The Jinn of intolerance which was last set loose in 2015 after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India in the NDA Government in May 2014, was corked back in the bottle but not before taking a heavy toll in terms of looming controversy, disparage and communal disharmony. The omen shows that the Jinn is eager to come out again and, with some individuals and groups appearing eager to set it loose now that the next General Elections are soon due in a few months’ time. The strange paradox of the Indian nationality is that the pseudo-secular and pseudo-liberal individuals camouflaged as true secularists and liberals play this dirty game to earn name and fame, some religious communities and groups earn dividends, the political parties actually harvest the crop while the common man bears the brunt and loss.
In 2015, it had started with a few isolated communal incidents but the real spark was the Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s comments during a journalism awards ceremony on rising intolerance in India when he said that that he was “alarmed” at the rise in acts of intolerance in the "last six to eight months" in India, adding that his wife Kiran Rao had even suggested leaving the country. On one hand, he was trolled with a barrage of criticism and insults on social media; on the other hand, he was joined and supported by a section of politicians, filmmakers, writers, scientists, artists and others turning out against the ruling dispensation in the country. This climaxed into the opposition led agitation to discredit the Central Government and several awards being selectively returned mainly citing rising intolerance in the country. Two cases quoted at the time were the Dadri lynching in Ghaziabad, UP linked with the cow slaughter and beef-eating and the assassination of the scholar and writer MM Kalburgi by two unknown assailants posing as students.
The net outcome of the events was that the country and present political regime received adverse publicity and flak nationally and internationally. As many as thirty-nine novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards citing that the Akademi “kept silent” when their freedom of expression was “under attack” in the backdrop of the murder of the fellow writer Kalburgi and the “communal” atmosphere in the country following the Dadri lynching. These killings were linked by them to right-wing activists and organizations though the later investigation did not establish this. Certain groups were known to oppose the deceased writer for his criticism to the founder of Lingayat Religion and idol worship in South, and allegedly he was involved in some property dispute too. Later, the Hindi poet VP Tiwari, who was also the president of the Sahitya Akademi from 2013 to 2018, blew the lid off the Award Wapsi movement, stating that it was a politically motivated campaign organized by Marxist-leaning writers to defame the Modi government in the run-up to the Bihar Assembly election, and he indeed lost election. Tiwari even cited exchanged text messages, letters etc in support of his claim.
Unfortunately, this is the stark reality in India: many award winning writers, artists, players etc. have political leanings and ideologies, earn name and fame under the patronage of their political mentors and perhaps return the favour back when so required. Pronounced intellectuals and liberals have their own influence on the contemporary society through their role and contribution to the arts, literature and other fields, and exercise a vast influence as common people largely take them as unbiased and accomplished torchbearers. Then there is no dearth of individuals, organizations and communities which on one hand constantly pose as if they are being victimized while simultaneously engage with anti-India and anti-government campaign.
What is the Recent Controversy About?
Naseeruddin Shah is a noted and accomplished film and stage actor who has been equally successful in the Indian parallel and commercial cinema during the last five decades. The Government of India honoured him with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cinema and Indian audience have always endorsed and appreciated his work without any discrimination. Few days back, he entered into an ironical debate on social media on 18 December hitting currently the most popular and successful cricketer Virat Kohli, simultaneously adding a jibe that he had no intention of leaving the country:
“Virat K is not only the world’s best batsman but also the world’s worst behaved player. His cricketing brilliance pales beside his arrogance and bad manners. And I have no intention of leaving the country by the way.”
It is not clear what was the dire need or compulsion for this unsolicited remark when the Indian captain and lead batsman is engaged with Aussies midway through the Team’s Australia tour and was it really necessary to make it more provocative by adding salt “…have no intention of leaving the country by the way.” It is unbelievable that Shah, if he has little interest in the game, would not be aware of the mind game and pressure tactics that Australian players traditionally employ inside and outside field against the rival team as well as Virat’s matching skill, responses and fan-following as also the popularity of cricket in India. One may ponder either way about Shah's intent but for sure, it neither worked nor generated enough interest or heat in the media. Notwithstanding, the din of controversy had not died down and Shah shot yet another salvo triggering a far more contentious debate on 20 December.
