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A raging debate has risen in India about tolerance or, as some would argue, the reduction of it in the country. The hypothesis about tolerance or intolerance can only be objectively judged on the basis of requisite data that is in paucity at the current instance. Debates often on the media and social media platforms have become supercharged without any meaningful conclusions in sight.

A pertinent question to ask is what constitutes intolerance? Does it mean an inappropriate legislation, denial of rights, violent incidents related to religion and other identities, irresponsible statements by government functionaries, or just even a plain disagreement with others’ point of view?

Until now what has been observed is mostly the fifth point – plain disagreement with others’ point of view. Writers, poets, artists and scientists are expressing their dissent like never before by returning their awards. But had there been intolerance their views and acts would have certainly been muzzled/ tried to be muzzled. In fact in India what is being witnessed is the complete opposite of intolerance. People are expressing themselves and their views like never before and their rights are not being curtailed for it. That in fact is the basis of dissent in any democracy. Of course individual incidents in the third category have also happened – violent incidents related to identities like being rationalists, vigilante acts leading to heinous crimes and the like. The government’s functionaries could have expressed their views in a more empathetic manner but this in no way means that there is erosion in tolerance levels in the country. For, similar and sometimes even far worse incidents have happened in the country before drawing even more extreme views and inappropriate comments.

There should certainly be caution and reasonable dialogue with the government on the issue of tolerance by those who feel tolerance levels of the whole country are going down. The lack of dialogue between government and stakeholders is being construed as increasing intolerance. Proper dialogue would ensure that concerns of all stakeholders are expressed and the measures to tackle such incidents effectively are taken by the governments both at the central and state level.

The crucial difference now as compared to previously is that people are so connected with information that each incident looks magnified. The modern media, social media and networks ensure information travels almost at the speed of light and many people are aware of what happens most of the time. While it acts as a great tool for access to information and awareness it also acts as a sort of thing that creates perceptions about reality. It may and does affect perceptions about the prevailing state of affairs and that leads to perceptions about tolerance or the lack of it in greater measure than was seen before access to information was freely available to most people of the country.

While individual incidents can be viewed as pointers the fact is if they really do show greater intolerance can be concluded only on greater availability and analysis of data. That raises a fundamental question about improvement of statistical systems in the country pertaining to crime. What is required is speedy and accurate updating of data. Apart from this also required is justice mechanisms to bring speedy justice to act as a deterrent to perpetrators of crime in the country. Fast track movement of such crimes will ensure that law and order and rule of law strengthens.

On a societal level what is required is greater equanimity in understanding tolerance and what is its importance in modern constitutionally elected states. It is important that that the vast multiplicity of views and voices is protected as this will lead to greater sense of security, debate, more reasoning and more critical enquiry. Tolerance is important because it is imperative for fostering creative thinking. Creative thinking is the bedrock of critical enquiry that fosters innovation. So long as one’s right to expressing a point of view is concerned there should be freedom to express what one feels like.

Tolerance for other’s point of view as well as mutual respect for each other’s practices is important and necessary for not only economic but also social and human progress. India’s improving stature globally on the investment front as well as on important indices like Global Competitiveness Index, Ease of Doing Index and several others will benefit greatly by ensuring that proper dialogue is in place between stakeholders of society and the government at all levels. Also, what is required is speedy trial for perpetrators of crimes whose acts risk India’s credibility as a society that in a very large measure has fostered creative thinking and tolerance for dissent.

Amit Kapoor is an Ians.in columnist.

Amit Kapooris Chair, Institute for Competitiveness & Editor of Thinkers.

13 Responses to “Greater equanimity required in understanding tolerance”

  1. Sukhamaya Bain

    Another mumbo jumbo write-up. What a gibberish, “Writers, poets, artists and scientists are expressing their dissent like never before by returning their awards. But had there been intolerance their views and acts would have certainly been muzzled/ tried to be muzzled.”! How would you not tolerate someone giving up his/her award, Mr. Kapoor? How would you muzzle their nonviolent act of feeling sad and outrage over the state of affairs vis-a-vis beef eating in India? Lynch them like what was done to Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh?

    The reality of the matter is that India, even under the secularism-flashing political parties, has been intolerant of beef eating. The reality is that in almost 90% of the land area of India, slaughtering cow and eating beef are prohibited by law.

    India surely needs to improve a lot on not imposing illogical majority and mob wishes on its citizens.

  2. Ali

    With speck of cloud over the hinterland; umbrellas are flared beyond the horizon.’Busy Bodies’.

  3. raju

    This opinion page has become a Hindu writers’ establishment. I suppose seeing how bdnews24 is associated and promoting Hindu culture the muslims had enough of it. Is this website owned by a minority? I thought Bangladesh is secular. In life everything has to have balance.

  4. Golam Arshad

    India as a Big and a growing financial Power Nation, can be that sponsor of BrandingTolerance, as a Means of Progress in negating Global Violence! What is the current aberration, the Fear of extremism in Religious Tolerance! In my opinion and I believe a Dialog between All stockholders rooted in Religious intolerance must be initiated. Terror cannot be annihilated by only surgical means. “Why” must be researched, and stackholders must pursue an open mind interaction, fair on both sides of Terror and wanton Peace must be pursued and will of resolution must be found. The World now is under threat from Intolerance and Financial Disparity, Religious intolerance!

    • Golam Arshad

      Financial Security needed for a Good Peaceful Life. The Wealth Lord of the World must do something to minimize disparity and a extend their power to minimize poverty and hunger. Hardly one per cent of the World population blessed with too much terrible wealth and political power! Those few could motivate and support people in vast majority to be economically self reliant. Will the Mighty Wealth and power Lord come forward and help majority to be send reliant and rich in financial security! Who said that, ” Do not dole out a fish for one meal, teach him how to catch fish, and help him or her to join the Club of Financial Security”.

    • Akteruzzaman Chowdhury

      You have commented “Terror cannot be annihilated by surgical means only”. The world is a very bichitra place and we don’t yet have any means to annihilate terror. But in Israel they have been quite successful in containing by military means the fountainhead of terror ie Palestinians. Although we don’t like the way they do it. Iran, a shia country supports the sunnis only in one place, namely Palestine, which is a predominantly sunni nation. In Israel there are many sunnis and arabs; they don’t have liberty but they enjoy a per capita income of nearly $18000 (Israel is at $35000). If Palestine was independent their GDP would go down to roughly $7000. The world is really a very bichitra place.

  5. Pulak Sen

    Has this become an Indian (online) paper? Aren’t there any desi columnists left? Who are these people writing on BD topics? For all we know, they are RAW agents of (dis)information.

    • sundar swapan

      this is a glaring example of intolerance and complete lack of equanimity that the article speaks of.

  6. RH

    I am at a loss for words here… after reading quickly and realizing how capricious you were in writing about the recent beef eating hau kau which resulted in the death of a Muslim. This Hindu sympathizer page will publish anything by a Hindu. Do you have no respect for the person who had to die for eating beef? I’m a non-eater of meat and have no problem with others eating whatever they eat. Koreans eat dog for crying our loud. In a battle field soldiers eat horses. You tip toed around the issue of fundamentalist Indians having problems with Muslims eating cow meat. Do you hear Muslims going bananas when the Hindus eat pig meat? Why shouldn’t the writers give up their awards to the government when they saw this government is not representing, the entire nation of India and what India is supposed be in the 21st century? Did you know in Canada, Indians who are speaking out against intolerance are getting death threats? How far will they take it? Did you know that India’s greatest son and my hero Neatji Shubas Chandra Bose himself ate beef while in exile in India? Sugata Bose wrote that in Bose’s biography titled “His majesty’s opponent” and Sugata is related to him & he won’t make up something like this. My motto is: to say things as I see it. Why beat around the bush?

    • ALI

      Even the most decorated world personality…. decorated by the Nobel ribbon garlanding the neck is playing the foul and filth; actively participating in the composition of the national structura… honeycombed to annihilate the Rohingyas…introducing ‘Aung San Suu Kyi’. Race is a dash into the deep well …if it is manipulated by the State Runners. The Right Hand scribe volumes of legislation but the Left Hand is ever more empowerd to viciously club away.
      Matureness….too much of it leads to the rot! Simple ‘stance’ would be the most rational and less of a quagmire.

    • RH


      Bose was in exile in Europe(Austria & Germany)for many years before heading East with his army. Sadly, his contribution to the liberation of India is not well-known because post-independence politicians kept him sort of hidden in the dark. Tried to portray him as someone eccentric. Nehru did it to make himself look like a true son of India. You get the picture. He had put Bose’s family under surveillance for many years. You should know that this secret just came out recently. S Bose was one of the most brilliant and tolerant man who had ever lived. No Indian can hold a candle to him now or ever will. can’t you all learn from him?

  7. Abugi

    Truly said Anil,
    Wish you kind of writers inspire our Indian authors too, currently our authors are deeply entrenched to Lutyens/Congress feet. No one is daring to write against these bosses of ‘communist media’.

  8. Ali

    The level of intolerance led to the largest human migration and the re-hashing of regional borders; and has mutated into deeper complexity.

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