October 2015: Our anguished concern over the growing intolerance in the country
A Statement Against Intolerance
We, a group of concerned scholars, researchers and writers who believe in the sanctity of the Indian Constitution and of fundamental human rights and values, wish to express our anguished concern over the growing intolerance in the country leading to curbs to the freedom of belief, thought, expression and ways of life whose diversity has been the very source of India’s civilizational richness and profundity.
Our real tradition, the one we want to flourish, is one of mutual respect, dialogue and debate on which our democracy is founded. We have always had several different systems of thought, many religions and cults and beliefs and ways of life and articulation that happily co-existed to create a beautifully inclusive culture that even welcomed new religions and languages with warmth and made them part of our own civilization. This openness and inclusiveness are at the heart of our culture, and our liberal Constitution ensures the maintenance of this plurality.
But to our despair and dismay, this tradition of harmony and dialogue is under threat today from divisive and sectarian communal forces that strive to ruin this diversity and turn the country into an insular, intolerant mono-religious and mono-cultural entity with little space for compassion, mutual recognition and interaction. Argument is being replaced by annihilation as proved by the recent dastardly murders of the scholar-writers, Govind Pansare, Narendra Dhabolkar and M M Kalburgi, just for the beliefs they had stood and lived for. It seems these muscular majoritarian forces want to decide not only what we should think, write and perform- as evidenced by the silencing of the writer Perumal Murugan, attacks on scholars like A K Ramanujan, Wendy Doniger and James Lane, researchers like Megha Kumar and artists and film makers like M F Husain, Gulam Ali, Habib Tanvir, Mallika Sarabahi, , Anand Patwardhan and Deepa Mehta besides several others- but even what we should eat as is clear from the recent incident at Dadri. NGOs working for the protection of environment like Green Peace and human rights activists like Teesta Setalvad and Medha Patkar are being persecuted and hunted. Prestigious public institutions so far headed and run by eminent scholars, thinkers, historians, philosophers, social scientists, educationists and creative people are being systematically destroyed by the appointment of little known, ignorant or ill-reputed people to key posts.
It is ironical that those who have vowed to safeguard the constitutional rights are themselves challenging the constitution with inflammatory statements and hate-speeches every other day leading to riots and instilling fear in the minorities. Communities that had lived so far in peace are being torn asunder in the name of caste and religion. Rapes and honour-killings as a violent assertion of patriarchal power are on the increase. Dalits and tribal people are living in eternal dread as caste and racial discrimination is on the increase leading to sequestration, prohibitions and genocides. Love marriages are stared upon and moral policing has become the order of the day. The criminals in all these cases often get away with impunity. Those at the receiving end of this blind intolerance and violent orthodoxy are the poorest and the weakest sections of our society, the religious, racial and sexual minorities, Dalits and tribal people, independent thinkers, researchers, academics and artists. Foundational democratic values and rights are under threat and our creative diversity is in deep peril. We request all those concerned to come together, introspect, analyse and develop a critique of the negative forces working to ruin the country and to put in place an action plan before everything that we cherish is carried away by this poisonous and hungry tide of vile hatred, aggressive homogenisation and othering intolerance.
K L Tuteja
Tadd Graham Greene
N M Metei
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