Karwan-e-Mohabbat, an alleged movement claiming chronicling hate crimes in the country, uploaded a short video wherein Shah is seen talking as under:
“I feel anxious for my children because tomorrow if a mob surrounds them and asks them whether they are Hindu or Muslim, they will have no answer… The poison has spread; it will be very difficult to put this genie back into the bottle… There’s complete freedom to take the law into one’s own hands. In some areas we see the killing of a cow receiving more importance than the lynching of a police officer… These matters do not scare me; they make me angry. And I want that every right-thinking person should feel angry, not scared. This is our home; who dares to evict us from here?”
(Relevant text translated from spoken Hindi/Urdu)
Shah’s outburst was apparently in response to a recent incident in Bulandshahr, UP wherein after recovering cow carcasses in the nearby field, the agitated villagers gathered to protest against the illegal cow slaughter on 3 December 2018. The agitation escalated in riot leading to on the spot death of a police officer and a civilian youth. The issue attracted more publicity and controversy after it was politicized through the intervention of the opposition parties. Investigation revealed a far greater conspiracy of inciting communal violence in the area and several people have been identified and arrested from both the communities for the murder of the police officer and cow slaughter.
Like any other nationality, India too has its complex socio-political and economic issues; hence conflicts do occur due to such disparities and gaps in perceptions but Hinduism as a religion and common Indian as a citizen and nationalist do not endorse or engage in intolerance. Some individual(s) and organization(s) with vested interests referred to in the previous sections often try to exploit isolated incidents to give them communal colour and publicize it as a case of religious intolerance with a view to polarize the communities for the electoral and other gains. As could be seen how promptly the personal anguish or deliberate anger of a celebrity has been instantly encashed by the Pakistani premier when their own country stands badly exposed today before the world community for all kinds of (communal) crimes and violations against the humanity. India's intolerance is more of a propaganda but the conspiracy and disinformation is so deep-rooted that bursting the bubbles of reality almost appears an improbability.
As anticipated, the Hornet's nest stirred up by Shah has generated sharp reaction from politicians as well as common people. While the principal opposition party was prompt to endorse and support Shah’s remarks, some leaders in the ruling dispensation reacted by calling it unnecessary and motivated. A senior Producer and Director from Bollywood said that Shah has spoken his heart and he has not said anything wrong. A prominent ruling party leader retorted that Shah has also joined the gang in slandering the country where 80% Hindus gave him celebrity status never questioning or caring about his religion. He earned name, fame and wealth but now has joined the conspiracy to slander the country. It is true that none in the country has ever questioned his home or threatened him to evict from where he stands.
Shah's current anger or fear reminds me of an episode in July 2015 when he actively pursued and signed a mercy petition to the President of India for Yakub Menon who was convicted and sentenced death penalty for his role and participation in Mumbai blasts of 1993 which claimed 257 lives and 713 injuries of innocent civilians on a single day. His death penalty was upheld by the highest court of India after due hearing of his appeal and subsequent review petition. The mastermind of this terrorist attack was Dawood Abraham and his accomplices Memon brothers actually facilitated and executed the terror plan. The mercy petition was signed and moved by some retired judges, leaders/sitting MPs of the left and left-centric political parties, members of the legal community, intellectuals, human rights activists and cinema artists like Naseeruddin Shah and Mahesh Bhatt, arguing finesses of legal jargon and outlets in Memon's favour. After the mercy petition was rejected by the President, a 3-judges Supreme Court bench was made to hear a fresh appeal after the mid-night by the same activists before Memon's hanging although earlier during the day the same bench had already heard and dismissed the appeal.
