Intolerant charge of the secular brigade

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Cartoon_BacklavaOver the last two years, this has been the unkindest cut of all: the naming and shaming of India as ‘intolerant’. Has a country’s centuries-old culture, due to a mere regime change in the capital, disappeared? The triumph of the BJP, after six decades of mostly Congress rule, seems to have made many people – and I’m not talking of minorities here – insecure. Instead of accepting a fait accompli, the secular brigade has been warning people of ‘majoritarianism.’ Instead of conceding defeat with grace, Congress supporters have imported a new word to give the actions of a democratically elected government a sinister tinge.

Yes, the student wing of the ruling party, the ABVP, is flexing its muscles on campuses. Yes, the government is trying to saffronise and Sanskritise education. Yes, it’s trying to stop foreign funds from dictating the issues taken up by NGOs, and from influencing reactions of the rural populace to projects that threaten their traditional way of life. Yes, it cares more about growth than indigenous communities stopping progress on grounds of worshipping this sacred forest or that hallowed plateau. These actions are based on a properly thought out ideology that it calls cultural nationalism, and yes, the body laying out this ideology is the RSS. There is nothing sinister about all this. The older generation’s mindset is Macaulayesque, as colonial values were taught to us in our impressionable years. But the younger generation will slip naturally into the new moulds being prepared for it. If we learnt to aspire for Western ways of life, they will learn to admire Indian spirituality, vegetarianism and homegrown languages. One shouldn’t fear change – after all, our civilisation has survived for centuries and its basic ethos will endure. Why would we want it to become a clone of the West?

The cosmopolitan crowd might feel uncomfortable, but really, not much has been done to take away its freedom. This crowd was convinced, on the basis of the decibel levels at which freedom of expression was espoused, that JNU student leaders were unfairly jailed on the basis of ‘doctored’ videos. On 8 June, exactly four months after the ‘cultural’ event on campus, the forensic lab gave the verdict that Umar Khalid and friends had raised anti-India slogans. Four other videos were examined, they too were found to be authentic. Instead of waiting for these lab reports, academicians across the world were mobilised to condemn the NDA’s intolerance. These efforts seem to be based on a desire to oust the elected government even before its five years are over. Society at large will hardly gain anything from political instability.

What sounds very much like ­intolerance is the ridiculing of the saffron brigade as chaddiwalas and lately as bhakts. In a fair and just society, it’s not done to label and troll people professing beliefs different from your own. The secular brigade has now started telling off non-resident ­Indians, just because they tomtom Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s achievements. If academicians presiding over verdant campuses in north America can pass judgement on what’s happening here, can NRIs not have views on what’s happening in India? But on social media, somebody is circulating this hate speech: “Can the people of Indian origin not living in India please shut up? They seem to have an opinion about everything and anything that is happening in and to Mother India…These once-upon-a-time Indians are busy fanning the flames of discontent in the country.” Anything wrong with nostalgia and a desire to see poverty gone? Learn some tolerance, secularists. It takes all kinds to make a world. However, the war between a party fast losing ground and the one holding the reins of power should not be used to defame an entire way of life, that has been tolerant to a fault, simply because Hinduism is not an organised religion.