The well-known philosopher, Voltaire, famously pronounced “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That is the kind of significance attached to the freedom of expression in any modern democratic society. Unfortunately, however, there is an increasing tendency in India to physically exterminate people who speak their minds. There is a series of killings that have been taking place in India, especially of rationalists and those who are opposed to the Hindu right wing ideology. The latest in the series is the killing of Gauri Lankesh, a journalist-cum-activist, who was a strong detractor of the Sangh Parivar organizations in the country. Rationalist scholars M M Kalbugi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, who denounced blind beliefs and regressive thoughts, were also killed in a similar fashion during the last four years.
Words are not enough to condemn the brutal elimination of Gauri Lankesh. She was known for her consistent pro-poor stand, rationalistic ideas, and her opposition to communal politics. Naturally, the finger of suspicion is pointed towards the Hindu right wing. Unfortunately, the killers of the three rationalists are still at large and even this case may meet the same fate.
The realization must dawn on the entire society that people have a right to dissent. There is only one way to contest others with whom we don’t agree and that is by putting forth an effective counter argument. Physical elimination is the most barbaric way to silence dissent and does not augur well for the society.
Currently, in India, an ideological war is going on. The Hindus who resented the minority appeasement politics played by the so-called secular parties are standing with the Hindu right-wing BJP. The people who believe in the pluralistic ethos of Indian society are siding with the left-leaning political parties. This divide is getting progressively intensified and people started hating each other for the ideas and ideologies they stand for. Even the rampant poverty, corruption, social injustice, and ever widening economic inequalities are making many people feel frustrated. The frustrated people are getting attracted towards extreme left-wing politics. This ideological struggle is here to stay and will continue for a long time. Therefore, people should cultivate the habit of using their vocal cords and pens to question the ideas they don’t like. The problem arises when they start using weapons to eliminate those whose ideas they abhor.
Intolerance, irrespective of who is in power, has become a new normal in India. There are many who jump to certain conclusions and unjustly place the blame squarely on the Hindu right wing forces in India for all the ideology-related violence. In Kerala, scores of CPM workers, as well as RSS Swayamsevaks, lost their lives in their fight for one-upmanship. Many BJP workers were killed by their political opponents in many parts of India. The cow vigilantism unleashed by the Hindutva organizations has taken the lives of many Dalits and Muslims. Therefore, intolerance is not only manifested by the Hindu right wing but also many other organizations and outfits. Any concerted attempt to unjustly put all the blame on the right-wing will only prove to be counter productive. Such propaganda will provide ammunition to the Hindutva forces to hit back by saying that it is a campaign to malign India and Indian society, thereby giving the entire thing an ingenious nationalist twist. Therefore, we, as a society, must condemn each and every violent incident, in which people lose their lives for the ideas and ideologies they stand for.
Using repressive means against those who speak up their minds must be condemned by one and all in the strongest possible terms. Even the governments must expeditiously probe these incidents to bring the culprits to book. Otherwise, these incidents are bound to reoccur.
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