There was not even an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub Memon in the conspiracy and execution of the crime as also his continued contact and cooperation with the Pakistani ISI till July 1994 yet his sympathizers were more enamored with his conduct and cooperation with the investigating agencies after his arrest. Ironically, even some eminent people associated with judiciary also tend to forget or ignore that the judgment about the quantum of punishment of a convict is based on the sustained evidences, gravity and circumstances of the crime and not merely the conduct of the cornered accused. Later his death was publicized as a political hanging by the same people. When the heart of such secularists, liberals and intellectuals throbs for people like Memon, who will stand and wipe tears of a thousand families of thus died and injured? Also people like Shah do not appear afraid or angry with those inflicting terror on the nation but get agitated with stray events of crimes elsewhere to blame the nation and particular political dispensation.
Incidentally, the coveted national award of the Padma Bhushan was bestowed on him in 2003 by the government of the same political party which is indirectly being targeted by him now on the election eve. His real intent in raising aforesaid controversies is still not clear as some celebrities and influential people do it just to hog limelight while others to further the interests of their ideology or in support of favourite social or political dispensation. In the instant case, murder of a police officer was involved and it is well known that the police and security forces handle such cases with utmost vigour and sometimes with vengeance. Immediate action was taken against the accused of the alleged murder leading to several arrests and, as it appears, an in-depth investigation has pointed a conspiracy in cow-slaughter leading to arrest of more suspects. In such a scenario, the locus standi of Shah itself is questionable when he makes allegation “killing of a cow is receiving more importance than the lynching of a police officer.”
Why Hindus Are Sensitive About Cow Slaughter?
Hinduism and Hindu scriptures accord high emphasis to the truth and ahimsa in life. In common parlance, ahimsa denotes the respect for all living things and avoidance of harm through violence towards all living creatures and lifeless objects as well. Among the world fraternity, the Indians have the lowest rate of meat consumption and number wise perhaps India would have more vegetarians compared to the rest of the countries put together. According to approximate estimates, while nearly 40% Indians are vegetarian while the corresponding figures for some other large and prominent countries are as follows: USA 3%, UK 3.3%, Australia 11%, Brazil 7.6%, Russia 3-4%, Canada 8%, China 4-5%, France 1.5%, Japan 4.7%, Germany 6-9% (Source: Wikipedia). In addition, a large number of Hindus eat meat but do not like to kill or cook it at home.
Many Hindu texts refer to a voluntary stop to cow slaughter and the pursuit of vegetarianism as a part of a general abstention from violence against others humans and killing of animals. The ancient Indian Vedic society was agricultural based largely dependent on farming and cattle rearing. Among cattle, the cow was known for a rich source of complete protein diet, even an alternative of mother's milk, and bulls were used in farming. The cow milk was also an important ingredient for Indian medicine and even after the death, the various body parts were made use in making articles and artifacts. Even the cattle faeces remained an easy and plenty source of fertilizers and fuel. These are some of the reasons why Hindus emphasised on protection of Cattle (particularly cow) till today and, in fact, many devout Hindus even venerate cows symbolically treating it like a mother.
The available records indicate that the Hindu opposition of the slaughter of animals has roots in the ancient Indian history but it took the form of a socio-religious and political opposition during the times of the British Raj. In certain parts, people even equate the killing of a cow to that of a pious human (Brahman) being. Some well-known personalities associated with the cow protection included Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj, and Mahatma Gandhi, known as the father of the nation during the time. Even several communal riots were reported on cow killings towards the end of the nineteenth century; consequently cow slaughter was banned in several parts of India during the British period. In fact, not only Hindus but people from other Indian religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism have strong reservations against the killing of cows due to pious reasons.
Under the Indian Constitution, Article 48 mandates the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows, calves, and other milch and draught cattle. The Supreme Court of India too in a landmark judgment on 26 October 2005 had upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws enacted by the states in India. Currently, out of 29 states in India, 24 states have various regulations prohibiting either the slaughter or the sale of cows, Kerala, West Bengal and north-eastern states remaining the ones with no regulations on cow slaughter. The export of beef (i.e. cow, oxen and calf) is also prohibited. Apart from the socio-religious sentiments of the majority populace, it is also an issue of prevention of cruelty against the animals in a majority of illegally run slaughter houses.
