Dear Aamir Khan, if India was an intolerant nation, you wouldn’t be where you are
Aamir Khan, one of the biggest movie stars that India has ever seen, has made a controversial statement about his wife, Kiran Rao, contemplating leaving India because she is concerned about incidents of “growing intolerance” that India has witnessed off late. He is quoted to have said that as a mother, Ms Rao fears for the safety of her child and has expressed her concerns to her husband.
I believe in free speech and as citizens of India, both of them are entitled to their opinions and have the right to voice their apprehensions.
But like many of my fellow countrymen, I disagree with the idea that intolerance in India is on the rise. We have indeed seen instances of religious conflict off late but do these events really depict “growing intolerance”?
The words “growing intolerance” imply that there has been an increase in the frequency of religious clashes over the past few months during Modi’s tenure as the prime minister of the nation. Many individuals have been expressing outrage and lamenting the state of affairs in the nation. The only beef I have with the prime minister is his inability to wield an iron hand that would check erratic ministers who spout hateful statements. While I am not proud of the recent goings on, I can’t help but wonder why the same people were silent when similar atrocities took place when Manmohan Singh was at the helm. Modi receives brickbats and is held responsible for every untoward incident that has occurred during his term as PM but I don’t recall Manmohan Singh being slammed in a similar manner and held accountable for instances of communal violence during his reign.
What is the reason behind this selective outrage?
I am not condoning religious bigotry and am as saddened and appalled by recent events as anybody else. The perpetrators of every crime need to be apprehended and brought to justice. Every act of violence needs to be condemned irrespective of the political party in power. I am not a supporter of any political party but even someone as apolitical as me can see that there is an attempt being made to discredit Modi.
The media plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion and in this case it is partly responsible for the fear mongering by selectively highlighting certain events while ignoring others. Incessant reports that showcase a distorted picture will only give rise to false propoganda.
The report released by the Ministry of Home Affairs states that fewer people have died in communal clashes this year as compared to the corresponding period in 2014. The total number of communal clashes this year till October was 630, which is lower than the corresponding figure of 694 incidents in 2013 when the UPA was in power.
Acts of violence like the Dadri lynching tragedy are despicable and deserve to be denounced. But haven’t equally contemptible incidents taken place when the UPA was ruling at the centre? The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 claimed around 60 lives from both Hindu and Muslim communities – why was there no indignation and talk of intolerance then?
Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face was doused in black ink to protest against the launch of Khurshid Kasuri’s book. This should definitely be termed as an act of intolerance but was this episode the first of its kind? Cricket pitches have been dug up to oppose Pakistani cricket tour of India, Pakistani cricketers have been barred from playing in the IPL. Why wasn’t the creative community returning awards at that point in time? Why weren’t people as outraged then as they are now?
Why weren’t people protesting when communal riots took place in Aligarh (five people killed), Dhule (four dead and around 200 injured), Assam (77 people killed and approximately 79,000 had to take shelter in relief camps ), Bharatpur (eight dead and 23 injured ) and Deganga (24 injured) under the UPA government?
The point I am trying to make is that India is as tolerant or as intolerant as we ever were. The evidence available at hand points to the fact that India has not seen a spike in intolerance lately. There are instances of conflict that take place every year but the miscreants responsible are a minority and a majority of Indians do not stand for religious bigotry or intolerance. A vast majority of us take pride in India’s diversity and pluralist ideals. We are an inclusive people. The fringe elements exist, they always have and they always will but it is the peace loving majority that truly embodies the idea of India.
The logic is quite simple – if India were an intolerant nation, actors like Aamir wouldn’t have achieved the success they have. The fact that members of minority communities have gained such prominence in various fields in a country that is 80% Hindu says a lot about the ethos of this nation. I haven’t watched the movie PK but from what I have heard, it appears that this movie mocked Hindu gods and was a runaway hit with the Indian masses. The fact that this movie was even made depicts the confidence the makers had that the movie wouldn’t hurt Hindu sentiments and sensibilities. The movie wasn’t banned and Aamir, who played the lead protagonist in the film, received adulation. I think this truth is testimony to the ideology that Indians live by.
India is on the ever shrinking list of non-Muslim majority countries where Muslims can profess their faith without fear. A hijabi can walk down a road in my country without having to worry about people pulling off her scarf or questioning her decision to dress as she pleases. The Azaan is heard from loudspeakers, there is minimal sectarian, religious disharmony (when you take into consideration that India is a country of 1.2 billion people). Equal opportunities are presented to people of all religions.
When a man of Aamir’s stature opines, it is considered the gospel truth. The reason behind the collective anguish Indians feel is that Aamir’s statements do not have an ounce of truth in them. He has managed to demonise a nation by implying that his family does not deem India fit to raise a child. Yes, there are many Indians who’ve migrated abroad and many more who will, but no one considers leaving because of security fears. That level of despondency is not present among Indians simply because the atmosphere in India does not warrant it. The reasons for relocation are purely economic.
Aamir has since then released a statement which states that he is a proud Indian who has no plans of moving base. He has also reiterated that he stands by his opinions.
Well, so does the rest of the country, Mr Khan!
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.