Global Response to Intolerance in India | Dr Muhammad Khan

The rapidly growing intolerance in Indian state and society is not only a concern for the Indian intellectuals and liberal class, but it is of great concern for the international community and regional countries of South Asia and Southeast Asia. For the regional countries, the primary worry is that, owing to close proximity, there is a danger of spreading this intolerance and Hindu extremism into these countries. At the global level, there is huge Indian Diaspora and expatriate working all over the globe, which may become a source of spreading this menace of Hinduvita led extremism and intolerance. Then, India has 1.3 billion populations, covering a sizable portion of the globe, which if becomes intolerant and extremist, would cause a great damage to international society as a whole.

Visualising a dismal consequence, a group of intellectuals and liberal politicians have protested against the BJP sponsored intolerance and extremism in India. Many of the scholars and award-holders have even returned awards and rewards to the Indian Government. So much so, the Congress under Sonia Ghandi has also protested against the state sponsored extremism and intolerance. At the global level, intellectuals and scholars from over 150 countries have expressed their solidarity with the Indian authors and writers, who returned their prestigious awards in protest against growing tolerance in India.

The organisation of the intellectuals and writers, PEN International, working to promote literature and protect the freedom of expression all around the world has even written letters to Indian President, Prime Minister and Sahitya Akademi, urging them to take “immediate steps” for the protection of everyone’s right, especially those who express their free will and write against the ills and evils or extremism and intolerance. The President of PEN International, John Ralston Saul said that, “We stand in solidarity with the more than 50 novelists, scholars, poets and public intellectuals who have returned their awards to the Akademi and admire their courage.” The PEN International had its 81st Congress in Quebec City in Canada which was attended by writers and scholars from over 150 countries. This global forum has expressed great concern over the murder of ‘ noted Indian scholar and intellectual, M M Kalburgi’ who was killed by Indian Hindu extremist for criticising the extreme Hinduvita intolerance, especially Idol worshippers. Professor and scholar MM Kalburgi was of 77 years when murdered at his place in the Indian town of Dharward. The organisation PEN International has advised Indian rulers to bring an end to this growing tendency of extremism and intolerance especially against the intellectuals.

While giving detail about the extremism and growing intolerance in India, it is pertinent to mention that, these trends have not come overnight. There is a channelized growth of these trends of radicalisation and intolerance in the Indian state and society. The ideology of Hindu radicalisation is quite old, indeed centuries old and extremist party “RSS” was once banned by British Indian Government too. After partition of India in 1947, the radical class of India under RSS turned against Muslims and Pakistan. Indeed, the Indian leadership and radical Hindu majority in India never reconciled with the partition of India in 1947 and creation of Pakistan as a separate sovereign state. Nevertheless, the radicalised Indian Hindu majority continued conspiring against Pakistan and Muslims living in India.

Over the years, the radical Hindus organized themselves into more extreme organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), having the agenda that, Hindustan (India) is a country, where only Hindu can live and grow, and there is no place for non Hindus. This philosophy of RSS gained so much popularity, momentum and strength in India that, its political wing, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled India for two consecutive terms earlier and now third term, with an absolute majority under RSS strongman, Narindra Modi, since May, 2014. Now practically, there is a RSS rule in India and Indian society is intensely witnessing violent waves of intolerance and radicalisation in the form of vandalism of Christian Churches, forceful conversions of Muslims and Christians in the name of Shudhi (purification) or Ghar Wapsi, ban on beef /cow slaughter and inclusion of Hindu religious books in curriculum. These trends of radicalisation in Indian state and society have even forced President Obama, who warned India, during his visit of New Delhi and thereafter against the growing trends of radicalisation. The growing trends of intolerance in India against non- Hindu minorities are rapidly radicalising the Indian society at large. This move has posed serious threats for the very existence of the minorities in India and its surrounding countries.

Hindu radicalisation has deeply impacted the Indian Armed Forces, who have rapidly started following the RSS agenda of Hiduvita. According to a senior Indian Naval officer, Rear Admiral Vijay Shankar, “henceforth new naval cadets would be supplied copies of Ramayana for class room exercises.” Besides, Hanuman (Hindu deity) temples are increasing in Cantonments. Hindu religious festivities are celebrated whereas Muslim and Christian festivals are not celebrated. Indian media is otherwise projecting themes and narratives, which are anti Pakistan and pro Hindu in nature. Immoral acts like rapes and molestation of women (particularly visitors and tourists, besides minorities and Dalits are at peak and Government of BJP could do little against such acts, either deliberately or otherwise, having soft corner for followers of Shiv Sena and RSS.

In the wordings of Indian historians like; Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and M G S Narayanan the situation in India has “highly vitiated atmosphere of intolerance in the country. Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments but with bullets. And, when it is hoped that the head of government will make a statement about improving the prevailing conditions, he chooses to speak only about general poverty; and it takes the head of the state to make the required reassuring statement, not once but twice.”

There is a need that, Indian Government must reconcile its role and take into consideration the protests of local and international scholars for elimination of the growing trends of intolerance in Indian state and society. Like PEN International there is an immediate need that, the UN and international community to take a note of this rapidly growing intolerance in 1.3 billion populations, which may become an explosive for the entire globe.

— The writer is International Relations analyst based in Islamabad.


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