The article, “The rising menace of intolerance” (Feb.14) provided an excellent prognosis of the malady of intolerance eating into the vitals of the nation. The valiant efforts of the Supreme Court are, no doubt, a silver lining in an otherwise depressive situation. Every time an incident surfaces, scholarly articles appear in the media dissecting the phenomenon. More needs to be done. What is called for is a concerted attack to subdue the medieval and obscurantist ideas from which intolerant actions and vandalism spring.
India is witnessing the birth of a new age of bigotry where the sense of hurt rules over the right to free expression. Intolerance is on the rise because the state and its agencies often side with those who hold out the threat of violence in protesting against some book, film or work of art. It is as if every protest in a democracy is intrinsically legitimate without the need to justify the reasons for umbrage.
While I am in full agreement with Soli Sorabjee’s view that “it was not a settlement but surrender by Kamal Hassan,” I am not for describing the surrender as “conceding to certain intolerant groups.” The Muslim leaders who opposed the film Vishwaroopam said they would hold peaceful demonstrations, which was their democratic right.
Also, the film does not depict Indian Muslims as terrorists. It is only the State which projected the Muslims as those who would take the law into their hands and create problems. Mr. Haasan did not take his case to the Supreme Court because he was apprehensive that even if the Court cleared it, he would antagonise the government.
The Madras High Court, which is one of the protectors of the rule of law and fundamental rights, showed “judicial extremism” by unduly enforcing the ban on Vishwaroopam. First, when the task of certifying a film is already vested with the Central Board of Film Certification, isn’t it odd that the court should decide on this? Second, when the Supreme Court has already set a precedent in K.M. Shankarappa’s case in November 2000, the High Court could have restrained itself from such an act which hampers the fundamental rights of the citizen.
It should be left to the citizens to choose what and what not to see. It would be unjust to ban any book or film by just considering the viewpoint of a particular sect. On the other hand, people must have tolerance for the other points of view. People causing violence in reaction to such things are generally a misguided lot who are ready to kill and be killed in the name of religion or caste. People should ponder over such issues and respond rationally.
As a nation we are happy, nay eager, for material advancement, but want to stick to our dogmas when it comes to social and cultural advancements. The pretence is absurd and the hypocrisy ridiculous. Anyone who sounds like the boy in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” is quickly silenced by the majority.