Intolerance in India Echoes Home and Abroad

    As a young boy I attended Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Shakhas. I loved to go there to play and wield lathi. It provided me an opportunity to prove my strength and superiority. As part of our training, we were told to be patriotic, have respect and love for Bharat Mata. At times, we were told about the superiority of Hindu religion. But I don’t think it ever occurred to me to develop a staunch Hindu view of everything.

    As I grew, I distanced myself from RSS shakhas because I did not any more find an opportunity for the kind of sport I looked for. The primitive kabaddi and wielding lathi did not attract me any more.

    A few years later in my life I found the ideology of RSS not in consonance with the liberal values that my education had imbibed me with. I was drawn more to left than to the right where I saw RSS and the political party Jan Sangh.

    The right will always remain opposed to the left. It is like the East is East and the West is West and the twain can never meet. So, I  maintained distance from the right wing  Jan Sangh and the RSS which I considered to be a  religion-based group. I could never digest the aversion of the RSS for minority religious groups, though it pleased me as a Sikh to find some of the pracharaks of the RSS eulogizing  Guru Gobind Singh for the great sacrifice he and his father made to protect Hindus from the tyranny of the Muslim rulers.

    India has always been a country which absorbed all  who arrived on its soil, much as USA has. But, of late it appears India is being sought to be taken in a different direction. And the direction is certainly  not a welcome one; certainly not the one which would  strengthen the unity of the nation. The government of the day seems to be  bent upon creating divisions  in the name of religion. Surely, we have not forgotten the number of painful  incidents of communal clashes which, besides claiming life and property, have left deep scars on the psyche of the suffering people.

    People of India and Indians abroad will have to  find ways to oppose the Hindutva agenda of the RSS and the present government. It is either the people of India and India succeed or they succeed.

    Luckily, India has a number of intelligent people who could see through the game plans of the present government. They saw danger in rationalists being killed. They saw danger in the utterances of some representatives of the party in power. They saw danger in the studied silence of the Prime Minister on the issue of growing intolerance in India. So, they protested. Writers, artists, film makers returned their awards to register their protest. Instead of trying to allay their fears and  remedy the situation, the Modi government let the party workers organize counter protests. What a government we have?

    Every time somebody spoke of intolerance, the party in power made sure to come up with a condemnation of the protest. It happened in the case of Shahrukh Khan. It happened recently in the case of Aamir Khan.

    However, the number of protesters is growing and the protests are getting louder. These have not remained confined to India; Indians abroad have also protested.

    The Alliance for Justice & Accountability held  a Public Demonstration & Candlelight Vigil on Saturday, November 14th from 3-5 pm in Washington Square Park, New York to stand in solidarity with India’s disenfranchised communities to raise their  voices to dissent the recent acceleration of killings of Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, Christians and Sikhs.

    In USA, Indian Americans have raised their voice of protest.

    George Abraham, a former UN officer and Chairperson of Indian National Overseas Congress USA sent in his comment, which is being reproduced ad verbatim.

    “The very fact that Aamir Khan’s statement evoked so many vitriolic reactions from the Sanghis is another evidence of growing intolerance towards freedom of expression in Modi’s India. If anyone thinks that there is no anxiety among the minorities about the prevalent situation is fooling himself.

    People are getting lynched for their dietary habits, Dalit families are set on fire, NGOs like Greenpeace and Caritas International are being banned or FCNR denied, sedition charges are  being filed against human rights activists like Teesta Setalvad, eminent secular voices are silenced through murder in cases of Kalburgi and Pansare, respected writer such as Kulkarni being assaulted, cultural police raiding Bars and beating up women, 90 year old Dalit set on fire for entering the temple, another Dalit man’s hand chopped off because he was seen dining with an upper caste individual, MLAgetting beaten up in J&K Assembly building for expressing his freedom of thought on the issue of slaughter of cows and the list goes on and on.

    According to an NGO report, there were 800 incidents arising out of growing intolerance in last year alone. This is in addition to the ongoing purges in academic institutions of people with a pluralistic view, such as Amartya Sen in NalandaUniversity, who are being replaced by RSS ideologues across the board in institutions such as National Book Trust, National Film Institute, Historical Society and so forth to impose a kind of cultural hegemony based on Vedic history.

    The very fact that the current administration downplays the role Nehru has played in creating the very idea of India as we know it, is very troublesome as they are increasingly inclined to create divisions pitting one freedom fighter against the other for political ends. Yes, they have truly learned something ‘valuable’ for themselves from the British: ‘Divide and Rule’.!”

    Is the  Modi government not bothered about  the fall out of these protests on the image of India abroad? Is the Modi government not bothered about  feelings of the  minorities ? Is the Modi government not bothered  for the unity of the nation? Is the Modi government not bothered for the people of India? It would be very sad if the answer was a  “NO”.


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