The chief reason of conflict and controversies in India on account of the cow protection is the philosophically opposite way of life of the two major communities. While Hinduism talks of ahimsa, preservation of life and insist on the protection of cattle for the given reasons, many followers of Islam believe that Allah (God) only acknowledges the faithful human beings and has created other worldly resources (e.g. cattle) for their consumption. Cattle slaughter has remained as a religiously approved practice among the Muslims and they sacrifice it en masse particularly on festive occasions such as the Id-ul-Zuha (Bakrid). In the absence of cow, they settle for the goat slaughter as an alternative but many of them consider cattle protection by Hindus as some sort of restriction or encroachment in their ‘religious’ freedom and right to sacrifice cattle.
In a country, where a large number of options are available for the meat-eating people in terms buffalo, goat and sheep, pork, poultry and eggs, variety of fresh and marine water fishes and prawns, and so on; there seems to be no rationale in pressing for illegal cow slaughter or trade by certain people of one community and consequent violence by the cow vigilante of the other community under the heightened passion. Unfortunately, such isolated incidents are exploited through vicious campaign by some people in social and electronic media, religious and political outfits as also self-proclaimed secularists and liberals for scoring own points in the name of intolerance besides tarnishing the image of the traditionally most tolerant and vibrant democratic society.
Double Standards in Concurrent Indian Society
As India had been under the colonial rule for almost two hundred years, it also experienced emergence of a class of certain intellectuals and liberals in the post-independence era as a legacy of the Western culture, language (mainly English) and ideologies. The Indian prime minister himself was a classic example of this legacy. They are the people who mostly grew up with a certain amount of privilege in terms of money, status and English medium education as also the exposure of the western world culture. They certainly have better connections, speak superior English and blend well with the limited upper and traditional class in India. They are the ones who have dominated the Indian cultural and literary scene post-independence under the active patronage of the elite ruling class and have even authored the history, particularly the medieval and modern India, so often being accused of distortions now.
The ironical part is that they look down almost everything that is traditionally liked and is accessible to the non-privileged Indian masses. This includes vernacular languages and anything exclusively and traditionally Indian inclusive of own religion Hinduism which is often seen by them as a backward religion. For instance, if an Indian speaks English with a Bihari or Tamilian accent, he will be mocked while another person if speaks it with a French or German accent will be considered exotic with due respect and consideration. As Indians are divided in a class system any way, this privileged class brands themselves as intellectual and tolerant people with the secular and liberal credentials.
Then in the name of secularism and liberalism, they would strongly react on any incident or fundamentalist trespass involving the majority Hindu community in an endeavor to save India from the Hindu invasion or domination but they will conveniently keep mum when faced with the question of attacking Islamic fundamentalists or Christian trespassers in the same spirit. They claim to be modern and rational but they seldom raise fingers or speak against the medieval practices, gender inequalities and atrocities, coercive or evangelical conversion and even publicly committed criminal acts by the said minority communities. They call themselves as intellectuals and liberals but in fact have no clue or clear vision about the true secularism or liberalism, and socio-political or economic policy that India should follow for an all-inclusive growth.
Even on communal harmony, they tend to underplay the anti-Sikh riots and massacre of 1984 and Godhra incident while raking the Gujarat riots of 2002 time and again. Had there not been the Godhra incident wherein the fundamentalists and rioters of one community had set ablaze four coaches of the Sabarmati Express and 59 people were burnt alive on 27 February 2002, there would not have been backlash leading to the loss of many more innocent lives of the both communities. These are some of the reasons why I treat them as pseudo-secular, pseudo-intellectual and pseudo-liberal: who for their own continued privilege and survival prefer to stick with a certain political dispensation and ideology in a sort of symbiotic relationship. To further illustrate it, I would cite only two major incidents of the recent history and the response of the said liberals, secularists and associated political dispensation in the country.
