As we prepare to celebrate the festival of lights which signifies victory of good over evil, my thoughts go to India and our people there. I have seen the good times and the bad times that India has passed through during the last 50 years or so. I have been a witness to communal clashes, and the worst which I was a witness to, was the anti-Sikh riots in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s murder.
I have also seen how Punjab and Punjabis suffered during the period of militancy in the 80’s. I have myself experienced some of the miseries that common man is subjected to in a police state. The memory is still crowded with many unpleasant experiences. They were fearsome and worrisome. I would not like to have another experience like the ones I had on several occasions. And, thank God, many years have passed since the last unpleasant one.
But the recent incidents of intolerance- religious, communal, political- has me as also many Indians worrying. Protest is a democratic way of expressing one’s disagreement over an issue. But when the protest becomes violent or challenges the fundamental rights of others, it has to be viewed seriously.
Ever since the BJP led government came in to power, one has witnessed polarization on many fronts. While political polarization is a part of politics and does not harm common people, nor challenges their fundamental rights, the religious intolerance is of the worst kind, since it is based on the principle of hatred. We have seen its manifestation in religiocommunal clashes and individual lynching and murders. We have seen how intolerance of other people’s faith and practices causes damage to the nation’s social fabric. The fundamentalist elements are always on the look out to foment trouble. Whoever they may be, they are not friends and well wishers of the nation.
There can be no denying the fact that over the last two years or so India has become a playground for the fundamentalist elements. The fringe elements of political parties lose no opportunity to spit venom and create an atmosphere of distrust among communities.
Instead of disciplining them, the bosses clog their ears, shut their eyes, and, worse, keep their mouths sealed. And the President of the Republic has to speak the mind of the people. Foreign agencies have to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the growing threat to nation from these elements and the PM chooses to remain silent.
India has certainly fallen on bad days. There can be no happy Diwali when the dark devil of intolerance stalks fearlessly and the guards choose not to challenge it.