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Intolerance: A divided society on trial?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 - 3:17pm IST | Agency: dna

Eradicating intolerance and prejudice is a long process. It cannot be achieved in a hurry. Communal and caste feelings are widespread. I do not think that intolerance has gone up in our society.

With superstar Shah Rukh Khan reportedly speaking about his ‘insecurities’ as a Muslim in India, the recent outburst against south star Kamal Haasan’s new movie Vishwaroopam over its alleged depiction of Muslims in a negative light and sociologist Ashis Nandy’s comments on backward classes generating extreme reactions from people across the country, has the ‘secular’ society of India become intolerant? Every other day, a statement made in a political or a religious context creates waves of controversies. Does this stand testimony to the anger among people about such issues, or are extreme reactions being used as a tool by individuals to show that they care for society? Speak Up finds out

Eradicating intolerance and prejudice is a long process
Eradicating intolerance and prejudice is a long process. It cannot be achieved in a hurry. Communal and caste feelings are widespread. I do not think that intolerance has gone up in our society. Rather, thanks to the electronic media and the growth of media in general, statements that otherwise would have got neglected now get highlighted. When we criticise some community or sect of people, we must also mention their positives and not restrict ourselves only to criticism.

This will make our criticism more palatable. A situation must be created in society where a community can listen to criticism peacefully. These issues tend to blow over after a while because nobody benefits from raising them. In the light of Ashis Nandy’s statement, it should be kept in mind that Dalits have made tremendous progress in the last 50 years. The Dalit leaders should have pointed this out to him.
PA Inamdar, chairman of MCE Society

Media blows up issues and stirs up unnecessary controversies
Society is becoming intolerant in both religious as well as political matters. There is a growing tendency to react extremely to statements. Besides, we often come across people speaking about issues without having full knowledge about them. The education system has failed to make people broadminded and open to different views. This has made people more intolerant. Another factor is the media, especially the electronic media. It often blows up small issues and stirs up unnecessary controversies. Constant focusing on a particular statement makes people angry.

People are often insecure about their identities and hence cannot tolerate any criticism. They must not form opinions based only on what they read in the newspaper or see in the television. They should think wisely before making a statement. The media must be responsible and not foment trouble in society.
Neelima Mysore, lawyer

Political leaders are more intolerant
India is a diverse country with a variety of tradition and culture. Due to the sheer diversity of our communities, it is possible that a statement can offend someone or the other. However, thanks to the rising levels of education, I am optimistic that the intolerance that we see from different sections will go down in future. It is only a small set of people who are intolerant and not everybody. I feel that political leaders are more intolerant of criticism and differences and not the ordinary people.
Sameer Dharmadhikari, actor

There is tendency towards competitive intolerance
There is a tendency towards competitive intolerance in society. Leaders of every section are trying to outdo each other in being intolerant towards criticism. As far as Ashis Nandy is concerned, he has the right to express his views, regardless of what people think of them. Unfortunately, the opinion makers today are spineless and wilt in the face of violence and threats. Soon, a situation will arise where one won’t be able to criticise anyone and anything, which is a step before dictatorship. Kamal Haasan’s movie has been cleared by the Censor Board but cannot be shown. As far as Shah Rukh Khan’s statement is concerned where he has reportedly said that “he is ill-treated as a Muslim in India”, we must introspect on the state of society if a Muslim who is so rich and famous feels this way. However, my objection is that if he is truly being mistreated, then how is he so popular? The cause of rising intolerance is that politicians want to create followers. I am afraid that there is no easy solution to this issue. Things are likely to worsen.
Nishad Takley, retired engineer

Democracy does not allow to disrespect sentiments
One cannot insult or abuse any section of society or community under the guise of free speech. Democracy gives you the right to free speech but also imposes a responsibility of respecting the sentiments of people. This is especially in the light of Ashis Nandy’s comments on Dalits. If people are offended by someone’s views or statements, they will protest. Democracy gives them this right. In the past, people may have accepted insulting statements made about their community without protesting. But, now there is awareness among people.
Mohammed Ali, public relations secretary, (south zone), Students Islamic Organisation of India

Political leaders further feed these prejudices with an eye on votes
Though the nation may not have become intolerant, caste, religion and gender are areas where most people hold on to their set views. They fail to think with an open mind. Instead of interpreting a statement or an action in its true meaning, people prefer to look at them through a lens that is convenient to them at that point of time. It is the speaker, not the speech, the doer, not the deed, which is more under scrutiny. It is becoming increasingly difficult for social scientists, thinkers and social commentators to put forth their views and engage in healthy, academic discussions.

Political leaders further feed these prejudices with their eyes always on the votes. They have neither the will nor the ability to understand and acknowledge the social reality and take actions to improve.
Ujjwala Barve, reader and head of the department of communication and journalism, University of Pune

Society has evolved, but the prejudices are deep-rooted
India, as a society, is still deeply-rooted in caste and class divisions. Though we have evolved as a society, these prejudices still remain. The difficulty in Muslims getting a flat in many big cities is an example. So far as Shah Rukh Khan is concerned, he has expressed his view and nobody can comment on that. On the other hand, Vishwaroopam has already been approved by the Censor Board and you cannot stop a movie from being screened once it has been approved by the board.

As far as Ashis Nandy is concerned, his comment was ill-advised. He should have phrased his statement better.
Shantanu Verma, student

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