Tolerance or Intolerance . . .

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By Ananya S Guha

It is saddening that any time one writes of a kind of rightist element that has penetrated into the socio political ethos of the country, then there will be the intellectual types, the highly qualified and well educated who will react. And in this reaction, they will bring in the Islamic or Christian factor as reactionary forces. I am not denying the fact that Christianity has a proseltyzing zeal, and the existence of Islamic fundamentalists both in India and abroad, have threatened to disintegrate not only our country but even parts of the world. But, is the American policy of Balkanization correct? Is their intervention into Islamic countries as a saviour, ethical, is not contradictory to their tall claims of peace. In the process have not women and children been exterminated.

India is a secular country, this enshrined in the Constitution, it has to look after the interests of  the minorities, it has to profess not only religious tolerance, but accomodate all kinds of religious views, take into account the socio economic status of minorities, why they live in ghettos, their impoverishment etc.

Recently I wrote articles on two websites regarding what I called the new found love of a rightist organization for the people of North East India. I meant the Assam violence and how this organization rallied round the people of North East which is exemplary. But I could not help but detect an agenda behind it which sprang more from their dislike of a minority community than anything else. This is my interpretation and I have a right to it. But I was surprised to see the reaction in these websites, the first which called me an Ostrich with shortsighted world view. The second said that I have less depth in my knowledge of North East India. I have been saying again and again that the immigration issue is deepening crises in North East India, but the immigrants could be Hindus as well, from a neighbouring country. That was also a genesis of the Assam Movement. Why are we silent on this? To see the problems of North East India as only that of immigration is to be myopic and severely constrained in our thinking. It also does not look at the historical realities of certain states of North East India such as Manipur and Nagaland, to some extent Meghalaya which had remained largely independent from British Dominion. And the British meant to keep it that way. With the formation of the Indian Union the assimilation process has always been difficult and trying even to this day.

Secondly, in the larger context of the country the Islamic culture having its origin in history cannot be wished away because this is a historical reality. It is alright to call the Muslims invaders and plunderers, but the fact remains that through this torturous process there has been cultural assimilation. The common Hindu and Muslim have lived side by side for centuries in India and they will continue to do so. If we find things so abhorrent about Islamic religion then we should not accept Islamic architecture as being an integral part of our cultural ethos. Similarly, we should remember that their have been attacks and very physical attacks against Christians in the recent past. Have we forgotten the Graham Staines episode. If they are so much detrimental to our interest or the interest of Hindu societies we should have the guts and the moral courage and conviction not to admit our children to their school. But there is an ironic contradiction: in one breath we criticize them and in the same breath we ext
ol them for their contribution to education and send our children to their schools and  colleges.

It is painful to read what educated people write. All I am pleading for is to put things in the correct historical and social perspectives and not to generalize about minority religious communities. The RSS working in North East for four decades as someone has pointed out as a response to my article is not the point. The point is we must tolerate religious and social views of others; Hindus, Christians and Muslims alike.

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