Disturbingly enough, of late, there definitely seems to be an increase in zealots promoting religious divides. And they do so with unabashed pride. They are uncomfortably brazen and brash in their attitudes which reek of intolerance. And sadly enough, the tentacles are spreading – slowly but very very surely. Sometimes, there is nothing more dangerous than old ideas and attitudes. And intolerance has always been one of the oldest surviving dogmas. It has always been there, waiting to be rediscovered, repackaged and reused.
We have had our email inboxes bombarded with Power Point presentations time and again – reiterating the theory that Hindus all over the world are being targeted. And there have been instances where our requests to be unsubscribed from such emails have resulted in rather ugly, condescending replies landing in our inbox. As adults, it is far more easy to cold shoulder things and to decide for oneself as to what one believes in. But imagine a scenario wherein children are being targeted. It is appalling but true. Groups on Yahoo are at the receiving end of such inflammatory emails and some of the groups are those frequented by children. To even imagine the kind of havoc such emails can play with the rather impressionable minds of young children, is rather unthinkable.
“Catch them young” seems to be the order of the day. It feels almost obscene to watch a young child walk around holding a weapon of destruction as though it was a toy. And how many times has one come across such pictures in strife torn regions all over the world ? Way too many times.
I remember during my school days when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards – the whole nation was in shock, in mourning. There was this group of boys who used to play galli cricket (cricket on the road). That evening too, they had assembled there with their cricket bats, stumps and all the gear. It so happened that a couple of Sikh youths happened to be walking across the road. What followed was horrible – way too horrendous to be put into words. These group of boys, in their teens, just set upon those two Sikh youths with their bats and worse still, when calls went out to the police to intervene, they took their time arriving at the scene and much worse, did nothing. Now in what way were those two Sikh boys walking on the street responsible for what had happened with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ?
People start using intolerance as a medium to express their hatred. And what intolerance thrives on are the already existing insecurities in the minds of people – insecurities which have been there for a long time or insecurities that are planted by people who specialize in power play. So much so that people begin to view intolerance as a very legitimate means of self-defense.
Not a long time ago, virtually all the states in India celebrated the festival of Navratri – which embodies worshipping the divine feminine force Shakti. And at the same time, there was news of women being gangraped. What kind of sense does this make ? While we do see intolerance all over on a global scale, the feeling that tends to creep in on us unconsciously is one of “What can I possibly do to reduce intolerance. Nothing. It is here to stay. Might as well accept it as another fact of life.”
Don’t we all have our fair share of intolerances ? It could be anything – ranging from intolerance towards the customs and traditions based on religion or intolerance towards people from the lower income groups or intolerance towards people as per the customs specified by society. Intolerance towards the physically and mentally handicapped, intolerance towards those who wish to swim against the tide, against the dictates of the majority … the possibilities are never ending.
“Divide and Rule” and “Subjugation” seem to be the order of the day. If intolerance breeds intolerance, cannot the same be said of the opposite? Is there no hope in hanging on to the belief that “Tolerance will breed Tolerance”. It does sound tempting enough to believe. And by saying Tolerance, I do not mean just Tolerance in terms of religion, caste or creed. Tolerance can be cultivated on many different levels. Tolerance, not only in particular to any given situation but Tolerance, as a way of life.
Tolerance, as I’ve begun to realize, is not something that the society of today teaches or doles out willingly. Tolerance is something that has to be cultivated. Tolerance is something that has to be learnt. Tolerance is something that needs to be nurtured, needs to be encouraged at many different levels, it needs to be worked on and yes – most of all – tolerance needs to be promoted.
And once one is open to the idea of tolerance, one finds it within oneself to develop some much needed mutual understanding and mutual respect.
Joshua Liebman put it very aptly when he once said, “Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.”