The past few weeks have seen vociferous debates, with innumerable arguments and counter-arguments being bandied about – over a question of whether India is still a tolerant country, or if she has slipped into the insurmountable abyss of intolerance. The answer is simple – as a nation we are inhabited by extremely tolerant people.
Over the years, we have been tolerant to foreign influences and (often) malicious rulers governing us, and our acceptance and amalgamation of their cultures. We have been tolerant to our independence being frittered away by the shenanigans of our highly corrupt politicians. We have been tolerant to scams galore by all those in power, including by those who are meant to help us (police, hospitals, schools, colleges, etc.). We have been tolerant to genocidal ethnic cleansing being committed in the guise of religion. We have been tolerant to members of one community being dragged out of their homes and being burnt to death (with the tacit support from the government in power). We have been tolerant to politicians and their sycophants dividing peace-loving people and “manufacturing” riots on the basis of caste and religion. We have been tolerant to the house of one God being destroyed in the name of another God. We have been tolerant to a professor’s hand being chopped off because he did his job of setting an exam paper. We have been tolerant to merit being sidelined in all aspects of life to make way for reservations based on caste. We have been tolerant to certain communities unabashedly putting their religion above the nation. We have been tolerant to the local goons extorting money in the name of “protection”. We have been tolerant to established laws being blatantly broken to “accommodate” political or corporate scions. We are tolerant to paid news reports being quoted as “authentic” news in our media. We have been eternally tolerant to the rising prices of almost every commodity. We have been extremely tolerant to brazen law-breakers entering the hallowed precincts of our Parliament in the name of “democracy”. We have been tolerant to our roads being blocked and eardrum splitting noise levels during religious festivities. We have been tolerant to pedestrians crossing the roads where they are not supposed to, and towards formula one drivers masquerading as car owners while driving at breakneck speeds on our roads. Why, we are even tolerant to being refused a ride by lowly taxi and rickshaw drivers!
I am not a flag-bearer for any political party, and my only interest lies in seeing the betterment of my country. And I am personally against a ban of any kind – even the one on the consumption of the repugnant gutka. If a chump, with complete knowledge of the lethal effects of it, wants to commit suicide by chewing unadulterated poison, then then who are we to stop him? The same argument goes for deciding the books or movies that I can read or watch. In a maturing nation like ours such bans or censorship go against the basic principles of a robust democracy. But I was surprised to know that the ban on beef (the current bone of contention for our rabble-rousers) has existed in many states since the 70s. At the ground level, there is nothing noticeable that has changed in the fabric of an Indian’s tolerance levels in the past few months. A few deplorable incidents which are highly condemnable occurred – but we have been silent witnesses to similar episodes ensuing across our country over the years now. So, the spectacle of awards being returned and the chorus of “intolerance”, by a certain section of our “intelligentsia” seem a tad bit silly, and downright fake – to a simple mind like mine, it seems absolutely stage-managed. Would these “intellectuals” have been so safely ensconced in their cushy armchairs, spewing venom at the present government in general and the PM in particular, if India was actually “intolerant”? Having worked abroad and with people from various nationalities, I can proudly say that India stands way above many of the so-called “developed” countries, just because of its sheer magnitude, complexity and above all its diversity. I have been racially abused by ten-year olds in a purportedly progressive city like Dubai, but I do not see anyone calling UAE an “intolerant” nation! By the way, did any of you read the recent news article which says that the UAE government will be conducting a survey to find out if residents are happy with their life in UAE? The best part of this survey is that the police will be “visiting” those who respond negatively – ostensibly to “ask” why they are unhappy! I hope you get the implications of this. I wonder how our “liberals” would have reacted to such a drive in India.
Let me reiterate that running this country effectively cannot be the responsibility of one man alone and blaming the PM for all ills facing our country today is being extremely naïve. It stands to reason that it would take a herculean effort on the part of this government to revive the nation from the shambolic state that they inherited it from the previous regime. The economy and brand image of India that had been besmirched for the past ten years on account of the innumerable financial scams cannot be restored overnight. And being vituperative towards one man is insulting to the intelligence of the Indian voter, who collectively brought him to power on the plank that he could lead this nation towards a brighter future. Like most Indians, I expect our Prime Minister to deliver on his main his poll promise – that of economic development. Now, using the Bihar poll debacle as an excuse, opposition parties will block all bills that are tabled in the Parliament. Infuriatingly, the only role of any opposition party in India seems to be of rejecting anything suggested by the ruling party – even if it is for the good of our nation! To be fair, we had expected the same reforms from the previous appointee too, but that gentleman frittered away his ten years in unfathomable taciturnity.
I believe that the current PM has the wherewithal, courage, foresight and the capability to clean the Stygian stables. Our current PM is also a man given to high rhetoric and grandiloquence, always making bombastic promises to his voters. I am sure he will renege on many of his pompous assurances, but I surely want to give him at least five years to prove himself. Of course, he needs to reign in the motor-mouths and fringe elements (who seem hell-bent of burning down the verdant pasture that their party has been offered by the voter), but expecting the PM of a country to justify every little thing that happens in the country is being ridiculous. Accusing the current officeholder of being “the worst thing that happened to India” is like missing the wood for the trees. After all, has this allegedly “intolerant” nation not seen worse than him, and have we not always been more than tolerant towards them? I know that after reading this many of my “secular” friends would call me a rabid Modi-bhakt, which I do not mind. For my dream is to see my country move out of its current neo banana-republic status, into that of a developed nation. So I will place my faith on anyone (irrespective of their political affiliation) who seems to have the political will to do so!