After the Rohingya crisis precipitated in Myanmar, over 40,000 illegal Rohingya immigrants crossed the porous borders in the north-east to enter the states of Bengal, Assam and Tripura from Bangladesh with the assistance of agents and touts and later spread in different parts of the country including Delhi and Jammu with the connivance of local communal groups and sympathisers. As per intelligence reports based on incriminating evidences, some radicalized Rohingyas are a serious security threat too besides many others being engaged in illegal activities. While the government is seeking to identify and depart them, the principal opposition and left parties are pitching for their retention on humanitarian ground. The so-called liberals, secularists and human rights activists are, in fact, fighting their case in the Supreme Court against the government for their retention in the country. Similar stand has been taken by the same elements in favour of millions of illegal Bangladeshis in Assam and Bengal.
Any aware and well-meaning citizen would not forget the plight of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits and what happened with them nearly three decades ago. It started on the cold and chilly night of 19th January 1990 when the Valley began reverberating with the war-cries of the Islamists with the loud and thunderous Islamic and pro-Pakistan slogans raised collectively by the crowd on the streets and relayed through the loudspeakers. The message from the frenzied crowd was - Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (i.e. Convert to Islam, leave the land or perish). This was followed a series of murders, rape, group killing, arson and loot; the victims in all cases were Kashmiri Pandit or Sikhs families. Lakhs of people migrated to Jammu, Punjab, Delhi NCR and some other places leaving everything behind for the safety of life. Ever since the Kashmir Valley has almost turned into a theocratic Islamic region within the secular India and over sixty thousand Pandits and few Sikh families uprooted from their homeland are still languishing in shabby refugee settlements. As for as the author’s knowledge goes, he has not seen any of these secularists and liberals (bidding for Rohingya and Bangladeshis) raising voice or concern for the people who after losing everything became refugees in their own country.
Perhaps India is the only country in the world with the strange paradox where the left and left-centric politicians, and a large section of liberals, intellectuals and human rights activists are more concerned and worried in legitimizing the rights and welfare of illegal Rohingya immigrants and millions of such Bangladeshi nationals settled in Assam, Bengal and elsewhere since 1970s than the fellow nationals Kashmiri Pandits and tribals from the north-east who were forced by the fanatics to abandon their homes and live like refugees elsewhere. While their heart throbs for the millions of the illegal settlers, they simply avoid even a reference to the legitimate issues and problems of the thousands of uprooted Kashmiri Pandits and tribals in the northeast. Needless to say, the list of such paradoxes and double standards is too long.
Such secularists, liberals and human right-activists perhaps have their own definition of human rights and secularism that enables them to be selective in undertaking human cause and issues. For instance, if even a stray incident occurs causing inconvenience or harm to a member of certain minority community, these people will immediately swing into action as if a national crisis has occurred and even try to escalate it internationally but the same set of people keep an intriguing silence if similar injustice is caused en mass to the majority community. They fight for the urban naxals citing them peace-loving citizens, plead and support the rights of stone-pelters and separatists in Kashmir justifying their cause and action but conveniently ignore the death of security personnel killed in ambush, stone-pelting or terrorist events, and the plight of their families. In the name of fundamental rights and freedom of expression, they endorse and defend those who oppose or even insult national symbols like flag, anthem and song but openly criticize and oppose patriots and nationalists citing their feelings as hyper-nationalism. In fact, the list of double standards and paradoxes is too long. Recently, when the case of urban naxals was being heard by the Supreme Court, I noticed the leaders of the oldest national party in their defence of the freedom of expression citing them as peace-loving citizens while few tears back the same party in government had imprisoned many of them on the charges of sedition.
