Tolerance and Survival

India, as we all know, is a mosaic in which different pieces retain their identity while contributing to a colourful collage. Our tradition teaches tolerance, our philosophy preaches tolerance, and our Constitution practises tolerance. Unity in diversity is our heritage and respect for all faiths and religions has been our innate strength and a source of survival against all odds and obduracies. When so much positive and potential exists in our civilisation, as also in our psyche, why do some of the conscience keepers of the polity remind us so often that without communal harmony and a general atmosphere of tolerance, democracy cannot survive for long in India? The fears of some who feel and think for India, are not fake but factual and are based on the happenings may tragic traumas that have resulted from communal conflicts and an intolerant atmosphere of hostility and hatred created by the enemies, both within and outside the country. The concern that Indian democracy may falter and succumb before the evil designs of caste and communal politics, demands that introspection and corrective action at different levels are the crying need of the hour.

There is no denying the fact that democracy in a country like India, should aim to accommodate reasonable mores and modes of living of all communities, ethnic, religious and cultural groups so that no one feels ignored or pushed out of the mainstream. Democracy and division of power from top to bottom are like twins that survive in an atmosphere of debate and discussion. If in a fit of euphoria or inflated egos (personalised politics), the ruling elite tries to inflict discretion in place of deliberations, confrontation instead of compromise, the citadel of democracy is likely to tumble down. Under no circumstances, the rulers and the ruled in India can afford to fan the fires of communal distrust and intolerance towards any group or community. The philosophy of `political
untouchability’ is as devious and dangerous as the cult of communal violence and virulence. The policy of `ostracization or political isolation of any group or party is fraught with deadly dimensions.
Difference of opinion and diversity in view-points on socio-economiccum political issues are a natural nuance of democracy. Unless political parties put across their views vociferously, democracy cannot hope to become vibrant and viable. So long political parties remain committed to the rule of law and refrain from fuelling flames of communal frenzy for electoral gains, the future of democracy in India is squarely safe and secure. Even in the face of grave provocation, if political parties and their rank and file adhere to the path of tolerance, democracy would not suffer any subversion or sabotage. It is only
when people begin to settle scores in the streets and communal passions have a better of people’s patience and tolerance, democracy feels the pangs of mindless onslaughts on its fragile personality. After every communal or casteist clash, the clock of peace and progress moves in the reverse direction. In fact, it is not only democracy but also  economic progress and social stability that are entirely dependent on the maintenance of communal harmony and practice of tolerance by one and all.

Democracy is neither a game of only numbers nor is it a trade of tricks. In the context of Indian situation, democracy is the only form of government that suits the tone and temper of its people. The policy of `give and take’ can work wonders in this context provided both the intent and intentions of the conflicting parties or groups are clear and candid. There is no place for fanatics and diehards in our multi-racial and multi-religious milieu. Only those who are mentally, emotionally and politically convinced of the relevance and resilience of democracy to Indian problems and prospects, can ensure the survival of democracy in India. Prejudices and puerile perceptions have no place in our democracy. The temptation to communalise politics or to garner votes in the name of cast or community, is the negation of principled politics. The earlier we cleanse the Augean stables of communal politics, the better for the health of Indian democracy.

Democracy, like a delicate plant, fails to strike deep roots in the heart and minds of people if an atmosphere of distrust and intolerance makes inroads in the day-today relations between communities. Digging out the past distortions, real or imaginary, can play havoc with the sensitivities and sensibilities of people sharing the same heritage and history. Unlike the West, where democracy faces no such problems of communal tensions and intolerant public perceptions, in India we have to live with these dilemmas all the time. In short, if democracy is to survive in India, we as Indians, will have to get over our phobias and prejudices against each other. Irrespective of our religion or ethnic
affiliation, we must learn to live, think and behave as members of a joint family called Indian.