An open letter to Amir Khan on the intolerance debate.
Dear Mr. Khan,
Much has been exchanged over the last 24 hours – scoring brownie points and packing you and your family to unfathomable places. fortunately, yes fortunately, the truth lies in between and way in favour of tolerance.
Let me start by saying this – I just don’t like Modi & co, Amit shah, especially. I am a Congressman to the core and your statement should have been a Godsend to attack the present establishment. But, satyameva jayate. Its not so.
The debate ‘for tolerance’ or lack thereof has been maligned by only one thing – lack of logic. There are no coherent logic to say so and equally there are no coherent logic to dispute the claim. “Either you are nationalistic or your are a Pakistani supporter.” This shows the myopic view that we have on an important component – the underlying fabric of our society. I am of the firm belief that only feeble mind argue with examples. But unfortunately, I have to become one such feeble mind, partially, with my defence of the land I call my country and the one which feeds me, my family and my friends.
I am sure that you and your best half must have come to the conclusion that this place is not so tolerant because of certain events that had happened in the recent past. Be it dadri or calling any and everyone who criticize this government as anti national (yours truly included). Yes, these are unmistakably abhorrent and reprehensible incidents and acts which have to be condemned (like most of us do) and vilified.
Let me not become one of those lunatics who question your patriotism and your allegiance to India on Mumbai bombings (1992) or 26/11. I know that you, as a patriot, hate perpetrators of those acts.
Now, let me tell your why this country is very tolerant despite the experimentation or trials of people with malafide intent.
1. India is a thriving democracy – for all our failings, to disprove Churchill, we are a thriving democracy. People thew us (Congress) out in the last election for myriad of reasons. The same can happen if the people think that this place is not the one that they voted for. Let me paraphrase what Time Magazine mentioned in 2004 on India – a sikh being sworn in by a muslim headed by a christian of a hindu nation. You can claim that that was 2004 and this is 2015 and much has changed. NO, IT HAS NOT. If that be the case, the majoritarianism that everyone speaks of would have overtaken all minorities (myself included, who just dont like Modi as PM). The minorities could have easily become Jews in a Nazi land. Surprise! They (you included) have not.
2. Rule of law – Though I consider the delay in adjudicating any case makes our judiciary more of a joke than justice, let us get the facts right. When has the judiciary sided with the majoritarianism when it comes to freedom of expression or any basic fundamental right? You will be best informed that ‘someone’ was called as modern day Nero when a city (or a state) was burning. This guts and even the present judgement to reject National Judicial Appointments Commission decision of the government, must give you confidence on the rule of law in our (see, not yours or nor just mine) land. Please remember that people from Sanjay Dutt to Kasab were given fair hearings (some would say more than fair) in our own courts.
3. Constitution mindful of the past – You must know that we have something called as reservation in education and government jobs. Why do we still have it? It is to rectify the past injustices which have been committed (by my forefathers included) by some group of people. Although I am a victim of this, I fully support this as a principle of natural justice. I am not sure of a constitution in the world which has acknowledged the wrong doings of the past and seek to correct it. This must give you a confidence. This is important because, we neither live in denial (like many nations choose to do) nor we forget what has happened in the past. As someone who feel that you are victimised, you must feel secure with this fact. Some may feel that this has no relevance to the your statement. But it has. The fundamental point being mindful of the past, including our subjugation by various external forces and its consequences and present day realities. Read mutual co-existence or the most hated word our times – secularism.
4. Un (non – in)-Bigotry – It is true that many in the extreme are oblivious to the above and speak what comes to their mind, including something bordering hate speech. But you must also be happy (and cognizant of the fact) that you have more number of supporters than your detractors at this crucial juncture. Case in point – all prime time news shows today were dedicated to what you said. Whether they did it for TRP or you were a good selling point (or commodity, if you choose to believe) is irrelevant. But the fact that they did proves that there are two narratives, one of which is stronger and that is inclusiveness.
5. We, the people – all above are of no use without people who are adhering to it. Yes, we as individuals are intolerant to stupidest of things, from shouting in traffic to calling names for minute of infractions. Yes, we are intolerant individuals but a tolerant society. This is the dichotomy which many fail to understand, myself and many others including.
Like all societies, we have extreme elements who will border hate speech, who will spew venom and will get away with it. But these extreme elements are absorbed or curtailed by the larger average of tolerance which is still intact. You will even be convinced that the current establishment is hand in glove with these elements, which may be right through inferences but not be evidences. But still, if more than a billion people become specimen of intolerance, we will be having a civil war. Speaking against an ideology is completely different from speaking against a nation. A person who is articulate, I am sure, know the difference.
Robert Frost once said that “The best way out is always through.” Hope you understood what he meant.
I am not going to convince you to stay here but if you choose to leave, be mindful of the fact that it has not been caused by externality.
I will be happy to listen to your ‘reasons’ more than your conclusions.