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Greater equanimity required in understanding tolerance

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A raging debate has risen in India about tolerance or, as some would argue, the reduction of it in the country. The hypothesis about tolerance or intolerance can only be objectively judged on the basis of requisite data that is in paucity at the current instance. Debates often on the media and social media platforms have become supercharged without any meaningful conclusions in sight.

A pertinent question to ask is what constitutes intolerance? Does it mean an inappropriate legislation, denial of rights, violent incidents related to religion and other identities, irresponsible statements by government functionaries, or just even a plain disagreement with others’ point of view?

Until now what has been observed is mostly the fifth point – plain disagreement with others’ point of view. Writers, poets, artists and scientists are expressing their dissent like never before by returning their awards. But had there been intolerance their views and acts would have certainly been muzzled/ tried to be muzzled.

In fact in India what is being witnessed is the complete opposite of intolerance. People are expressing themselves and their views like never before and their rights are not being curtailed for it. That in fact is the basis of dissent in any democracy. Of course individual incidents in the third category have also happened – violent incidents related to identities like being rationalists, vigilante acts leading to heinous crimes and the like. The government’s functionaries could have expressed their views in a more empathetic manner but this in no way means that there is erosion in tolerance levels in the country. For, similar and sometimes even far worse incidents have happened in the country before drawing even more extreme views and inappropriate comments.

There should certainly be caution and reasonable dialogue with the government on the issue of tolerance by those who feel tolerance levels of the whole country are going down. The lack of dialogue between government and stakeholders is being construed as increasing intolerance. Proper dialogue would ensure that concerns of all stakeholders are expressed and the measures to tackle such incidents effectively are taken by the governments both at the central and state level.

The crucial difference now as compared to previously is that people are so connected with information that each incident looks magnified. The modern media, social media and networks ensure information travels almost at the speed of light and many people are aware of what happens most of the time. While it acts as a great tool for access to information and awareness it also acts as a sort of thing that creates perceptions about reality. It may and does affect perceptions about the prevailing state of affairs and that leads to perceptions about tolerance or the lack of it in greater measure than was seen before access to information was freely available to most people of the country.

While individual incidents can be viewed as pointers the fact is if they really do show greater intolerance can be concluded only on greater availability and analysis of data. That raises a fundamental question about improvement of statistical systems in the country pertaining to crime. What is required is speedy and accurate updating of data. Apart from this also required is justice mechanisms to bring speedy justice to act as a deterrent to perpetrators of crime in the country. Fast track movement of such crimes will ensure that law and order and rule of law strengthens.

On a societal level what is required is greater equanimity in understanding tolerance and what is its importance in modern constitutionally elected states. It is important that that the vast multiplicity of views and voices is protected as this will lead to greater sense of security, debate, more reasoning and more critical enquiry. Tolerance is important because it is imperative for fostering creative thinking. Creative thinking is the bedrock of critical enquiry that fosters innovation. So long as one’s right to expressing a point of view is concerned there should be freedom to express what one feels like.

Tolerance for other’s point of view as well as mutual respect for each other’s practices is important and necessary for not only economic but also social and human progress. India’s improving stature globally on the investment front as well as on important indices like Global Competitiveness Index, Ease of Doing Index and several others will benefit greatly by ensuring that proper dialogue is in place between stakeholders of society and the government at all levels. Also, what is required is speedy trial for perpetrators of crimes whose acts risk India’s credibility as a society that in a very large measure has fostered creative thinking and tolerance for dissent.

(Amit Kapoor, IANS)

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Is chaos in the ranks of Supreme Court a threat to the Indian Judicial System?

Why did have four apex judges of Supreme Court of India have to go public regarding a matter which could have been solved internally?

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SC Judges went in an open dissent against Chief Justice Dipak Mishra by calling a press conference. Wikimedia Commons
SC Judge's open dissent against Chief Justice Dipak Mishra as they called a press conference. Wikimedia Commons

By Salil Gewali

When the judges become noisy plaintiffs, who will deliver the judgment? This was the kind of unprecedented situation that we witnessed last week. Yes, Supreme Court is the last resort where an estimated one hundred and twenty-five crore people repose their faith. We are the public having great faith in democracy. However, when the custodians of the democracy themselves openly roar that “our democracy is in danger”, where do we go? Well, the people of this country had to face such ‘comedy of errors’ enacted by four devious judges — all in the name of expressing displeasure, grievances, more candidly, when the country is ruled by the upright PM Modi whom they dislike.

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For whatever be the reasons, the stooping low by these judges has led people to lose their faith in the judiciary. Is it not a sort of degeneration because it also showed there is an obvious rift between the protesting judges and the Chief Justice of India. One of the judges had again said that there was no constitutional lapse on the part of the Chief Justice, but the convention, practice, and procedures that he followed while awarding cases to various judges were in question. He was also categorical that they would sort out this issue among themselves and no outside intervention is required. What does one not understand is, why did they “go public” with their internal issue, if they felt, they, themselves could sort it out? Whom were they trying to trick after breaking the established principle of judicial restraint?

Justice Kurian Joseph was one of the four judges who called the press conference. Wikimedia Commons
Justice Kurian Joseph was one of the four judges who called the press conference. Wikimedia Commons

It is very true that some things were not going well within the four walls of our judiciary. But are all things going on, in order, in this great country of ours where political leaders and a certain brand of media fraternity ceaselessly groan and moan? They all overwork to push for their host of devious agendas. They are too alert to something but play deaf and dumb for many other things. These very undesirable acts by these elites that have only been draining the very values of the democracy and national sovereignty.

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Yes, in this particular case, the rule of law itself has been undermined. This has clearly raised the questions of integrity and propriety. What is astonishingly outrageous is the fact that after a short while of the press conference a CPI leader D. Raja rushed to visit Justice Chelameshwar to shake hands. Does it not sound too fishy and unethical? Do we still doubt that it was a preplanned scheme? Who now disagrees that there were not the skeletons in the closet. Very soon they all might frighten us all, nay, the whole nation.

Further, if the learned judges had the solution to their stated issues, was their press conference not tantamount to washing dirty linen in public? Could they not have imagined the adverse effect of their action on the citizenry? However genuine their grievance is, which they may claim, it has invariably dented the very credibility of the Apex Court. The esteem with which people looked at it has now been just eroded.

The Indian system faced a huge crisis on January 12 when 4 senior judges called a press conference to discuss a matter which could have been solved internally. Wikimedia Commons
The Indian system faced a huge crisis on January 12 when 4 senior judges called a press conference to discuss a matter which could have been solved internally. Wikimedia Commons

Read more: Is Islamic inequality a conspiracy against the God?

On the other side, the opportunistic politicians have been too quick enough to feed on the fodder that was generated. As usual, the Congress President Rahul Gandhi lost no time to attack BJP. The CPI leader, D. Raja got his opportunity to make his otherwise obscure presence felt in public. Some other corrupt politicians acted swiftly to get Anuj, the aggrieved son of late Justice Loya in front of TV cameras to “request all to not harass or trouble” the family. Anuj became a pawn in the hands of the high and mighty. Instead of saving the family, in the garb of helping them, the unscrupulous politicians are trying to put them in dire straits. Our greedy and self-centred politicians turn anyone in distress into a pawn in their hands. And they are ingenious in turning any untoward incident into demonic opportunity. If these dishonest politicians have their way, our country will have disaster written all over.

Salil Gewali is the author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali