Intolerance on the rise because of Hindutva: Chidambaram

Zealots believe that if they gather sufficient numbers, they will be the 'State' and their word will be the 'law'.

 |  2-minute read |   06-03-2016
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To most Indians, the story of the struggle for Independence ended on August 15, 1947. In fact, the struggle began on that day. The idea of an open and free society was unknown in most parts of India and to several generations of Indians.

Many of them lived their whole lives under a king or a satrap. Many lived their whole lives in fear of God and godmen.

Many accepted the societal rules and restrictions as if they were scripture. As a result, we have inherited layer upon layer of dogma, myth, superstition, prejudice and discrimination. Many of us believe, wrongly, that this is our "culture", and believe, wrongly, that we should be proud of our "culture". Dissent has to struggle to find a place in this culture. It is not a culture of tolerance, as we sometimes rationalise, but a culture of intolerance.

91fl1ayzwrl_030616105659.jpg Standing Guard; Rupa; Rs 500.

In such infertile soil, it is hardly to be expected that liberalism will take roots. John Stuart Mill, in his book On Liberty, proposed a simple principle of liberalism. He wrote, "The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

Our sense of liberty is the exact opposite. We exercise power over another member of society, against his will, because, as Mill cautioned, we think that it is for "his own good".

The rising tide of illiberalism is frightening. Look at what is happening around us: ban the book (Wendy Doniger), ban the documentary (India's Daughter), ban beef (in Maharashtra).

Attack the writer (Puliyur Murugesan), lynch the rape accused (in Nagaland), kill the rationalist (Govind Pansare). Return to your forefather's religion (ghar wapsi), vandalise the church (in Delhi).

The common thread that runs through most of these eruptions is a reactionary ideology, Hindutva. I fear that illiberalism and intolerance are on the rise because the zealots believe that the State is on their side and they can silence the voice of the liberal or the dissenter. They also believe that if they gather sufficient numbers, they will be the "State" and their word will be the "law".

(Reprinted from publisher's permission and courtesy of Mail Today.)


P Chidambaram P Chidambaram @pchidambaram_in

The write is former finance minister, Government of India.

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