the biggest reasons for the lack of social security and development in India since before the Independence.
Up until now, the answer to this so-called problem of ‘intolerance’ has been pretty straight-forward: get people educated, and they will know the right from wrong. But after 60 years of independence, if a mob kills a man, accusing him of eating a certain food product, there is an urgent need to question the intent, purpose and message of the education that is being transferred. Just glance through your facebook timelines, or twitter handle, and you will see an army of dedicated ‘supporters’, defending such acts of atrocities, and worse still, propagating an agenda via a meta-narrative, without even realising it in the tiniest bit.
The reference here is not the supposedly ‘naive’ and ‘gullible’ citizens of the country, who fill in the vote banks, and change their opinions on the drop of the hat, (for they probably don’t even have facebook accounts) but the formally educated workforce of the country, working in metros, yet incapable of differentiating facts from opinion. The fact that people are willing to draw blood on a remark shared by a movie-star, and ready to uninstall the application of the organization that he endorses, and proudly wear a band of ‘patriotism’, yet drive by the person who has met with an accident on the road, or fail to stand up when a woman is being harassed or a child is molested, is a serious indicator about the way people have prioritized issues and how they understand what entails ‘Intolerance’.
On one hand, the citizens of this nation blame people for soiling the image of India internationally by making such remakes, but then go onto pee and litter on the roads, fleece the tourists, disobey traffic rules, bribe their way through any official procedure, refuse to wait for their turn in a queue, because this obviously doesn’t count. This convenient choice to display their affection to the country reflects the flawed notion of what comprises India in the minds of a regular citizen of the country. This notion has been consciously built by a handful of people, and has been indisputably accepted by the rest. Ironically, Indian law penalises members of the LGTBQA community, and they are almost unanimously socially ostracised, yet transgendered men are called for their ‘blessings’ on weddings and ‘child-birth’. This mirrors the hypocritical double standards of the people.
The fact that India is one of the countries that watches maximum porn online (mind you only about 25% of the nation is connected to the internet as of today), yet, censors the lip-lock scenes in the latest James Bond movie point to an issue much much greater than what the term ‘intolerance’ can even fathom to encompass. The problem is not how people think, but what and how they are made to think. This control over the minds and thoughts of people goes way beyond politics, religion and culture, and is exercised by the medium of education and media and entertainment.
The truth is that education, assumed to be a blanket solution to all these problems has failed in even realising and addressing this issue. The current education pattern makes one ‘employable’ that too, if one is lucky, and not ‘educated’ or ‘literate’ in its truest sense. The sad part of this reality is that, this is not an unintentional fallout. Politics, religion and even culture to an extent has ensured that people think along certain lines, view particular issues in a pre-defined light to suit the requirements of a handful of people, yes, the very same who built the idea of what India is.
As a result, big and fancy words like ‘empowerment’, ‘information’, ‘development’, and ‘progress’ will remain words, and time and again be used to fill election manifestos. One needs to realise that this debate goes way beyond India, RSS, Hindutva, Dadri, Aamir Khan, and Pakistan. It actually resurfaces the age old question of humanity, acceptance, compassion and equality, or the lack of all these. Education by its virtue is the process of facilitating learning knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits, however, has been reduced to a process of generation clones, with the same skill set, and same set of notions and ideas, which is the root cause of the issue of ‘intolerance’. Education in its truest sense, will remove the obstacle of intolerance, as it teaches one to be accepting of contrasting beliefs and views, and celebrate diversity.
However, as history stands a witness, even the most brilliant men, with a voice of dissent, have been silenced by the church, the king, the state, the executive, in that chronological order. We as a country, and even as a civilisation are headed into an unstable era of uncertainty, where intolerance will be talked about to death (pun unintended) on primetime news and with time we will become so immune to it, that we’d choose to ignore it, until the lightning strikes home.
To prevent this subtle transformation of the concept of India, and humanity, there is no masterclass that can be undertaken; there is no article that can be read, or no video that can be watched. The day YOU decide to form an opinion of your own, based on facts, and NOT on the opinions of the what is told to you, is the day that ‘intolerance’ will take a setback.
We at Edunuts feel, that we are at the cusp of a change, where the country is seen as a serious leader in the world today, but how we choose to use this opportunity of change is detrimental to the outcome. We can choose to learn from the mistakes that have been made for centuries, or continue to be the same old self, and then be surprised at the predicted outcome.