Tolerance is a negative word

Bikram Vohra
Bikram Vohra

Bikram Vohra


By : Bikram Vohra


That the news is made by media and it decides what should be given publicity and what should be ignored is a given. The fact is the yardstick is arbitrary and intrinsically dangerous.

Take this attack on Shah Rukh Khan that pretty much amounts to savaging someone who is a celeb to get a little reflected attention poured on to oneself. It has become the trend of the week because the media chose to give it the attention it did not deserve. It also gave those who exploited it a platform to utter rubbish and market themselves. To that extent media is complicit in the communal divisiveness and will be increasingly so because it sells.

I am no fan of Khan’s since I am not much of a movie watcher and it did tee me off that if he was to be castigated it should be for the cavalier self indulgence of taking part in a skin whitening cream campaign. That was terrible and deserved censure for the mental agony he caused millions of men and women for bruising their self-esteem on grounds of skin color…while making money out of it.

But as a citizen of India if he speaks about intolerance or any other subject how is his right any less than yours or mine and why should every utterance be given so much attention. You not only make him bigger than he is, it is also pointless to make a remark of a general nature come off like this actor was a terrorist threat. To compare him with a terrorist like Hafiz Saeed is to trivialize all those who died in the Mumbai blasts. If I had a relative or friend who died in those blasts I would give a lot for him to be alive and critical of intolerance, real and imagined.

And what is even more baffling is dispatching everyone who upsets those in power to Pakistan. And they don’t mean the village in the Purnia district of Bihar. You talk of intolerance go to Pakistan. You don’t believe there will be fireworks in Pakistan if BJP loses in Bihar, on your bike go to Pakistan. Any criticism of the government points the way across the border. If you eat beef, peel off to Pakistan. You get caught by the cops with a girl go to Pakistan.

You talk of intolerance go to Pakistan.

Bikram Vohra

The pattern is followed religiously. Some high profile person makes a silly or relatively benign comment. There is a synthetic uproar. Then someone from the Opposition answers it with this dreary threat. The pot is desperately stirred. Then both sides exchange volleys of abuse. At which point some holy man trots on to the stage and adds a little fire and brimstone.

Transpose it to this latest episode. Khan makes a dinky toy statement of the sort made by a million Indians every day. Immediately Yogi Adityanand BJP MLA from Gorakhpur decides to set it to discordant music and compare him to the Mumbai mastermind. Is this tolerance?

Then Kailash Vijaivargiya a senior leader pitches in with the epiphany that Khan’s lives in India but his soul is in Pakistan, whatever that means. We now await a holy man unless the Gorakhpur Yogi makes the grade or that mantle falls on Sadhvi Prachi, a controversial Hindutva leader, who had also clobbered Shah Rukh yesterday, dubbing him a “Pakistani agent.”

Once the flames of hostility are nice and hot the Congress crawls out of the woodwork and promises to save the country from intolerance. Rahul Gandhi gets all upset. Come on people, that party has only 44 seats. I believe the Congress strategy seems to be to exploit every tragedy, every controversy, every act of crime by providing instant balm for hurt minds. Intolerance has now become the nation’s most popular buzzword.

We are all tolerant. We love all people regardless of caste, color or creed…we just hate those who do not. This nonsense wont stop until we recognize that tolerance itself is a negative word. By being tolerant we indicate that our embrace is not 360 degrees. But one of the greatest rights granted to our nation is the right to opinion. If these gentlemen elected to positions of power have the protection to attack an individual and believe it is their right how can they rob that right from someone else?

What they fail to understand is that every time they conduct this genre of a witch-hunt they stir more fear and suspicion and concern that our freedoms are predicated to saying the politically correct thing and we are vulnerable to self appointed keepers of our faith.

This flaming righteousness also legitimizes the same anxiety in the much-maligned intelligentsia who opted to return their awards, be it the arts or sciences. What is this unhealthy phobia about Pakistan that we have to weave it into every scenario or every crisis? Time to get over it. Whether it is Amit Shah or Owaisi, Mahesh Sharma or Naqvi this threat of dispatching people to Pakistan is now absurd.


Bikram Vohra has been editor of Gulf News, Khaleej Times, Bahrain Tribune, Emirates Evening Post and helped in setting up Gulf Today


Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.


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