Culture of intolerance

I returned to Singapore late in the evening on Saturday after a six-day sojourn visiting Concord in North Carolina – 60% of the time on ground and 40% on air or waiting to board! Sunday was spent on catching up with stuff happening on the ground in India.

India had moved up in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ rankings in 2015. I sent a mail to my friends that it was time for India’s self-styled liberals to drum up another controversy to drown out the good news. Even on that improvement in ranking, Mr. Mihir Sharma set up his own bizarre criteria (without any basis in facts or logic) as to judge its success. Read it for yourself.

When they cannot create one, they look for criticisms of the NDA government that they can then parrot over and over. They got one last week. Dr. Arun Shourie called this government, ‘Congress + cow’. Much as I respect Dr. Shourie, I would quite simply disagree with him on that comment. We seem to have forgotten too quickly how badly India was diminished and damaged in the UPA years.

As this comment in ‘Swarajya’ noted, there were specific criticisms in his speech that the government could do well to address. But, the media was not so much interested in specifics.

If they were interested in specifics, they would applaud specific achievements and criticise specific failings. That would be objective. The idea is not to be objective but to prevent good governance from taking place.

An article in ‘Newslaundry’ wrote about the government’s success in the coal and power sectors. That went unnoticed. Deepak Parekh had lauded the work in Railway Ministry. When Deepak Parekh wrote that nothing much had changed with the new government some six months into the NDA government last year, the media celebrated him. This blog post of his has not had too many takers.

The Ministry of Surface Transport had said that if a road construction project did not commence within a year of it being awarded, the contract would be terminated. That is an important step. The same article in ‘Financial Express’ notes the visible improvement in cleanliness in Railway Stations too.

As many in the twitter world have noted, Indian (self-styled) liberals have no time for facts or evidence. Anand Ranganathan had tweeted on the communal incidents in the five years up to 2013. No Sahitya Academy award winner protested then. Dr. Saswati Sarcar had critiqued extensively and brilliantly the Op.-Ed that actor Ms. Sharmila Tagore had written in Bengali on the ‘not very happy time’, pointing out the glaring and blatant inconsistencies on the part of the actor in failing to record her angst and dismay at previous episodes of intolerance in the country when neither PM Modi nor NDA was in office.

Balijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, a BJD Member of Parliament has noted that the chorus on rising intolerance always peaks around elections just as the cries of attack on Christians peaked before elections in Delhi and quietly died soon thereafter. That most of the reported crimes against Christians turned out to be random acts of violence, vandalism, etc., was a matter of minor detail for those who wrote about a culture of fear among minorities.

Then, they got the speech by Raghuram Rajan, RBI Governor, on October 31, delivered to students at IIT, Delhi.  First Post headlined its report on the speech as this:

Role reversal: Governor Raghuram Rajan now asks Modi government for a rate cut — in rising levels of intolerance

The speech was addressed to Indians and not to Government of India. The culture of bans in India pre-dates this government and would continue beyond this government too. I had gone through some five reports on the speech – one at ‘First Post’, second in ‘Business Standard’, third at ‘India Today’, fourth one at ‘Financial Express’ and a fifth one at ‘Newscrunch.in’.

This paragraph in his speech went unreported:

Put differently, while you should avoid pressing the buttons that upset me to the extent possible, when you do push them you should explain carefully why that is necessary so as to move the debate forward, and how it should not be interpreted as a personal attack on me. You have to tread respectfully, assuring me that a challenge to the ideas I hold is necessary for progress. At the same time, I should endeavour to hold few ideas so closely intertwined with my personality that any attack on them is deemed an intolerable personal affront. Tolerance means not being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge – it implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate. Finally, respect requires that in the rare case when an idea is tightly associated with a group’s core personality, we are extra careful about challenging it. [Link – Emphasis mine]

The Governor must have thought hard about his speech before he made it. He would have thought that he was making a general speech and that he had a message for both sides – one who feels threatened by challenges to their favoured ideas and views and those who challenge them. But, having been in India for quite some time now, it would not have come as a surprise to him that some outlets in the Indian English language media have quoted him selectively.

Of course, the reaction from Dr. Subramanian Swamy was an unfortunate one. If the government acted on his advice, it would only be vindicating those who are quoting selectively from Dr. Rajan’s speech. The government has far too many players with a remarkable ability to score and cause the government to score self-goals.

One thing is clear to any remotely disinterested and objective reader of the situation on the ground in India. There is indeed a culture of intolerance in India. It is the intolerance of  many of India’s self-styled liberals towards Indian democracy, towards the Indian voter, towards the current Prime Minister and his government.

