NEW DELHI: Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Monday admitted there was “some amount of intolerance” in Indian society, but felt it should not be used to make a “generalised” accusation.
“There is some amount of intolerance in the society, in different areas. That has to be identified, it has to be localised, it has to be dealt with firmly. Instead of that, we are making it generalised,” Naidu said in the Rajya Sabha.
Referring to the killing of dalits and writers in certain states, Naidu said these incidents did not happen overnight after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. “These things have been happening,” he observed but conceded that “some people are making out of turn statements, we have to condemn, we have to isolate them… they have to be condemned and disowned.”
Welcoming Congress leader P Chidambaram’s statement that banning Salman Rushdie’s book, Satanic Verses, was wrong, Naidu said, “Sir, there are two things, one, people writing the books, they should not affect the sentiments of the people, they should not arouse social tension, but at the same time, freedom of expression and freedom of speech, people have got right. But there has to be broad consensus about how we go about it.”
He also noted that banning a book on Shivaji drew protests, while banning Rushdie drew cheers. “... different angles are coming, Hindu angle, Muslim angle… Let there be policy for banning books or films,” he suggested. Taking a swipe at the Opposition, he said, “let us all be tolerant to each other and then, tolerant to verdict of the people. ... respecting the mandate of the people is the biggest form of tolerance.”
Giving an example, he said ‘x’ has been mandated to rule Tamil Nadu, ‘y’ mandated to rule West Bengal. “We have to respect it,” he stressed. Similarly, the mandate of people of Bihar to Nitish Kumar with support of Lalu Prasad has to be respected. “There is no choice,” he added. Naidu further appealed for a broad consensus among political parties, rising above narrow point-scoring about achievements of one government over the other. He said if there is tolerance, Parliament can function.
Referring to the NJAC verdict, he said the Supreme Court had struck down a law passed by Parliament unanimously. “The House in collective wisdom passed it... nowhere in the world, judges appoint themselves,” he said, adding if the Collegium system was fine, why are changes being sought in it.
Also, there were regional aspirations like having a bench of the Supreme Court in the South, he recalled, adding that some cases suddenly were given priority but not the cases of the common man.