I have many questions for those engaged in the #AwardWapsi campaign. I listed some of them in my #NationalInterest column last week. But one cannot take away the right of any member or section of the intellectual and creative community to protest against the establishment or an atmosphere they deem intolerant. A public protest against a protest, and charging dissenters with defaming the nation, is outright stifling of dissent, symptomatic only of awful neo-fascism.
Sorry @AnupamPkher your #MarchForIndia wrong. Protesting against protest? Charging dissenters with defaming the nation is awful neo-fascism— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) November 7, 2015
I am saddened that some of the most articulate and successful members of the creative community have led this campaign with a farcical #MarchForIndia, ending with a meeting with the prime minister.
When I articulated this reservation to @AnupamKher, he responded with a counter question: Why was I taking away his #FreedomOfExpression by doing so? Was it wrong to say that #IndiaIsTolerant? he asked.
Aren’t you taking my Freedom of expression away by calling my/our March wrong? Is saying #IndiaIsTolerant wrong? https://t.co/0fVGjEiZVN— Anupam Kher (@AnupamPkher) November 8, 2015
But my question to him is: Can he not exercise his freedom of expression through engagement and effective intervention in a public debate, especially considering that he enjoys a powerful voice in our society, and the media, on all platforms, covets his time?
U have a powerful voice & intervene effectively in public debate. Marches justified against establishment not for it https://t.co/dB2jdnI8NM— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) November 8, 2015
Home minister Rajnath Singh himself made an appeal to those who disagree to come, debate and voice their concerns. Should Kher not do the same?
On another note, the shameful and condemnable harassment of journalists in #MarchForIndia raised some serious questions about the tolerance of the well-heeled people claiming India's tolerance.
Watch the visuals of #MarchForIndia crowd harassing journos. Well-heeled, educated cityfolk. And meanwhile they're trending #IndiaIsTolerant— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) November 7, 2015
The essence of tolerance is tolerating the right of others to disagree even if they are in the smallest minority. It cannot be shoved down the throats of those who dare to dissent in the form of hashtag-tolerance.
(This post first appeared in Shekhar Gupta's Facebook post.)