‘Intolerance’ of sustainability in Argumentative traditions: Need to shift the debate

The recent emotional engagement of Indians with the issue of intolerance is rather disturbing,  considering that we have again and again boasted about the resilience of our argumentative tradition, its capacity to adjust and assimilate,  deriving from Hinduism as a way of life, an worldview rather than a religion. That today as a society, we are allowing ourselves to get entangled with a politicized version of the concept of Intolerance is even more alarming for India as a nation. My observations in brief is that,  ‘ intolerance’  inherently is not a value neutral  concept. One can be tolerant or intolerant, only based on the ethical connotation of a  particular event or issue. If one is a neutral spectator  to an immoral action, will he be termed as tolerant  vis-a vis a person who takes the rightful stand and decides to implement a proactive action against the immoral act. The question here is tolerance of ‘what’ and intolerance of  ‘ what’.

This national fervour to proclaim India as tolerant or intolerant nation is itself an indication that we are still very high on tolerance as a society. That pockets and lobbies are engaging in this debate is indeed a positive indicator of India’s resilience as a nation. More so, there are evidences that there is  an effort to  disarm this  debate  from its religious armour. This was seen when the recent Amir Khan imbroglio was defended by Anubhav Sinha Director of PK who tried to bring the onus on the media and its selective indiscretion.

However, in this entire rhetorics what manifests is the failure of  the rational middle class  and eminent  institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University  to sieve out social deviance and value degeneration from the so called idea of   growing religious intolerance in India and politicization of vital social issues. Even greater failure was in the part of so called  recognizable social voices such as Amir Khan  recently,  intellectuals who protested by returning  national awards, public figures, visionaries and social leaders  who rather irresponsibly displayed  malignant indisposition and completely failed  to direct the debate into constructive domains of rational thought . It is indeed disgraceful to see  a nation like India  getting so  embroiled in viewing  intolerance  within a  political agenda, that it totally overlooked the socially deviant  and criminal nature of this events. Also, that not everyone who was talking against the incidents was necessarily implying a generic trend of intolerance as a whole. What complicated the scenario further  is the irresponsible and rather impulsive outbursts of public figures ,who either deliberately engaged or unintentionally  fell  prey to the political motives.

It is apparent that there is  lack of direction, and equally  motivated search for a direction,  in the Indian social fabric.  There is also an increasing incapacity of institutions to create leaders of the stature of Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose,  Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel who could steer,mentor and guide the collective conscience of this dynamic nation towards a constructive path of nation and character building. Mr Modi’s efforts in this direction has to be appreciated going beyond narrow political agenda. His popularity among the Indian Diaspora points to the increasing demands of an evolving transnational Indian nation. His efforts in the beginning of his tenure to address the school children of the nation on children’s day, and  directly interact with school children via ICT and address their queries individually was indeed an effort in that direction. The lack of focus in deliberating right choices is a reflection of foundational weakness in our national character and value consciousness. A situation that has been  created by the breakdown of  institutions that contribute vital  societal functions such as  value orientation and goal attainment in society, such as family, community, education and polity.  The Bihar cabinet  formation points to a dire situation,  it is a sad state  where political goals are  allowed to be manipulated by uneducated  and  doubtful ethics of  politicians.  It is here where  the  intolerance debate  should be  located right now.  Can we as rational thinking citizens, tolerate the increasing role played by undeserving politicians with such  dire educational consequences to architect and engineer our national destiny.

What is now urgent is that we clearly shift  the location of the debate of tolerance from being a  simple political  bickering to  where it really needs to be. What does India as a nation, really  need to be tolerant and intolerant of ?. Instead of being part of the ploy of a defunct social system which is increasingly driven by deviance and value degeneration, incapable of imparting  any constructive direction and guidance, we need to find ways to revive, rebuild and energize  institutions,  leverage on modern education and rationalization of values and strengthen their capacity to address social change, universal justice, equity through  value regeneration.  Grave challenges like religious intolerance, ethnic conflict, poverty, environmental degradation will automatically   find the most conducive solution.