Stripped of the verbal play, tolerance of intolerance of course would literally mean either intolerance or endorsement of intolerance! These days almost all the debates whether on the podium or the TV studios in India come split into two incommensurate sides. This is happening even as one side continues to protest against the increasing intolerance, the other continues to ensure a steady supply of the direst of threats and insults. The Indian Finance minister and one of the reigning trio in the BJP, Arun Jaitley sees no evidence of increase in intolerance in India and recently characterized Indian democracy as the most vibrant in the world – the exact statement is ‘Where’s the intolerance? You are the most vibrant democracy in the world. Everybody has a right to speak and live his life his way’…. Vibrant indeed!
This cliche sounds more and more frightening every day. Even as Jaitley chooses to be blind to the happenings around him, the other day a BJP leader from Karnataka threatened to behead the Karnataka CM who dared the cow-protection lobby by declaring he will indeed consume beef just to make a point. Chanabasappa the leader in question said ‘if Siddaramaiah has guts, let him come to Shimoga and eat beef. If he thinks we will spare him, he's wrong. Let him kill a cow and show, we will separate his head from his body and play football with it'. Thankfully the aspiring football player is now under arrest!
Another BJP leader, Kailash Vijayvargiya an MLA from Madhya Pradesh yesterday claimed that the film star Shahrukh Khan’s soul lives in Pakistan just because Shahrukh admitted that he feels concerned with the growing climate of intolerance in India. This came as an endorsement of what the fire-breathing ‘fringe’ Sadhvi Prachi’s statement that Shahrukh is a Pakistani agent.
As against all this and more Arun Jaitley’s smug celebration of the Indian democracy sounds utterly hollow - this report however deserves the close attention of the well-wishers of democracy in India. That there are reasons to worry about the very welfare of the Indian democracy is becoming more and more apparent by the day. You can choose the day to cross the line of course and declare you have had enough.
Recently in an interview with the well-known TV personality Arun Shourie crossed the line and categorically claimed that all these extreme acts and verbalizations have the approval of Narendra Modi, the man on top. Both Jaitley and Shourie deserve our full and undivided attention as two polar readings of politics in 2015-19. The question remains – are these two perceptions completely and decisively incommensurable or a bridge over them is possible?