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'Intolerant India': Is criticism against Modi's BJP justified?

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My recent trip to India has given me some new insight to India and Indians.
Following is an excerpt from an article in BBC by Soutik Biswas.
However, many insist that India has suddenly not become intolerant under the Narendra Modi-led BJP government.

Books and films have been banned for as long as we can remember. Writers and artists have been hounded and threatened by political parties and groups across the country.
And as commentator Mukul Kesavan says, the main opposition Congress party does not exactly have a stellar record in defending liberal values.

So is India seeing a new form of intolerance driven by majoritarian politics? Or, as analyst TN Ninan says, some of the intolerance is related to the "social churn linked to modernisation" of a complex nation?
Sanjay Subrahmanyam, who teaches in the US and France, is one of India's most distinguished and provocative historians and biographers. I spoke to him on whether he thought India had become intolerant under Mr Modi's watch.
Intolerance in India is not a new thing. So why are we suddenly so outraged and worried about what has been happening after the BJP government came to power last year?

However, it seems that the concerns stem from the fact that the BJP has such a massive majority in parliament, which may seem an occasion for them to impose their agenda in a way they could not in the period 1998-2004 [when the party was previously in power].
People would be less concerned if this was a coalition government.

Further, the current federal government speaks consistently with (at least) two voices.
One is more reasonable, reassuring and tolerant; the other more strident and aggressive.
This ingrained, almost structural, duplicity is being constantly refined as a strategy of "good cop, bad cop". It would seem natural to worry that this will become a pattern for the five years of this government.

It is true that "liberal values" have always been fragile in independent India. The BJP is not alone in the matter of attacking them. Few parties actually incarnate any real political liberalism.
But should that make the BJP immune to criticism?

If I am being robbed by two pickpockets, is that any consolation? If the only criticism of the current political climate was politically motivated, and came from political parties with a murky past of their own (like the Congress), it would not be so much of an issue.
But it comes from many members of civil society who feel threatened, and when they protest in a non-violent way, they are told brutally to leave the country and go elsewhere. That is the crude language of majoritarianism. It is being felt in many institutions. My friends in the universities are also feeling it more and more.

Modi insists in clear cut terms asks Congress to be tolerant.
When we rule be tolerant; when you rule again be tolerant.
I think to a large extent it is not justified. It is an extremely difficult balancing act to create social harmony and it stumps the best of minds. Let us give Modi much more time. At least he has not done anything grossly wrong.
Modi insists in clear cut terms asks Congress to be tolerant.
When we rule be tolerant; when you rule again be tolerant.
From the past actions for BJP the mantra has been:
When I rule shut your mouth, when you rule I will not let you rule.
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[h=1]Ban The Bans: Is India Becoming An Intolerant Nation?[/h]First they stopped you from watching a documentary on Delhi rape case on TV, then they barred you from eating beef in Maharashtra. India's list of banned items keeps getting longer and some are so ridiculous that you will think the country has turned the clock back by a century or more.

A state that believes it has the right to circumscribe individual freedoms - from what we eat, what we see to what we make fun of - shows the rise of an increasingly intolerant nation which decides for us what is acceptable and not. This not just threatens the idea of a liberal democracy, it has economic consequences too - banning meat, for instance, is a blow to those who earn their livelihood selling it.

Most importantly, once we start conceding that individual freedom can be set aside on superficial grounds, we are on a slippery slope and we at Times of India fear that we are already there. This has to change. Join the Times Campaign to "ban the bans". Let the govt know what you think about its trampling on individual freedom.­

The majority has the power, but BJP and Modi and their chamchas are getting drunk on power. There was a time in the past when the majority set the tone of moderation. In the developed countries the leaders of all parties in power show tolerance.


Power hungry will perish like Bhasmasuran.
[h=1]Shades of grey: How India is both a tolerant and an intolerant society[/h]
Back in August, I read a heart-warming piece by a Jewish Indian named Nathaniel Jhirad that celebrated India’s ecumenism and religious diversity. Recalling the chant of his synagogue’s hazan being followed immediately by a similar sounding azaan issuing from a nearby mosque, Jhirad wrote, “This is what it means to me to be Jewish in India: The idea that multiple faiths can peacefully intermingle not only doesn’t shock us, as it does for some in the West ‒ it’s actually taken for granted."

