Is India Really Becoming Intolerant?
Nowadays the bulletins of almost every news channel are occupied with a single word- Intolerance. Prime time slots are becoming the battlefield for heated debates where the elite intelligentsia of our society locks their horns over the so called issues of intolerance. And surprisingly this debate is not only limited to the commercial news channels; the Lok Sabha TV is also broadcasting such debates during the session hour every day. But at the crux of all these debates lies a question- Is India really becoming intolerant or is it just another made up propaganda?
Intolerance is not a new problem in India. It’s a perennial storm which has shook the nation time and again; be it 1984 Sikh riots, 2002 Gujrat riots, the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley or the very Hindu Muslim riots of 1947. There were many other incidents which went unnoticed, simply for the reason that they were not politically captivating for the power wielders of society. More or less it is hardly unbelievable that such incidents erupt in a country which has sheltered almost every religion of the world other than being the originator of some.
One incident which took the nation by storm in recent times has been the Dadri lynching case where a middle aged Muslim man was beaten to death by a temple mob. Some locals got incited by a rumour that Mohammed Akhlaq, the victim, had consumed beef on the eve of Eid and publicly beat him till death. Adding to that was the vivid celebration plan for 19th century Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan’s birth anniversary which was vehemently opposed by some right wing groups. Following these incidents several artists and scientists returned their national awards to mark their protest against the rising intolerance in the country.
What is Intolerance?
The root cause of the problem is the word itself. Tolerance itself is a negative word implying the unwillingness to bear someone who differs from you in belief, behaviour or ideology. Had India been intolerant, it would have never been able to hold its integrity in the first place due to cultural and regional diversities.
However, it cannot be denied that a situation of unrest has developed within last 8-9 months and people have continually been misguided by media and politicians. But these incidents are insufficient to say that India is becoming intolerant.
Role of Media
Ideally the media is supposed to report facts and bring different perspectives in front of the society. But what is happening now is that opinions are being sold in the name of facts. Actor Aamir Khan’s statement on growing intolerance was convolutedly presented by media due to which the actor had to face backlash from people and was suggested to leave for Pakistan by some right wing groups. His quote that his wife feels scared to live in India (which he told was very disastrous and unacceptable) was captioned as ‘Aamir plans to leave India’ and people lost their minds (without even watching his complete interview).
Media (especially electronic) can’t afford to overlook the fundamental ethics of journalism. Half and incomplete news contribute towards false reporting which can only misguide the society. Point 34 of the norms of Journalistic Conduct set up by Press Council of India points towards the same cause. News reporting should be unbiased besides being complete and accurate so that the audience could get different viewpoints regarding the issues.
The debate that whether India is intolerant towards its minorities is never going to end. Media, intellectuals and politicians will say what they want or what will be beneficiary for them. But these are not the ones who will decide that whether India is becoming intolerant or not. It is we, the people who have to decide where we want to see the future of this nation.
[Image Attribute: olivierroussel]