A strange thing is happening in India.
Liberalization ended in 1991 and private sector got a bigger say in the economy. One-party rule ended in 1995 at the national level and coalition partners finally had a say. Regional political players started flexing their muscles and the Indian middle class finally became important in the scheme of things. They are very active and vocal in cyberspace.
We are a flourishing democracy on the path to modernization and as a result of the above facts, you’d expect that a general level of tolerance would be on the rise but the converse is happening. India is becoming an increasingly intolerant nation.
First of all it is quite difficult to believe that the Congress has just 206 seats in the Lok Sabha, well short of the majority. While it was sincere till 2009, after that it has got increasingly arrogant and dictatorial. It has the rudest bunch of spokespersons and one wonders how they are allowed to operate at such a crude level.
Allies are no longer taken into confidence and civil society is now treated with absolute contempt. The Ramlila Grounds action taken against Baba Ramdev last year was totally dictatorial, but they totally got away with it.
But what is really worrying is their utter intolerance of dissent in cyberspace. In that one regard, India is turning further and further away from democracies and resembling authoritarian states like China along with failed nations like Pakistan.
One look at the list of banned sites, URLs and profiles floating around in cyberspace shows that it is less about communal disharmony and more about silencing critical voices along with right wing views which the Congress abhors.
It was bad in 2011 and worse in 2012. With two more years to go for the term of this UPA government, one shudders to think what they will do next. It is no wonder that #Emergency2012 was trending on Twitter.
The state governments are no better. West Bengal was under Communist rule for decades. The communist ideology is by its very nature authoritarian, but Mamata Banerjee has taken it a notch above that with her intolerant attitude.
Asking questions to the government is the new crime in West Bengal. Even a student asking a simple question on a public forum was not spared and labelled a Maoist. If that was bad, then things got worse when a man was arrested for asking another question.
The rest of the states fare no better with many Chief Ministers behaving like autocrats and not tolerating any form of dissent or constructive criticism.
But the governments are not the only culprits. Intolerance is spreading across the society.
We were liberalized in 1991 and this is the new millenium, but there is still a large male population which cannot tolerate women drinking and wearing Western clothes. One just has to remember the Mangalore pub attack and another one in a party going on in a home stay.
Then there was the shocking video which captured the molestation of a girl in Guwahati. Male chauvinism was on display at all levels. The worst part is the statements made by police and authorities that imply that girls in skimpy dresses are actually asking for it. That’s as intolerant to modern society as you can get.
While the Assam violence where 5 lakh people have been displaced is a catastrophe, what is shocking was the violence in Lucknow and Mumbai and the SMSes and threats that the North Easterners faced in Bangalore.
India is increasingly being intolerant of any kind of criticism and creativity. Just look at the number of protests that books and films face.
The inadvertent use Bombay instead of Mumbai in a film is cause for violence. A celebrity waving our national flag upside by mistake is a national issue. The movie Dirty Picture being shown on TV with umpteen cuts is not tolerated and someone goes to court against it. Cartoons which have been appearing in text books for ages suddenly have to go.
Instead of progressing into a liberal society, India seems to be increasingly regressing into one of intolerance.
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