Whoever is behind these ‘liberals’ is showing tactical nous – encashing the IOUs they have – but not strategic intelligence. Under normal circumstances, many who voted for the government would have been evaluating its successes and failures objectively. But, by their relentless, shrill, biased and spiteful campaign, these so-called ‘Liberals’ have now caused many to close ranks and rally behind the beleaguered government and its Prime Minister.

So, if they thought that they could re-enact 2004 in 2019 with this tactic, I think they may be committing a big mistake. Their campaign could have the opposite effect and, perhaps, it is already doing so.

On the other hand, should the ‘liberally hypocritical’ Indians succeed (still a possibility) in reducing this government to one term in office and bring back those who ruled India for a very long time since Independence and their allies, they and their succeeding generations will have all the time in the world to regret the folly of their ways. That is, if they are capable of reflection and introspection at all.

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11 thoughts on “Culture of intolerance

  1. ‘Strike when the iron is hot’ or ‘Make hay while the sun shines’. The sun is well and truly shining for Mr Raghuram Rajan, the all “conquering governor” of the RBI. I agree with Amol Agarwal. In my short career so far, havent seen any other RBI governor as attention seeking as this chap is. The earlier governor faced flak and was constantly pulled up by the then FM. The media too used to be after him all the time. But this guy seems to be out of control. Saying things which are clearly out of his brief. I mean what has got “intolerance” got to do with the job that he has been assigned to do? Anyway, “intolerance” is a subjective term. I mean what is the reference point? Those singing the intolerance tune clearly have an agenda. I mean Ram rajya clearly ended centuries back so its not as if India was experiencing Sat Yug before Modi came. Rajan seems to be no different. His now famous boastful claim after the latest monetary policy review that ‘i am my man’ seems to be a link in the entire chain which he is carefully piecing together, the chain of carefully created image. The image of that of an ‘Inflation warrior’ and ‘Crusader against the government’. As they say, one cant fool all of the people, all of the times.

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  2. So Ananth, do you still “respect” Shourie? I stopped respecting him when he unceremoniously sacked Bimal Roy as the Director of the Indian Statistical Institute and then foisted some purely imaginary “corruption” cases against Bimal. Two good friends on the ISI Governing Board told me this, independently. Clearly Shourie is a frustrated, power-hungry, selfish egomaniac. It is not to my credit that he managed to fool me for such a long time.

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  3. dear mr nageswaran

    I read your article with interest. you are very right.

    It is unfortunate that a duly elected government is not allowed
    to function properly even before it started to settle down.
    I am not a politician atall but just an ordinary youthfully
    challenged person. It was awful to read/hear distasteful
    and unproductive criticism from a few quarters. I dont know
    whether to use the word ‘bad losers’. I do respect anyone
    really interested in the welfare of India and Indians.
    One should come forward to do ones best for progress
    of our country and not to indulge in cheap and negative
    complaints. Anyone deserves adequate time to perform
    and for a country as vast as India and with highest populace,
    a reasonable time allowance to implement is very essential.
    Let us be tolerent and let the government enough breathing
    time to think,plan and perform.
    In the interest of our nation, my best wishes to the Government
    and prayers to the Almighty .

    Regards

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  4. It is heartening to get two people who agree with me on this issue. Thanks Mr Vidyasagar and Sukumar. I don’t know I have always found the whole RBI Governorship thing overrated and hyped. But that is a different matter.

    On this issue, there is little doubt that Governor has overstepped his line (once again) and caused embarrassment to the Govt. Today’s ToI edit and couple of pieces have referred to the speech while dissenting against intolerance. Unlike several others who have been thrashed for writing on intolerance, the Governor has been appreciated for his stance !!

    In an earlier speech on Governance, he drew examples of good governance in Nazis time. Needless to say, but we all know who the hint was aimed at.

    I must say that the Government has been highly spineless on this matter. It has thrown out people who have been there for really long but does not know how to handle this issue..

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  5. Mr Amol Agarwal deserves appreciation for his frank and correct views on Raghuramrajan who shows his UPA master loyalty by wiful tresspass into othet areas of governance. PM Modi will not be appreciated for tolerating such blatant violation of codes. It is better such intransigent bureaucrats should be shown doors if they think they are bigger than the masters. Otherwise the article is reflective of people’s mood.

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  6. Ananth
    Well writen article.Your comments carry lot of weight-particularly the one on IOUs encashment by the so-called liberals.There are two more points-are they saying that for any one being killed esp. dalit or minority anywhere in the country only Modi and his cabinet ministers are responsible -no state govt which is actually protecting the law and order,is responsible?Second are they saying that before Modi came on centrestage there was no Hindu-Muslim clashes in india?Tomorrow by the same logic I can say when any white kills a black in US this is happening only because of Mr.Obama encouraging the whites.

