THE BLOG

The Intolerance Debate And The Boundaries Of Democracy

12/02/2016 1:17 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter

India is country where a chief minister can call Prime Minister Narendra Modi a coward and a psychopath person. A woman can throw a flower pot at the PM's cavalcade and get nothing more than a rap on the wrist. And while this is a free country, does it mean that anyone can do whatever the hell they want? Democracy empowers people with freedom of speech and expression, but is this freedom not misused too often to count?

Of late, since November or so, the topic of intolerance has been hotly debated. Keep in mind that it is because of democracy that people have the liberty to claim intolerance against their own government. Whenever a controversy is created, politicians, eminent personalities and activists have used and defined the word 'intolerance' as per their own understanding and to their own benefit. But in reality what is intolerance?

If the government had imposed the ban forcibly then yes, it could have been called intolerance. But in reality the decision was supported by the majority of voters.

Literally speaking, intolerance means not tolerating something at all. However, in today's world it has its own different definition. When a decision is imposed against the majority one can cite intolerance. However, if the majority of society backs a decision then the remaining sections cannot claim intolerance. Why? Because there's a vote and the majority's decision was implemented. Let's take the recent example of the beef ban in Maharashtra. If the government had imposed the ban forcibly then yes, it could have been called intolerance. But in reality the decision was supported by the majority of voters. Hence, the beef ban cannot be cited as an example of intolerance.

Let's take another example of intolerance that shook the entire nation -- the Dadri lynching, which took place before the Bihar elections. It is up for another debate whether the incident was engineered for political gains. But the incident was a clear-cut case of intolerance. Why? In India, every human being, irrespective of caste or creed, is free to do anything legal. This includes one's eating habits. Now, lynching a person just because of his eating habits, that too solely based on rumours, not only justifies the charge of intolerance but also qualifies as a heinous crime. But at the same time, blaming the Centre for the Dadri lynching is also wrong.

One cannot insult a country in which they lived their whole life and justify it later by calling it an opinion.

There's one more example that took social media by storm: Aamir Khan's statement about intolerance in India. Well, his statement too had two sides. While the Dadri incident was an example of intolerance,, was he justified to say that the entire country is intolerant? Of course not. Besides, neither he nor his family has faced discrimination. It was an insult to a country that made him 'the Aamir Khan'.

For India to be great, yes, democracy is important. But more importantly, certain boundaries need to be established. One cannot insult a country in which they lived their whole life and justify it later by calling it an opinion. There is a fine line between opinion and insult. One can be unhappy about something, no doubt, but insulting that same thing out of unhappiness is entirely a different thing. In today's age, what India needs is a proper definition of democracy and intolerance that can differentiate opinion from insult.

More On This Topic