Playing Victimization Card
More than any community or people, it is the priests and religious leader, political parties and so-called secularists and liberals who actually play and exploit the victimization card to serve their vested interests in a vicious socio-political eco-system; priests do it for the expansion of religion through conversion and their continued hold over the community; political leaders do it for the electoral gain and continued edge and supremacy in power; and the said secularists and liberals do it for their personal image and prosperity. This is the reason why the lynching to death of Deputy Superintendent of Police Ayub Pandith by the militants and fundamentalists in Srinagar, Kashmir does not move their conscience but the death of the police officer vis-a-vis cow slaughter in a village of Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh does.
Traditionally, such a card is so often played in the context of minority communities, institutions and people in this country by these groups. This is the reason why a stray crime committed against an individual of any minority communities, particularly Muslims, often makes a national headline as if the incident is against the entire community while a similar crimes against the majority community fail to catch even the local headline. One such alleged rape and murder of a small eight-year-old innocent girl in the Kathua district in Jammu in January 2018 made national and international headlines for days identifying the victim as a Muslim girl and accused as Hindu perpetrators with crime scene a devasthan (temple), thanks to the biased media, greedy politians and self-proclaimed secularists and liberals giving it a communal colour, thereby sparking widespread protests and outrage.
Yet another case in point could be the treatment of a stone-pelter by the Indian Army in Kashmir Valley in April, 2017 during the by-election for the Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency. Called upon to rescue a polling station team against a charged and violent crowd, an army major employed an unconventional method of strapping a stone-pelter with the bonnet of a jeep and thus avoid the furry of stone-pelting crowd while rescuing the polling team without any violence and firing of a bullet. The event was later described as “India is Witnessing its General Dyer Moment in Kashmir” by an alleged Social Scientist and Historian in an article showing the Indian Army in a poor light. The left-leaning author got intant support from the left, oldest national party and said secularists and liberals. Consequently, the stone-pelter became an icon overnight of the so-called victimized Kashmiri youth by the Indian Army and the debate escalated and dominated on media nationally and internationally for weeks.
While the incidents of love jihad, fundamentalism and Islamic radicalization in the country are not mere fictions, and have actually occurred and continuing since long, several instances of evangelic efforts of conversion too have been noticed in the recent past. Needless to mention that certain groups and individuals from the two Abrahamic religions are involved in such acts and target are always the vulnerable and weaker sections of the majority community. The source of funding of such activities is mostly foreign aid from the religious and other concerns located in the Western and Gulf countries. They do this to violate and destabilize the age old religion and culture of India and play as victims if caught or any punitive action is taken by the present government.
Only recently, the Indian mainstream media and Press was buzzed with the sensational news of the killing of an American missionary by the aborigines in the prohibited North Sentinel Island in the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. There are reasonable leads and evidences that the man made an illegal entry in the island with the aim of the conversion of tribals. In another case, the police arrested four priests and booked another 271 people on the charges of promoting conversion in Christianity and defaming Hinduism by spreading misinformation in August/September 2018 in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh. In yet another shocking case in the Western UP in June 2018, another similar racket was busted in Meerut where the Pastor of a church was making the affidavits of seventeen Hindu families for embracing the Christianity. Prior to independence, most parts of the far north-east region had tribal population with their own customs, rituals and religious beliefs. Needless to mention, today the states like Nagaland, Mizorum and Meghalaya have over 88%, 87% and 83% Christian population, respectively.
In fact, many of these coercive and evangelical efforts have foreign hand and money. Consequently, the present government has taken steps to stop foreign funding from dubious sources for doubtful reasons. It is not surprising that rattled with these developments, priests and religious leaders of such organizations and groups have turned against the present political dispensation. The recent circular of the Archbishop of Delhi asking Christians to offer prayers and observe a day of fast on every Friday for a "secular nation" ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections appears only an effort in that direction. Quite obviously, a government committed for an equal treatment to all citizens without any preferential treatment or appeasement to any creed or community is an eyesore when the prime minister of the previous regime was known publicly on record that the minorities have first claim on to the resources of this country.
