Tolerance: Giving Credit Where It’s Due

In this world of increasing globalization and consequently the movement of people, it is often debated which country is the most tolerant. This is especially so in countries which have traditionally been the largest source of migration.

In view of its history as a country of immigrants, the United States has often proclaimed itself as a diverse society. But is it also tolerant as it is diverse? If the white Republicans in Wyoming or Utah can’t tolerate the white Democrats in California or Massachusetts, then it is not a very tolerant society.

By contrast, India is more diverse, multilingual, and tolerant than any other country I can think of. In my opinion, I am supported by none other than the most liberal and objective Saudi journalist Khalaf Al-Harbi. In his latest column in ‘Saudi Gazette’, he describes India as the most tolerant nation on the earth. He must be right because, being a Saudi national, he has seen and experienced parochialism, sectarianism, ban on other religions, and violence towards dissenters, as was clearly manifested by the murder of the famous Saudi journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. The minorities usually have no rights in such societies. Like we study in political theory, the prime minister (of any country) serves at the pleasure of the monarch or the president, the minorities are merely allowed to exist at the pleasure of the intolerant ‘state’.

Going back to the latest article by Al-Harbi, I must give him credit for being so honest and straightforward in a country which does not tolerate dissent. But in the end, truth will prevail. We Indians have been definitely tolerant because if we look back in history during the last millennium, we did tolerate the invaders from Mongolia, the central Asian countries, and Afghanistan. We tolerated the uncivilized barbarians who came in from the North to loot, plunder, kill, and burn, and who eventually established dynasties that ruled India for several centuries. We also welcomed the Portuguese, French, and the British and allowed them to set up trading posts which led to political subjugation and ‘slavery’ lasting more than two hundred years. But we tolerated.

Since we tolerated and forgave all these foreigners for their unforgivable sins and crimes against us, how could we have not given similar treatment to the present-day thugs and adventurers who perfected their skills to usurp power by ‘democratic’ means. We still tolerate the likes of Mayawati, the Yadavs from the lawless states (until recently) of Bihar and U.P., A. Raja, P. Chidambaram, Chautala and sons, and countless more who continue to milk ‘Mother India’ through their third-generation proxies. They stall debates in parliament by creating a ruckus, or by staging walkouts. We continue to tolerate them.

The recent offer of the Indian government to take in most qualified Afghan refugees irrespective of their religion should be an eye-opener for all obstructionists who staged a lengthy agitation or sit-in protest in and around Shaheen Bagh to voice their discontent against the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Population Register (NPR) bills. The protest was started on 15 December 2019 and lasted until 24 March 2020. But we tolerated them–for more than four months, despite massive disruption and badmouthing of the government. Why? I think tolerance has seeped into our genes. More likely, it has always been a part of our DNA.