Mainstreaming Tolerance

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Never before in the history of post-independent India has “intolerance” become such a subject of heated debate, much divisiveness and which seems to bleed the heart of ‘the idea of India’.

Intolerance, one might argue has always existed! We see small and big acts taking place all over society and even in the security of one’s own family. As Indians, we do pride ourselves of being a ‘tolerant people’ and we certainly get very upset when growing acts of intolerance hog the limelight. In a defense reaction, we put on a mask saying “we are not like that”. This was so evident, when a few days ago, a motley group met the President and the Prime Minister ‘to protest’ against those who were saying that India is becoming an intolerant nation! The irony is that this very group was abusive of some of the media present at their protest and they also made very intolerant remarks against those taking a stand against intolerance!


In recent months, there have been a spate of intolerant acts all over the country: from the killing of rationalists like Pansare and Kalburgi to the burning of dalit children; from ‘banning’ programmes by Pakistanis in India to the killing of someone who apparently eaten beef. In the wake of these acts, some of the most eminent people of the country including several intellectuals like writers, scientists, historians and even celebrity film stars, have strongly voiced their protests; some of them have had the courage to return their duly merited awards from the Government. The point they have been making is that the Government of the day does not show any political will to address these acts of hate, divisiveness and violence but on the contrary, it even seems to patronise, shield and provide legitimacy to the perpetrators of these heinous acts.

This intolerance was symbolised in the fact that several functions were held on November 15th in different parts of the country to honour Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi; for his dastardly deed, Godse was hanged on November 15, 1949 and the fact that right-wing factions have the audacity to treat him like a hero speaks volumes for itself.

It is therefore appropriate that the United Nations every year invites all member States to observe November 16th as ‘the International Day for Tolerance’. The meaning of “tolerance” provided by UNESCO “is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human”. “Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is above all an active attitude prompted by the recognition of the Universal Human Rights and fundamental freedoms of others.” “Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism and the rule of the law……it does not mean toleration of social injustices or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions”. A meaningful definition indeed!

The terrible attacks in Paris on November 13th certainly need to be condemned by one and all! At the same time, one should never forget the many millions who are killed and brutalised throughout the world all the time but do not get the media attention and the world leaders speaking up for them. In April, more than 148 people (of these 142 were students) were killed by an extremist group in Kenya; those executed were mainly Christians. There is a muted response to the killings of innocent people be it in Syria and Lebanon, Egypt and Afghanistan, Palestine and in several parts of Africa. The refugee crisis is certainly an outcome of great intolerance.

Exactly twenty-six years ago, on 16th November 1989 six Jesuit Priests together with their housekeeper and her fifteen year daughter, were brutally murdered in El Salvador by the military junta of that country. The powerful, vested interests were not able to tolerate the way the Jesuits took a stand on behalf of the poor and against the growing injustices and fascist acts of those in power. We remember these martyrs today.

We have much to internalise and to mainstream where tolerance is concerned. Let’s hope and pray that on a day like this, each one of us has the courage and the humility to act: to be more tolerant and to make our world a more humane, just and peaceful place for all!

About Author: Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

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  1. Whole world says – its wrong to label Islam as violent religion after stray terror attacks( although with large scale human fatality)!
    It should be highlighted that killing of rationalists like Pansare and Kalburgi happened in so called very tolerant Congress ruled states. Dadri happened in a Very Sickular UP – ruled by Mulla Mulayam!
    But how mean it is label the whole country as ” INTOLERANT” after a few stray incidents .

  2. Dear readers,

    Did you know that the return of awards by writers, film-makers and scientists was a plot hatched jointly by the United States of America, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? Well, if you did not, you will probably not ever understand why the ‘tolerant’ multitude that turned out at Anupam Kher’s March for India rally today, could so vilely abuse and attack NDTV’s Bhairavi Singh and Aaj Tak’s Mousmi Singh. After all, it is one thing for the netas to simulate their anger and laughter on TV channels and elsewhere, but how do you actually get ordinary people to go crazy? How and why does the ordinary Hindutva footsoldier act the way he or she does? Basically, he (and occasionally, she) is made to believe things that most people would know to be false. So why does as innocuous an act as the returning of awards by writers become such a big threat to India’s position in the world and to the very existence of the government of the day? Well, because, it is not a simple matter of some writers acting out of their conscience but already a part of an international conspiracy plotted by the US-Saudi Arabia-Pakistan nexus!

    How the Hindutva Propaganda Machine Manufactures Lies

    While Parliament committee leader Venkaiah Naidu wanted to debate ‘intolerance’ the nefarious element of request to all Modi Govt supporters, please don’t fall in TRAP. Expose media, politicians, seculars but with FACTS. Check images if they are photoshop. You all are FIRST line of defence to MODI Govt. You voted him for 5 years. TRUST him. He has the toughest JOB on earth.

    Jai Hind

  3. It’s really sad and unfortunate when a person decides to badmouth India and sanaathana dharma right after Paris attacks, drawing moral equivalence between isolated incidents in India to daily massacres by terrorist groups. How can anyone take this seriously is beyond me. It is more and more clear that the folks crying about intolerance are the most intolerant ones probably because of some historical, cultural reasons!! Either way, this is very unfortunate.

  4. I have noticed that in response to ANY topic under the sun, our ಪ್ಯಾರೆಲಾಲ್ ರಾಂಪ has to bring in his ಸನಾತನ ಧರ್ಮ, ಮುರುಡೇಶ್ವರ, ಮೂಕ ಪ್ರಾಣಿ, ನಾಲಿಗೆ ಚಪ್ಪಲ etc.

    • I’m sorry for your inability to understand my posts which are clearly far more superior and thought provoking than the gibberish you post on regular basis. Then again, you can’t expect me to apologize for your ignorance!! smiles…

      • I’m sorry for your inability to understand my posts which are clearly far more superior and thought provoking….. Rampa

        Fr. SUPERIOR at it again – doing what he does best – joking! 🙂 Smiles…

  5. Dear readers,

    Why do Naxals never attack churches in Chhattisgarh, asks RSS leader Indresh Kumar

    “Naxals have never targeted churches and priests just because they serve them or is there some other reason?” he asked, while interacting with reporters on the sidelines of a programme organised by Forum for Awareness of National Security (FANS) here, to discuss Left wing insurgency prevailing in south Chhattisgarh.

    Stating that he was putting “a few questions” before the Christian community and others working in Bastar region, the RSS leader said arms and huge sums of foreign money have been supplied to Naxals.

    Putting behind the recent memory of the 2008 church attacks and Kandhamal in odisha some Catholics are enthusiastically joining hands with the RSS and the Bajrang Dal against an ancient foe – Tipu Sultan.Franklin Montiero, formerly a Hindu Jagarana Vedike president and state vice-president of the BJP minority morcha, said there is widespread dislike for Tipu among Catholics in coastal Karnataka. “The Congress wants to pit one minority against another.

    At a point of time there was a slogan by RSS combine, “Pehle Kasai Phir Isai” (First the Muslims then the Christians). That was the pattern of communal violence.It is wake up call for the minority Christians of India.

    Jai Hind

    • It is ridiculous to claim Mangalorean Catholics are joining hands with the RSS because they denounced the celebration of Tipu’s birth anniversary. Mangalorean Catholics were denouncing the tyranny and cruelty of Tipu Sultan for centuries before the RSS stole the message.

    • The Mangalorean Catholic community’s opposition to the celebration of the cruel tyrant Tipu’s birth anniversary is not an endorsement of the RSS. Mangaloreans catholics are opposed to the RSS as they are opposed to the celebration of Tipu.

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