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  7. I agree fully with Mr. Amol Agrawal. He has hit the nail on the head. Raghuram Rajan has a habit of exceeding his brief and seems to count on his celebrity status to keep him out of trouble. Earlier he commented on the government’s “Make in India” initiative, even though it was not his place to do so. Perhaps that could be tolerated as that initiative was at least tangentially related to the economy. But talking about “tolerance” is not within the ambit of the RBI Governor by any stretch of the imagination. I think Ananth is far too lenient on Rajan. It is not clear to me whether Rajan’s main motivation is to steer the Indian economy or to sabotage the monetary initiatives of the current government. As one wag put it, before we can have Ram Rajya, we must first overcome Raghuram Rajya!

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  8. After the Dadri incident, the outrage was expected and expected to settle down soon. However, it didn’t as the influential elements in the current power structure made some comments has extended the debate. It got exacerbated on social media where everyone opposing Dadri or supporting the right to protest of the award-returning-writers were vociferously branded as anti-Hindu, anti-national, anti-BJP, sickular etc. Going that far wasn’t needed at all. There can be other reasons too, but neither of the sides are trying to switch the debate towards growth and development. This debate will be perpetual

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  9. Rajdeep Sardesai (and many others) would be amused by the recent RBI Governor talk on intolerance in India. Whereas the former were just thrashed, the latter earned kudos for the talk. This issue is even more puzzling given what RBI Governor has to do with the topic?

    The speech was just not needed. It is not his job. What was needed instead was more tolerance on the Governor’s part. He can’t keep shooting this frequently.

    I am not sure how different his speech was compared to others who have spoken against govt on this tolerance business. If Rajdeep gets hatred messages, so should the godly Rajan. His speech just had a lot of camouflage attached to it. But stance was pretty clear. Why should one read between the lines when lines are quite clear?

    RBI Governorship is not the place for making such statements. You are a government employee at the end of the day. You live in a govt house, draw a govt salary, get the RBI bully pulpit because of the govt and so on. Moreover, you are guardian of the currency issued by fiat of govt.

    On one hand, govt is calming the fire and the Governor adds fuel to the fire. This is just unfortunate given you hold a prominent government position.

    We have had Governors in the past as well some of whom must have witnessed all these issues from really close corners. But they did not go out of the way to make statements which are not in their domain, I mean what if all regulators start making the same noises? True they do not have the same hype as “the man”, but still it can create some noise given the vitriolic environment.

    I mean media will only project selected noise. That has been the game for many years now. So, if the Governor did indeed think carefully about the speech as you say, he should have been more realistic as well.

    I actually think the other way. Seeing the Governor’s attention seeking speeches and comments, he would have through the speech and knew it was great publicity material. He was not wrong this time either as the headlines reported today morning. Newspapers printed the entire speech!! Then other comments like “someone who reshaped the entire Indian economy and even took on the govt. What a combination. really!” But then this is how it has been from day one. I am surprised people have still not got the main message out of the 2 year tamasha.

    Somewhere down the line people like him are taking huge advantage of their dual citizenship and dual status. They know they win whatever it is. There is nothing to lose. If the govt says anything all people will be after the govt.

    The govt has been mostly tolerant towards the Governor and did away with talks of firing on being elected. All the advisers and policymakers of previous govt are biting the dust. But it is clear the governor always has some or the other issue. If he is so uncomfortable, he is free to quit. We all know it that there are loads of opportunities and billions waiting outside. Why keep egging the govt on?

    I mean all this sucks and sucks big time. He does not want govt to talk on any of his turf but is absolutely fine talking (actually taking on) on all govt matters.

    The govt should publicly reprimand (as no one else will) the Governor on this talk. Give him a choice to go if he does not like it. You cant have everything. Yes it will cause a lot of heart burns and intolerant opeds, but hopefully the govt will be at peace thereafter. It will not have to track what RBI Governor is saying and not

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  10. Hi Ananth,
    Fantastic Article. I hope people will clearly see the evil designs of the liberals and main stream media, though it is starting. The articles by Swapan Dasgupta and Kanchan Gupta today and yesterday are fantastic from this point of view.

    I fondly your golden words come true “But, by their relentless, shrill, biased and spiteful campaign, these so-called ‘Liberals’ have now caused many to close ranks and rally behind the beleaguered government and its Prime Minister”. At this juncture, India needs Modi more than Modi needs Government.
    Murali

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