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S Madhavan

Many facets of intolerance

| Updated on August 23, 2013 Published on August 23, 2013

Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar

The killing of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar made me think about various instances of intolerance.

The history of mankind shows how people were intolerant at various points in time. It was intolerance that killed Jesus Christ. Aristotle was killed when he opposed the ruler.

There were many attempts on Saint Ramanuja’s life when he propagated that spiritual path was open to all and caste should not be a bar to it. Raja Ram Mohan Roy faced many hurdles from bigoted tradition torchbearers when he fought against the cruel practice of Sati.

Religions have been intolerant to science and new ideas. There were times when people were threatened for saying that earth was spherical and not as mentioned in the holy texts.

It is intolerance to Mahatma Gandhi’s path of non-violence and propagation of unity among religions that drove Nathuram Ghodse to kill him. Incarceration of Nelson Mandela over 23 years was the result of intolerance towards a particular sect of people.

In love, Ilavarasan and Divya were tortured by narrow-minded people which culminated in the death of Ilavarasan. The latest case of Vinodhini succumbing to acid attack also points to fanatical state of mind.

It is not just intolerance between two or more sets of theists, they are intolerant against atheists, too. They become intolerant when atheists comment on their behaviour. Rationalist Narendra Dabholkar’s killing points to that only. The prejudice towards atheism is propagated in our system through societal pressure quoting tradition, status, etc, which is ugly in a way, and in many cases ends in atheists becoming intolerant to theists.

And, atheists show their intolerance towards theists by commenting on their superstitious practices in bizarre manners. Periyar’s action of beating deities can be taken as a case in point here.

Okay, you are a non-believer. And, you want to promote rationalism. But that doesn’t give one the right to hurt the sentiments of others in a deep and emotive way. It is one thing to walk on fire to prove that the act can be done by atheists also, and it doesn’t require belief to do that, and it is entirely another thing to forcefully insert a theist's hand into the fire and ask him to prove his belief.

In politics, the narrow-mindedness is all the more visible in the Robert Vadra’s case wherein Ashok Khemka was transferred abruptly on October 11, after he asked the deputy commissioners of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Mewat to scrutinise Vadra’s property transactions in those areas, which ensured that Ashok Khemka would have no access to the relevant information any further (Turning the whistleblower into a suspect, The Hindu, Aug. 20, 2013, Op-Ed 11).

At the microcosm level, intolerance starts at home. It begins when father brushes aside son/daughter’s quest for knowledge and says, certain things are not to be questioned, but only adhered to.

One of the reasons for intolerance could be that we don't listen. Listen without forming any opinion at the first instance. To take things in first and then respond.

Taking a holistic view of things could also help. Instead of looking at negatives on a given issue, one should also start looking at positive side of it. For example, the Sanskrit word Prohit (it’s puro + hit) means, one who tells or cautions people in advance of a future happening in a soothing way. There is an absolute good aspect to it, leave alone astrology and other belief system associated with it.

Even for simple things, people need someone to explain things to them logically and advise them on repercussions if certain things are not done in certain ways. This is what most Brahmins who follow the profession of Prohits are doing even now. But, instead of looking at the positive side of it which is overwhelming, Periyar looked at the negative aspects of it alone and unleashed hatred towards that community and thereby sown a wrong seed among his followers.

The opposite of it is what has happened in the case of Narendra Dabholkar. Instead of seeing the good aspects of his social service, the fanatic theists saw only the aspects which hurt them and killed him for that.

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Published on August 23, 2013
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