In fact, some other instances too have come to light exposing illegalities of missionary organizations in Central India engaged in conversion and anti-India propaganda. Consequently, several foreign concerns engaged in such activities too are alarmed and enraged with the action of the present political dispensation. For instance, a Washington based missionary organization International Christian Concern expressed happiness and satisfaction in a tweet on the recent defeat of the Bhartiya Janta Party in three state assembly elections. In yet another release, citing the statements of some Indian priests, a concern was raised that Indian Christians are afraid and insecure. In Jharkhand, a recent investigation has revealed how some Church associated NGOs receiving foreign funds have been engaged in fake accounts, misuse of funds and falsification of data and information.
The secularism implies equal treatment to all religions in India without endorsing or giving any preferential treatment to any one by the state. Unfortunately for some political parties, self-proclaimed secularists and liberals in India, the secularism has become merely a narrow interpretation of concern for the religious appeasement of the minorities, particularly the Muslims with approximately 15% population, which they perceive more as a potential vote bank. The so-called ‘secular’ parties have pampered minorities, mainly the Muslims and Christians, to use them as a vote bank over the years by inciting a fear psychosis during the elections and intervening period that they must support them or else the 'communal BJP' would come to power. The intolerance card often serves very convenient and handy tool for these elements to spread insecurity and fear among the minorities.
As it appears the anguish or outburst of Shah has served its purpose; his trigger has shot the “debate on intolerance” in media and press though, as of now, on a lower intensity and pitch. Some Indian political parties and celebrities have reacted in favour or against; even the Pakistani premier has wasted no time in endorsing Shah and said that his remarks describe "intolerance against Muslims in India", further adding that Muhammed Ali Jinnah had understood this "intolerance" that is why Pakistan was formed. One wonders if India really needs a sermon from Pakistan where only in the recent past, not to talk of the plight of Hindu minorities, a minor Christian boy was beaten to death by his own teenage classmates in knowledge and full view of the class teacher and another Christian young woman worker was sentenced to death in a blasphemy row. The fault of the victims in both cases was that they had drawn water from the same source in use of the members of majority community. Shah is certainly within his right of being angry and exercising the freedom of expression but it would certainly have been more appropriate if a person of his status and maturity questioned the law and order in Uttar Pradesh, the effectiveness of the administration and state government or even fanatic Hindu organization, if any, but putting the entire nation and governance under dock and trial for the sake of perceived "intolerance" appears grossly unfair and motivated.
As for the issue of intolerance in Hinduism and two dominant Abrahamic religions, despite such connotation, embedded sense and implications in the debate, the discourse on religions is a sensitive topic and needs to be discussed separately with due care and diligence. But even a cursory and dispassionate glimpse on the scriptures and texts depicting the Indian civilization, culture and inborn religions (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism) would vindicate that India has traditionally been a land of virtue and knowledge based value system with tolerance as an essential and ingrained component of it. No other human race or community in the world has ever been as tolerant as native Indians. Hinduism values and endorses the concept that the methodology and means may be different but all belief systems lead to the same end goal; hence they should be respected by all. Hindus do not interfere in other belief systems; they do not believe in conversion or criticism of other religions; and react or fight back only when their values and belief system is deliberately hurt, violated or threatened by others.
It is true that the present political dispensation governing the country does not suit to some religious groups and communities, opposition parties particularly the oldest national party, and pseudo-secularists and pseudo-liberals. They have been part of the common eco-system evolved over the decades after independence in a sort of symbiotic relationship. For illustration, the many leaders and last prime minister of the grand old party are on record to have said that the minorities are their first preference or minorities have first claim over the resources of the country; many minority religious organizations and groups had free hands and opportunities to prosper as NGOs with uninterrupted foreign funds and agenda of radicalization and conversion remaining unquestioned; and said secularists and liberals have received patronage and prospered as part of the same eco-system. It is obvious that a political dispensation or ideology which insists on an equal treatment and opportunities for all citizens, with preferential treatment or appeasement to none, does not suit to this Eco-system. Therefore, what would be more suitable or opportune time to trigger controversies like this when the Parliamentary elections are due in next few months!