Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Cult of Intolerance

Pakistan’s tourism minister Nilofar Bakhtiar against whom radical clerics issued a fatwa for hugging a male paratrooper during a paragliding show in Paris, fears for her life. A Pakistan Punjab minister, Zille Huma, was killed for her activism by a religious fanatic following a fatwa from the Sharia court. Nearer home, instances of religious, social and communal intolerance have been on a phenomenal rise. Fanatics and lumpen crowds take to the streets at the slightest provocation. Indeed, intolerance has almost turned into a cult and is threatening to replace all other human virtues like tolerance, understanding, sympathy, compassion and co-existence. Paradoxically, the same Indian society that renews its commitment to the parliamentary system and democracy, election after election, seems reconciled to the contradiction of street-level manifestations of all forms of intolerance and the violence stemming from them. There was the case of a couple united in an inter-religious marriage being ostracised by both Hindu and Muslim organisations in Bhopal even after the Bombay high court upheld the wedding. The Puri Jagannath temple was shut for a day and "purified" after a foreigner accidentally entered it. The precincts of the Guruvayoor Krishna temple were "cleansed" after Union minister Vayalar Ravi’s son got married there, the "impurity" sourced to Mrs Ravi who happens to be a Christian. The temple authorities are disinclined to allow reputed singer Jesudas, a Christian, entry into it though the bulk of his repertoire are devotionals dedicated to Krishna. A ten-year-old boy in a village off Patna, accused of killing a male goat, is forced by the panchayat to undergo "agni pariksha"(walking on burning coal) to prove his innocence. On Monday, a mob protesting against a television channel sheltering a couple from different religions ransacked the channel’s Mumbai office. A self-appointed moral police tends to disrupt religious and social harmony in order to perpetuate so-called Hindu or Muslim ethos and culture. By permitting it to take the law into its own hands, society is sanctioning intolerance by consent. This will kill Indian democracy and take India to chaos.
Source: Asian Age Editorial

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