I am a liberal Hindu. In my view the essence of all religions is service to humanity. Mutual hatred and violence, whatever among different religious communities, is due to the designs and distortions hatched by political crooks and their intellectual-bureaucratic accomplices. This inclines me to condemning all lunatics within my own religious community who have recently behaved like their counterparts in other faiths to create friction in Indian society . I strongly feel the current dispensation in New Delhi must hear those scientists, filmmakers, artists, writers and historians, who have felt disturbed over the growing incidents of intolerance-based violence in India and censured the government for its ‘failure ’ in combating the evil .
Portraying the current scenario of intolerance in the country, eminent historian Romila Thapar said in an interview ( http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/our-society-now-openly-displays-its-prejudices/article7792985.ece) , “The moment I make even a brief critical comment about the ancient past, immediately abusive emails start pouring in from the expected quarters. The right to discuss and dissent is objected to. Writers are being threatened with violence.”
Last Sunday some intellectuals organized the birth anniversary of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, who was murdered in Pune in August 2013. On this occasion they called upon India’s President Pranab Mukherjee to advise the government to ensure the freedom of life, faith and expression ( “ A voice ‘in protest, resistance,’ ” The Hindu, November 2, 2015). Earlier, in a signed statement many social scientists, historians and political scientists expressed shock at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘late response’ to the killings and lynching and his ‘victim-blaming’ statement. (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/civil-society-faults-govt-for-not-checking-intolerance/article7820130.ece ).
I am surprised why Prime Minister Modi said the other day the Centre could do little in the matter . In India the Constitution is supreme. The Constitution has the subject of law and order in the State List . This demands state governments to protect all fundamental rights of its citizens . If any state government fails in protecting the citizens’ right to life and liberty , the Centre does have the authority to use appropriate legal and administrative provisions within its jurisdiction to rein in the concerned erring entity .
I, however, don’t understand why so much of the current criticism is being focused on Prime Minister Modi . Constitutionally, the governments of the states, wherein such violations have taken place, are directly to blame. The critics of Prime Minister Modi could have started with condemning the state governments concerned. Besides, they should not have for so long glossed over what some of Prime Minister Modi’s predecessors in South Block did in the past . The history of the post-colonial India is replete with instances of religious intolerance and violence . Everyone is well aware of what happened to minorities Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in Delhi, Kashmir and Gujarat in the eighties , nineties and 2002 respectively.
Besides , I don’t understand why undue importance is being given to the government in the realm of ideas. In the above-mentioned interview . historian Thapar said, “What frightens me the most is the thought of what will happen to the generation growing up. A government can effectively dismantle an institution in a rush to assert power, but putting such an institution back in place to perform its legitimate function, is a long haul. It takes a generation at least. The habit of independent thinking and questioning disappears…. We are now a society that openly displays its prejudices. Until recently, the extent of these prejudices was kept relatively hidden but now they are visible. These are prejudices that we will have to counter if we want a reasonably safe society that accommodates the freedom to speak.”
I would say a lot depends upon the character and integrity of intellectuals. If they are fair and reflect the realities on the ground, a given society would be too close to their views to let any prejudices prevail . In that case it would be impossible for any government to dismantle an institution . The scourge of our times is the intellectuals the world over have often cared little for this basic ethics. They love the rulers’ comfort zones and get themselves aligned with one or the other political parties/elites for their own benefits in short or long terms .
Like it or not, if such intellectuals are aligned today with the saffron brigade enjoying the benefits of rich state-run academic and research institutions in India , in the years gone by they were with the previous ruling class for the same reason . Neither category of intellectuals seems to have been fair in their research methodology. They often apply selective statistics to establish what their behind-the scene political masters would be pleased with in their own image-building exercise and power struggle . I have some personal experiences with both categories of intellectuals as to how they treat those holding views different from theirs .
The story of intolerance- based violence in India is not new . But today the Hindutva brigade-backed official or semi-official intellectuals pretend not to see anything wrong around. And, until recently , so would the so-called secular ones. Did the latter pay due attention to the killings of minorities and the Dalits in the past ?