BENGALURU: A couple of months ago, Prajakta Kuwalekar noticed a change in the conversations being struck at parties and informal gatherings. At one, her friend, a Muslim woman named Susan, spoke about how a taxi driver said many things about Muslims, not realising she was one too. At another, a parent spoke about how they were judged for reading a book by Arundhati Roy, where the commentator even tried to talk her out of reading “anti-national” things or teaching her kids the same.
“So I wanted to come up with an outlet that people could consider a safe space to share their stories of intolerance,” says Kuwalekar, who then created an Instagram page called Humans of Intolerance for the same.
Launched just a couple of days ago, the page already has four submissions, including from instances in Bengaluru, London and Muzaffarnagar. “It is still something people are hesitant to talk about but the conversation is slowly creeping up more and more,” says Kuwalekar, who is also the founder and CEO of Engendered, a non-profit organisation that focuses on equality in workplace.
Currently, the page is run by Kuwalekar and four or five more volunteers. Besides the above mentioned parent, the page also features stories by Avantika, a standard 5 student who spoke about the reaction her teacher made when she questioned her views on a political issue, the response Indian musicians received in London and an instance of lathi charge faced by a peaceful bystander at a protest.
“Though an anonymous post, the people in the London post are actually prominent musicians. So despite the privilege they have, intolerance has become very commonplace now, almost like it’s a default instinct for people,” says Kuwalekar, who believes stories like these have been coming up more since the outbreak of the CAA and NRC protests. “That’s the short term effect of it. The undercurrent of issues is so strong that people can no longer ignore it.”
And there was no place better than social media to turn to for a conversation like this. “More so because of the anonymity that one could get with the submission of their story,” she says, pointing out that eventually, however, they are hoping for the submissions to become less anonymous since that would only increase authenticity. “But more than that, it’s also about standing up for something and not accepting such behaviour. When you put your name to it, you stop operating out of a place of fear. So we hope to eventually get there,” she says, adding that the page is accepting submissions from people globally.
And while intolerance is at a high, things are not all that bad yet. Recalling an instance at a protest when Hindu woman formed a safety chain around their Muslim counterparts to allow them to pray, Kuwalekar says, “We want to share these positive stories as well. And maybe share solutions that could put an end to intolerance.”