The Left and Right of intolerance

Intolerance is soaring new heights, with Leftists and liberals slamming anybody who dares to question faddish pacifism, on the one hand, and nationalists taking upon themselves to silence any voice they deem anti-national, on the other. Needless to say, liberty is the biggest casualty.

So, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar derided cricketer Virender Sehwag and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt as “hardly literate” for their criticism of 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur. To begin with, Sehwag and Dutt are graduates, just like Akhtar. So, as far are formal education is concerned, Akhtar cannot stake claim to a higher ground.

More importantly, if Kaur exercises her right to freedom of expression by airing her inane and ill-informed views about war, Pakistan, etc., Sehwag and Dutt also exercise the same right. By no stretch of imagination, they can be called trolls. But fair criticism of Kaur’s too has been termed as an attempt to silence her. Kaur has been abused and threatened on the net, but that is the nature of the social media; no person—living or dead, howsoever hallowed or disreputable—has been spared of defamation and calumny in cyberspace. There are laws to take care of abuse and threats, but criticism can never be equated with trolling.

Nor can tough action against Pakistan be equated with war-mongering. Realism, and the ensuing endeavors for self-defence, can scarcely be regarded as bellicosity. For instance, had the politicians and public figures of the UK heeded to the dire warnings of Winston Churchill in the 1930s about Hitler, his perverse ideology, and his evil designs, and had the UK made preemptive strikes against Germany when it was militarizing at a furious pace, there may still have been a war but of much lesser intensity and ferocity than the Second World War was. Churchill’s “war-mongering” would have saved millions of lives, including those of Germans.

In India, had Jawaharlal Nehru been a little sensible and not totally captivated by the peace propaganda (most of which, by the way, was propelled by the Soviet Union and carried out by Leftists), India would have prepared itself militarily in a much better fashion than it actually did; we could have avoided the pain, trauma, and stigma of 1962.

Therefore, the folks who are mindlessly campaigning for peace and better ties with Pakistan are indirectly helping the pugnacious and jihadist forces across the border.

It is, however, depressing that those opposed to professional peaceniks—that is, the self-proclaimed nationalists—are also doing a great disservice to the country. By physically attacking Leftists and others, they are undermining liberty, the goal and the raison d’etre of democracy, and the rule of law, the pillar of democracy.

That most Leftists and liberals are disingenuous and duplicitous is obvious; it is also true that they often provide covering fire to Naxalites and jihadists; but it is equally true that pinkish intellectuals too, as citizens of this country, have the right to free speech; and this right can be curtailed only by the constitutionally prescribed “reasonable restrictions.” It cannot be arbitrarily restricted by the government of India, and certainly not by the whims and fancies of groups like the ABVP. If any other curtailment takes place, the threat is not only to free speech but also the rule of law. For in a democracy those violating the law are punished by courts which follow the due process, not by angry functionaries of the state or by private citizens. If the due process is not followed, the consequences are vigilantism and jungle raj.

But self-righteousness is so entrenched all around that nobody is bothered about such niceties. While intellectuals are busy maligning anybody disagreeing with them, nationalists are striving to stifle any view, forcibly if required, they don’t like. With liberty shriveling by the day, democracy is becoming a sham.