Take a look at the following incidents :
1) 28th September, 2015: A man and his son were lynched by a mob in Dadri, UP for allegedly eating beef. While the son survived and has been taken out of the ICU, the father succumbed to his injuries on the spot.
2) 30th August, 2015 : Sahitya Akademi award winner and former vice-chancellor of Hampi University, M. M. Kalburgi, was shot dead at his residence by unidentified assailants after several run-ins with right-wing groups through the years.
3) 16th February, 2015 : Rationalist and CPI leader Govind Pansare was attacked by gun-wielding assailants in Kolhapur and died subsequently on 20th February,2015.
4) 20th August, 2013 : Posthumous Padma Shri winner and anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead, also by gunmen, in Pune.
5) 2014: 90 people killed and hundreds more wounded in 561 incidents of communal violence in India.
The Constitution grants each one of us the fundamental right to free speech and expression. Our country taught the whole world the importance and benefits of peace and tolerance. In spite of these, what we are seeing in modern India is an ever-growing increase in intolerance, bigotry, hate speeches and religious and sectarian violence. There are cases being filed in courts all over the country wherein the litigants say that their or their community’s beliefs have been offended by someone saying or doing something. It has become so easy to take offence these days that there’s absolutely no depths that these people won’t plumb to. Love jihad, a term that originated in Kerala, has become a hot topic in many other regions too, not least in Uttar Pradesh where couples are being pulled up and harassed for loving someone not from their own community. Across the country, couples celebrating Valentine’s Day in parks are hounded by religious bigots. Women drinking in pubs in Mangalore are manhandled by members of a right-wing group whose leader roams around saying whatever he likes with impunity. And consenting adults having sex in closed hotel rooms are booked by the police for public indecency. These people are then accused of debasing the Indian culture. The same culture where we have the world-famous Kamasutra by Vatsyayana, the various idols showing lovemaking poses at the Khajuraho temple and innumerable other temples where the goddesses have/had bare-bosomed statues. The great irony of our country is that we have a population of a 130 crores but there can’t be a meaningful dialogue on sex and family planning anywhere in public without being eyeballed at by people.
Silencing dissenting voices through bullets isn’t an option for any well-meaning civilised society.
Alongside this intolerance, there’s also the issue of growing repression and censorship. A girl posting a status on facebook and another “liking” it are jailed
while the establishment turns a blind eye towards politicians causing and fanning violence through hate speeches across the country.
The Dadri incident comes close on the heels of the meat ban in Mumbai and other parts of the country. A very simple thing to realise here is that beef-eating in particular, and meat-eating in general, is not something new to our country. Whether you believe that beef-eating started with the Muslim invaders or that it has been around since the Vedic Ages, the fact remains that it has been around long enough, hundreds of years actually. And meat-eating isn’t something that’s confined to some corners of a city. People of all caste and age, from villages to cities, eat meat. What difference does a ban on meat makes in that scenario? And more pertinently, I have a pretty basic question: Why should anyone else decide what I should eat or rather, what I shouldn’t eat? (Before you make a guess, let me clear that I’m a vegetarian, not the egg-eating kind but a proper one). It’s a free country and the Constitution doesn’t impose any restrictions on my food habits. Why then should anyone else prohibit me, or for that matter anybody, from eating what I want?
Politicians of all affiliations, from the saffron brigade to those supposedly fighting for the rights of the minorities, have been making irresponsible statements. Some are saying that this was just an accident while some others are organising beef parties. What’s the need to do all that? Why pour petrol on a burning fire? Things need to be cooled down, not blown out of control. The daughter of the man lynched in Dadri asked reporters whether a forensic report that proved that the meat they consumed wasn’t beef would bring her father back? What kind of culture or law allows for a person to be killed because of what he ate? If one has issues with someone else’s food habits, he/she can approach the police and the courts. But taking law into their own hands and passing judgement and “justice” in the name of the Gods of any religion isn’t the way. This is exactly the kind of barbarism that sees terrorists beheading innocent citizens and journalists. Imagine the anguish and pain which we feel when Indians are victims of hate crimes in Australia or US. What are we doing in our own country? What have things come to?
The daughter of the man lynched in Dadri asked reporters whether a forensic report that proved that the meat they consumed wasn’t beef would bring her father back.
There’s another thing that comes to mind. The Prime Minister gave a call for cleanliness, Swachh Bharat, in his speech on Independence Day at the Red Fort last year. Despite that, hundreds of cows die every year from consuming plastic which they obviously can’t digest. Where does our love and respect for Gau Mata go then? When we dump our garbage in open spaces, we are putting poison out there for those cows and bulls that roam the streets. Those cows will continue to die so long as we don’t realise the folly of our own actions. For all those crying foul whenever there’s rumour of someone eating beef, this is a more disturbing question.A thing to note is that militant outfits feed videos of such incidents of violence against minorities to impressionable youngsters to brainwash them and add them to their nefarious causes. The majority community should make the minorities feel comfortable, not endangered. This hatred and division along communal lines is what the Muslim League did in the 1930s when it wanted to get a separate country. It sowed the seeds of hatred in the hearts of the people to ensure that they grew to hate and despise each other. That’s just not needed.
Free speech needs to be protected in India
The spate of killings of the writers and rationalists and the rise in incidents like the one I mentioned above have led to several noted academics and writers returning the awards they won from state governments and the Sahitya Akademi to protest against what they call “the rise in Intolerance in the country.” The victims were people who had distinguished themselves in art or academia or public service and were fighting against the ills of the society through their writings and teachings. When threats against them didn’t work, they were silenced through bullets. And the perpetrators, except for one case, are roaming free. Now every society since ancient times has had thinkers and philosophers who shaped the existing views of their times for the better. From Kautilya to Aristotle to Socrates to Voltaire, the list goes on and on. But these people and their voices, even if dissenting, need to be heard. A healthy society is one which takes all views into account and then chooses the best path forward. Silencing them isn’t an option for any well-meaning civilised society. Once again, courts are there to decide if a person has done something wrong. No one is above law.
Bigotry, inflammatory speeches and hyperbole polarise the public and create deep fissure lines where there had been none. These fissure lines are then deepened to cultivate vote banks, to shape election results and create long-term cracks in the society. It’s important to guard against any such activity. As responsible citizens, it is our duty not to let anyone fool us into doing things that work detrimentally to the nation’s benefit. If a certain person tells you that a particular community or its members are evil, you need not believe it as gospel truth. No single person is completely good or evil in character. How then can one classify an entire community as being evil?
Before someone thinks I have some hidden agenda behind this post, I would like to clarify that for me, the main thing that matters is the country’s peace and prosperity, no matter who’s in command in the government. But incidents like these tarnish our country’s image and divert attention from the real issues at hand.
The India of the 21st century needs inclusive growth for all. That can happen only when there’s equal and enthusiastic participation of all sections of the society. If we waste our time and energies fighting each other, how are we going to go being a developed nation from a developing one? We need jobs and housing for all, good roads and round the clock electricity. Whatever our views might be, they are not more important than the lives and livelihood of the people. If we want to compete with countries like the US, China and the European Union, we must rise above hate and work towards a common goal that was the dream of our freedom fighters and a place for us in the world order that our Prime Minister Mr. Modi envisioned last year at the Red Fort. This hatred, this is not what we have been historically, and this certainly isn’t what we are now. And we need to show the world, and ourselves, that we are better than this. Jai Hind.
“ Mazhab nahi sikhaata aapas me baer rakhna,
Hindi hain hum, watan hai, Hindostaa hamara, hamara,
Saare Jahaan se Achha………”