Sunday, May 20, 2012

Idiocy of Intolerance

B R Ambedkar cartoon in NCERT's STD XI Political Science text book.

As an Indian, one of the things I am most proud of is how diverse and tolerant my country is. Sure, we have our zealots. And the fundamentalists. We have had some of the most bloody riots in the history of mankind. We have had people killing each other over places of worship, as if God cared about where we go to worship Him.

Yet. Yet, we also have a vast majority which is kind and humane. We feel. We love. We live. And we can vent. Our anger. Our frustration. Our angst. And in same measure as the good things.

That is why it saddens me when for the last couple of months, the news has often been about cartoons and the unfunny reactions that they have provoked. And who do they offend? A bunch of stuck-up, selfish, narrow-minded, vote-bank oriented politicians.

Leading the band is Ms. Mamta Banerjee. When she won the elections in Bengal last year with a whopping majority, after more than 30 years of communist rule, I thought that she is the change. Sure, she would stumble but let’s give her a chance. She has done some things right but it’s her paranoia that is her trademark these days. She sees a conspiracy everywhere. A woman get raped in Park Street and complains. It’s a conspiracy. A professor forwards a cartoon about her. Of course, it’s a conspiracy and he has to be arrested. Seriously, Ms. Banerjee? Please do not ask her any questions which might offend her. She is a daughter of the soil. So, she understands the poor man’s pain if the rail fares go up after a decade. Marginally, may I add. The railway minister was from her party and he dared make a budget without her approval. Sacrilege! Off with his head!  screamed the Red Queen. And ain’t that ironic that the woman who felled the red bastion has turned into Wonderland’s Red Queen.

Then we have a bunch of politicians who have been offended by a cartoon decades old. They protest that it mocks Dr. Ambedkar, Father of Indian constitution and other constitution makers. Really? Do you think he would have been as intolerant as these half-literate, tunnel-visioned leaders?  This cartoon was to be a part of NCERT text books but not anymore. Our Education Minister actually apologised for it. And what is the cartoon about? it is about how the process was proceeding at a snail’s pace. Quite like all the development work in our country, I dare say.

So, yeah. All this makes me wonder. Do we really have time for all this unfunny business? Time that could have been better spent. I think not.

Until next time, ciao.


  1. Hi, I was largely of the same opinion till I read this article.

    Let me know if it made you change your mind even a little.


    1. That was an interesting article - thought-provoking and quite objective. I guess most of us (and I am hoping it is true) looked at that cartoon as more of a political satire than any kind of comment on Dr. Ambedkar's caste :-) My point is more about how we need to be tolerant of opinions and not whip up a frenzy over every offense - imagined, intended or any other kind. In all this hullabaloo, the point that Anand makes about the radical bravery of the text book is nowhere mentioned and I don't think that most people even know about it, including the so called champions of the oppressed - our politicians. And this political class is becoming louder by the day, more insistent, more shrill and more vote-bank hungry.