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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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To Diffuse The Situation Venezuela, U.N.Rights Chief Calls For Talks

The three member nations of the Lima Group that have not supported Guaido are Guyana, Saint Lucia and Mexico.

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United Nations
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2018 VOA

U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for talks to defuse the situation in Venezuela, saying that it “may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.”

Bachelet also called for an independent investigation into reports that Venezuelan security forces had killed 20 people and detained more than 350 in protests this week.

United States President Donald Trump bluntly warned Maduro Thursday that “all options are on the table” if there is not a peaceful transition to democracy in the South American country.

Severing diplomatic ties

On Wednesday, Venezuela’s disputed president Nicolas Maduro said he was ending diplomatic relations with the United States in response to Trump’s announcement that the U.S. was officially recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader, as Guaido declared himself interim president during a day of mass demonstrations.

venezuela
Anti-government protesters hold their hands up during the symbolic swearing-in of Juan Guaido, head of the opposition-run congress who declared himself interim president of Venezuela until elections can be called, during a rally demanding President Nicolas step down. VOA

Maduro ordered U.S. diplomats to leave within 72 hours. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, said Maduro no longer has the authority to issue orders.

Thursday, 16 of the 34 nations in the Organization of American States (OAS) recognized Guaido, the opposition head of the National Assembly, as the interim president of Venezuela at an emergency session.

Pompeo urged members to oppose the “illegitimate” Maduro and pledged to make $20 million available for humanitarian assistance to Venezuela.

“All OAS member states must align themselves with democracy and respect for the rule of law,” the top U.S. diplomat said.

Meanwhile, the State Department ordered non-emergency personnel to leave Venezuela, but is not closing its embassy in Caracas.

The department said it was ordering the evacuating for security reasons, and that U.S. citizens should “strongly consider” leaving the country.

Venezuela

More sanctions possible

White House officials emphasized that Trump is not ruling out any response, such as a naval blockade or other military action, if Maduro unleashes violence against protesters or takes action against Guaido.

The most immediate action by Washington likely would be enhanced sanctions against members of Maduro’s government.

“In our sanctions, we’ve barely scratched the surface on what actions the United States can take,” said a senior administration official.

Several nations have joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, including Canada and 11 of the 14 members of the newly formed Lima Group of Latin nations, among them Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru.

French President Emmanuel Macron called Venezuela’s elections “illegitimate” in a Tweet on Thursday, and saluted the bravery of Venezuelans demanding freedom.

 

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of United Nations addresses the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2019. VOAead: 

 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday the situation in Venezuela could descend into “disaster” if the country’s main political rivals fail to reach an agreement.

Speaking Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Guterres said the U.N. hopes “dialogue can be possible, and that we avoid an escalation that would lead to the kind of conflict that would be a disaster” for the people of Venezuela and the region.

Warnings from Russia, China

But officials in Russia, one of Venezuela’s biggest allies, reacted with anger Thursday at the United States and other Western nations for backing Guaido, accusing them of interfering in its internal affairs. Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned the United States against any military intervention, saying such a move would have “catastrophic” consequences.

China urged the United States to stay out of the crisis. Beijing and Moscow have extensive economic interests, having loaned Caracas billions of dollars.

Bolivia, Cuba, Iran and Syria also have issued statements throwing their support behind Maduro.

Also Read: Assam’s Citizen Register Raises Concern of U.N. Human Rights Expert

The three member nations of the Lima Group that have not supported Guaido are Guyana, Saint Lucia and Mexico.

“From a constitutional, humanitarian, and democratic perspective — and according to international law — there was no option left for the United States and the international community but to recognize Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela,” Moises Rendon, associate director and associate fellow of the CSIS Americas Program, told VOA.

Venezuela and its state-owned oil company, PDVSA, are estimated to owe $7 billion on a combined trade debt of about $60 billion. The country’s oil-based economy, which is wracked by hyperinflation, has collapsed. (VOA)