Rising Intolerance; Myth or Reality?

Lately there has been a significant media glare on incidences of religious and caste based intolerance. Notice that I do not mention a significant rise but a significant media glare on such incidences. To set out the tone of this article right here, I would like to say that India is a diverse country with diverse interests pulling in different directions. Intolerance is as real as everything else in our nation. Unless you’ve completely cut-off from all news sources, you obviously know what’s been termed as the Dadri Lynching and the beef bans. This preceded another campaign by the intelligentsia, termed as rabid anti-BJP leftists by the BJP, of returning of awards conferred upon them by the nation. A string of writers, authors and scientists have put their weight behind this movement along with historians and the Sahitya Akademi.

The problem with this movement is it smacks of short-sightedness. These awardees have been around for long enough to see what the nation has been through. They have seen riots, lynching, corruption, terror attacks, human rights violations, need I say more? Nothing can be further from the truth that India is an epitome of peaceful and tolerant existence. This isn’t true today and certainly hasn’t been true since time immemorial. Being a nation so wide and diverse, incidences of religious intolerance will never be uncommon. There are always fringe elements in all communities who thrive in such environments. The point here is that the incidences of late are being magnified and blown out of proportion. No wonder the killings of people who eat beef or the murder of activists is condemnable. However, is this new in India? Have we not got used to these reports in the media? Have the writers, scientists and historians not seen the Sikh riots of 1984, Ayodhya 1992, Godhra 2002, innumerable corruption scandals? Where was this conscience then? Intolerance is not on a rise. It is the media that has jumped upon such incidences and projected an image that such incidences are uncommon when in fact such murders and lynching were so common that it never got reported by the mainstream media. Are the awardees so short-sighted that they do not realize a media-generated incident when it is staring them in the face or is there a deeper political controversy that is behind this?

The question is not whether the BJP is behind this or whether the RSS is communal, it is media that is stealing the government’s thunder by exaggerating on issues that it somehow missed out in the past decades thereby creating this image that we are becoming an intolerant society thanks to the present establishment. I say exaggeration not because the incidences are so miniscule that they do not deserve media attention but they have been provided disproportionate reel time than the precedent set by the media itself.

The liberals argue that the Prime Minister’s silence is hurting the nation. Modi must reel in the BJP loudmouths who seem to be more publicity hungry than Rakhi Sawant. However, a comment on each and every issue by the Prime Minister sets a very wrong precedent. Modi is not a silent bystander but a hunter biding his time. Like every other issue that the ignorant media and we as an ignorant nation have forgotten, the BJP knows that this too shall pass. Remember the December 16th Delhi gangrape that generated enough media hype for the world to call us rapists? This is an exact repeat of such a media-generated crisis. Rapes happened in India just as much as they did before and they take place around the world just as much as they did before yet when the media “takes up a cause”, for as long as it appears juicy to them, they make us believe what they want us to believe. The news channels and newspapers lack responsibility and their demands for freedom of speech appear less and less agreeable with their current conduct. No wonder China likes to keep a state-controlled media.