The ‘touch me not’ words of today are ‘tolerance’ and ‘intolerance’. By connecting purity with untouchability, India became a land of the half living and the half dead. So it may be safer to speak less. I too am trying to understand. Without understanding the existing intolerant behaviour, tolerance also can’t be understood. For example: on 8th June 2016, Prajavani reported that Dalit students at Mysore University burnt an effigy of Ram Bahadur Rai in protest. In an interview to Outlook, Ram Bahadur Rai, a journalist with RSS roots, had said that Dr Ambedkar didn’t write the constitution but just edited and translated it and this had resulted in the dalit students’ protest.
In this example, what is tolerance and what is intolerance? Isn’t it an intolerance to believe that the laws of Manu Smriti are the real constitution which causes uneasy feelings when you remember that Dr Ambedkar created the constitution? Or is it intolerance to protest in rage against Ram Bahadur Rai’s statement which refutes the existence of Dr Ambedkar? I feel RSS Ram Bahadur’s statement is intolerance and the Dalit students’ reaction is anger.
To further clarify, it is suffice to read S N Balagangadhar’s ‘Which intolerance is growing in India‘. In his own words, the examples he provides are:
“First, a mentally unstable person, called Venkat, also known as crazy Venkat, was dismissive of Ambedkar in a popular television programme. He called Ambedkar his slippers, but no newspaper dared repeat what he said, except to mention that he made derogatory and abusive remarks about Ambedkar. It is completely unclear why derogatory and abusive remarks cannot be made about an individual. Characteristic of Indian colloquial speech is abusiveness towards everyone, including the Indian gods. Is Ambedkar also superior to the Indian gods? The Ambedkarites in Bangalore surrounded Venkat in the car for this remark, mauled and manhandled him and threw black tar on his face for this reason.”
After saying this, he gives the second example:
”in an international conference held recently in Hyderabad, I was intellectually dismissive of Ambedkar and called him an idiot. This “abuse” (as it is termed) has launched a campaign against me by the Ambedkarites in India. These two incidents tell us that Ambedkarites are very intolerant of anybody who dares to criticise Ambedkar.”
That is how the rant of ‘scolding Bhardwaj’ S N Balgangadhar continues.
Let it be. Crazy Venkat whilst being emotional used slang words… He has a good heart. He apologised too. But let us hear Crazy Balagangadhar’s statement where he mocks by saying that he genuinely regrets this choice of the adjective ‘idiot’ and should have said, “he outshines the genius of Alia Bhatt”. Earlier in the Hyderabad conference he had also said he couldn’t understand how Columbia University had conferred a Doctorate on an idiot like Dr Ambedkar. How can we understand this? Which one is intolerance?
One more example – a dispute breaks out between a backward caste and dalits in Udburu, a village near Mysore. Maybe because a dalit boy has fallen in love or teased a girl from another caste. When the commotion started the backward caste people searched the dalit’s house and destroyed items like a television, scooter, clock and similar items which are flashy to our eyes. Is the dalit boy’s love for a girl the cause for intolerance here or that they have a lifestyle which is equal or better? Are Ram Bahadur Rai and Prof Crazy Balagangadhar not of the same state of mind?
When examined, we find that inside our caste system lies the spectre of intolerance. It is ancient colonialism. This spectre has made the dreadful inequality acceptable in a social system which isn’t alert. The Indian caste system is covert intolerance. When the victim wakes up, we see agitation. The traditional relationship within the Indian caste system is between an inhuman being and a pet, which seems imponderable. If the victims of the caste system wake up, the relationship becomes similar to a leopard and an inhuman being. Then we see agitation and conflicts. This is not intolerance. This is rebelling against the intolerance that is integral to the sophisticated social order.
We need human to human relationships. A relationship based on equality and respect. For this it is enough if we reflect for five minutes every day as though we were born into another caste. If we reflect as a dalit or a woman we will realise who is tolerant. Tolerance will start sprouting seeds for change. .
This is the transcription of the talk on ‘ಸಹಿಷ್ಣುತೆಗಾಗಿ ಒಂದಿಷ್ಟು ಕೋಪ-ತಾಪ’ delivered by the author at the Dr Besagarahalli Ramanna prize giving ceremony for anthologies of short stories.
Translated from Kannada by Sridhar Gowda.
Devanuru Mahadeva returned his Padmashri and Sahitya Academy awards last year in protest against growing intolerance. He is one of the most respected public intellectuals, influencing and inspiring younger generation activists in Karnataka. The English translation of his Central Sahitya Academy award winning Kannada novel, ‘Kusuma Bale’, has been published by Oxford University Press. The English translation of the collection his non-fiction articles is due for release.
Photos Credit: Lokesh Mosale