The comments on the essay from non-Indians ranged from sceptical to scathing. Responders wrote the piece was extraordinarily naïve, ignoring India’s history of sectarian violence and caste oppression. They didn’t attack the writer personally in the manner now ubiquitous on Indian websites, but provided coherent arguments and solid data to back up their contentions. To deny them would have been to whitewash India’s history, but even as I accepted their point of view, I didn’t feel it undermined Jhirad’s experience of Indian traditions of tolerance and mutual respect. After all, I had myself experienced those traditions, and taken them for granted till I moved to a nation that did not share them, England. This is not to say I found England an intolerant society. On the contrary it was in most ways far more tolerant than India. But its tolerance had a very different texture, seeming like something learned gradually, with difficulty but also determination, while India appeared from a distance like a society where tolerance had grown organically, and has a far longer history, and was more deep rooted for that reason.

While India’s tolerance was deeper, though, it was not as wide as England’s, for it was based on a respect for religious rights and customary rights but did not extend to any modern conception of individual rights as a whole. To illustrate what I mean, think of the incident a few months ago where the Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare, dissatisfied with the food served in Delhi’s Maharashtra Sadan, acted in the manner typical of a Shiv Sainik, stuffing a chapatti in the mouth of a catering supervisor. The man happened to be Muslim, and happened to be fasting for Ramzan. The offence, captured on a cell phone video, was momentary, and appeared so even when looped in slow motion on news channels, but Vichare found few defenders even among Hindutvavadis, for he had transgressed against a religious taboo respected even by those who didn’t share it. The same regard for religious and customary rights makes Indians wary of European laws that restrict the wearing of turbans and burkhas. At the same time, far more serious violations of human rights and Indian law, such as the torture that we all know is routine in police stations across the country and often directed at innocents, do not evoke anger or elicit any protest from the population at large.

Perhaps those who are worried about intolerance (and I count myself among them) are exaggerating the danger, but the viewpoint deserves more open-minded consideration than it has received. For one thing, admirable though our tradition of religious tolerance is, it has never extended to a respect for human rights as a whole, or for the rule of law, which ought to be the aim of any modern nation. Moreover, there is a parallel tradition of abuse, especially casteist abuse, that needs to be incorporated into any complete picture of our society.

Secondly, If Congress-led governments have been pusillanimous and inconsistent in protecting rights, we now have for the first time an administration that is openly contemptuous of them and intent on stifling dissent by branding it anti-national. Third, India is a rare but not unique case in its tradition of organic tolerance. Across Asia in particular, we find numerous examples of communities living together through some form of amicable compromise that stops short of a liberal recognition of individual rights. We also find examples of those traditions coming to an end, often a violent one, under the pressure of nation-states defining themselves in narrow religious, ethnic, or linguistic terms that fail to capture their historic diversity. Pakistan is the most obvious example of that unfortunate trend.

Most likely, the Modi era will pass without tweezing out the inter-communal respect that is woven into the fabric of Indian society. We certainly will not witness a move from our organic respect for religious customs to a wider comprehension of human rights. Considering how quickly stable societies have been known to spiral into sectarian chaos, though, it’s sensible to err in exaggerating threats to freedom rather than staying complacent for too long about the resilience of our traditions of tolerance.
[h=1]Education, job satisfaction key to ensure tolerance: Ratan Tata[/h]
Stating that Indians have always lived in harmony, top industry leader Ratan Tata on Sunday said education and job satisfaction will help weed out the growing instances of intolerance.“Education, job satisfaction are issues that will help reduce or eliminate intolerance because it will be replaced by knowledge," Tata told reporters here after announcing a tie-up with US-based online education non-profit Khan Academy.
“Our country has lived in harmony...we've to work together, we've to live together and continue do so, and not contribute to the intolerance that is growing in the world around us," the former Chairman of Tata Group said.
The killing of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri over suspicion of eating beef in September, murders of rationalists like M M Kalburgi and other instances where voices have been stifled has led to a national debate on whether the levels of tolerance are going down in the country.
Tata, who now heads the Tata Trusts, however refused to formally join the debate, which has already seen the likes of President Pranab Mukherjee, Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, Infosys founder N Narayana Murthy and Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, among others voicing their reservations.
It also led to protests by filmmakers, writers and intelligentsia, who returned their state honours. "I don't want to get into the issue of intolerance asbeing voiced on TV in India at the present moment," Tata said.
Khan Academy's chief executive Salman Khan, who has his roots in the country, also said that education will be the key in ensuring that intolerance does not grow. "Education will be a source of tolerance; the more students get educated, the more students have access to tap into their potential...I think a lot of intolerance comes out of economic frustration," he said.
Khan said that India has always shown itself to be a “deeply tolerant place", but acknowledged that all the countries have their own "rough spots". Citing conversations with his mother, who grew up in India, Khan said that India has always celebrated its pluralism and tolerance.
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