Tolerating ‘Intolerance’

Protests by many figures of the literary and cultural world to the frightening intolerance displayed by the Hindutva soldiers of various hues, and Narendra Modi's open tolerance of this 'intolerance' have clearly revealed that as the emptiness of the promises of Modi before the last Lok Sabha polls gets increasingly exposed, it has been more and more compelling for him and his party to rely on communal polarisation. For the game of polarisation on communal lines to succeed, a well-concerted Goebbles-type campaign is an urgent necessity. False propaganda on the rise in the number of Muslim population is one aspect of the ongoing campaign. The drive to instill a fear-psychosis among the people about the possibility of Muslim domination in the near future has so far met with some success, because in this country, a considerable section of the people always love to believe what they were told on the Muslims, although facts tell that the rate of growth of Muslims population has slowed down in recent years. Again, any rational person should understand that if the secular fabric of the polity is effectively maintained, there is no reason to be afraid of a withering away of the Hindu majority. But rationalism is as yet far from being the dominant pattern of thought in articulated public opinion.

Again, there is the Pakistan issue. The two countries, ever since the birth of Pakistan, have not been able to build up a steady, tension-free relation. The consequence has been a disproportionate military expenditure by both countries. The point of contention remains, as before, Kashmir. It is interesting that one section of Indian literate opinion has consistently opposed a plebiscite on the alleged ground that should such a plebiscite take place, Kashmir would go over to Pakistan and hence Kashmiris should be coerced into remaining in India. The fact that there is a strong current of opinion in Kashmir, including Pak-occupied Kashmir, in favour of a unified, independent Kashmir is deliberately ignored. Again, newspaper reports on the violations by the Pakistani troops of the cease-fire have intensified the feeling among many that Pakistan should be 'taught a lesson'. 'Teaching Pakistan a lesson' sometimes serves as a rallying cry, and in the past, India’s parliamentary leftists too often added fuel to the fire. But right now, although the game continues to be played, it is stopping short of a full-scale war between the two countries. One possible reason is that Pakistan has also acquired nuclear capability and there is the real possibility that an Indo-Pak war may escalate into a nuclear war. The Pokhran blast that took place during the period of Vajpayee's premiership succeeded only in provoking a similar blast by Pakistan. Ironically, the then General Secretary of the CPI (M), Mr Harkishen Singh Surajit, congratulated Indian scientists on their success.

What seems to be noteworthy in the current political drama is the hypocrisy displayed by the two major political parties on the atmosphere of intolerance and communal polarisation. For example Narendra Modi, as a face-saving device, has attacked the Congress by referring to the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The Congress has responded by accusing Modi of unnecessarily raking up the memories of an episode that took place 31 years ago. Both sides have found it convenient not to mention that in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the massacre of Sikhs, the RSS exhorted the Indian electorate to vote for the Congress (I) in the Lok Sabha polls of December 1984. The RSS organ spoke of the demise of the BJP and its resurrection as the Congress (I). The Lok Sabha polls were held when the country was drenched in innocent Sikh blood and Congress (I), backed by the RSS, quite expectedly, won by a thumping majority. These events are now parts of history, but they left a scar that is yet to be healed. But the  forces of communal fascism will be defeated in the upshot. Protests and return of awards are definitely good auguries in this regard.

Vol. 48, No. 20, Nov 22 - 28, 2015