NEW DELHI: A host of eminent personalities today joined the debate on growing intolerance with music maestro Zubin Mehta speaking against "ostracising" writers and authors that would amount to cultural dictatorship while Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy said there is "considerable fear" among the minorities in India.
RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said tolerance and mutual respect was necessary and physical harm or verbal contempt for any particular group should not be allowed. On his part, President Pranab Mukherjee yet again called for preserving the pluralistic character of the country as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said unity, peace and harmony is a first condition if India is to move forward and attain new heights of development. Read Rajan's full speech HERE.
The 79-year-old Mumbai-born music conductor, who lives abroad and has just concluded a multi-city concert performance in India, batted for complete freedom of expression for the writers and filmmakers saying it should be there in the world's largest democracy. "Our writers, our filmmakers do have a chance of speaking their minds. We should not ostracise them. Otherwise, we will become a dictatorship, a cultural dictatorship and that is inadmissible," he said.
Mehta said: "If they write their opinion, they should not be ostracised by the government. There should be complete freedom of expression. We are the largest democracy in the world". He also hoped that the government "invites them for discussions and speaks to them". Murthy expressed concerns that there is considerable fear in the minds of minority in India and wanted governments should bring back the sense of confidence in them.
"I am not a politician, I am not interested in politics, therefore, I don't want to comment on that but the reality today is that there is considerable fear in the minds of minority in India," he said. Murthy said there was also "considerable fear" in the minds of people of one region living in another region. Citing the Shiv Sena campaign against the South Indians living in Mumbai in 1960s, he said, "Today there is a lot of that worry. I get lots of emails, I get a lot of people talking to me even though I stay at home because of my leg".
Murthy said, "the first priority of this government, or for that matter any government, both at the Central level and the state level, is to bring back the confidence, the energy, the enthusiasm, the trust in the minds of every Indian that this is our country, I have all the rights here, I am very safe here and therefore I will work towards the betterment of India".
The RBI Governor used the occasion of his convocation address at the Delhi IIT to say tolerance and mutual respect was necessary to improve the environment for ideas and physical harm or verbal contempt for any particular group should not be allowed. Asserting that India's tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for economic growth, he said encouraging challenge to all authority and tradition would rule out anyone imposing a particular view or ideology because of power.
Against the backdrop of growing intolerance in the wake of Dadri lynching and subsequent acts of violence, Rajan said 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. He said tolerance can take the offence out of debate and indeed instill respect.
Reacting to his speech, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy tweeted "He (Rajan) should go to RBI and do his job; He shouldn't speak like a grandfather." Swamy said he has made a mess of RBI and the Prime Minister should sack him. "Tolerance of what? Tolerance of terrorism," he asked.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram asked will the BJP say that Pranab Mukherjee's and Raghuram Rajan's speeches today against intolerance are also "manufactured protest?" BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said "we welcome his statement. There is tolerance and that is why we are progressing."
The President, who had on a number of occasions spoken against growing intolerance in the last three weeks, once again called for preserving the multiplicity and pluralistic character of the country. Speaking at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Delhi High Court here, he said India has thrived due to its power of assimilation and tolerance.
"Our country has thrived due to its power of assimilation and tolerance. Our pluralistic character has stood the test of time. Our ancient civilisation has over the centuries accommodated our diversities. "Multiplicity is our collective strength which must be preserved at all costs. It finds reflection in the various provisions of our Constitution," Mukherjee said.
In the wake of the Dadri lynching and subsequent incidents, the President had asked a question whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are on the wane in the country during a function at his home town at Suri in West Bengal on October 19. This was followed by his appeal to people for practising tolerance and to accept differences while respecting dissent.
Speaking at a function to flag off 'run for unity' on the occasion of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's 140th birth anniversary, the Prime Minister said unity is our biggest strength. "We have to move forward with the mantra of unity, peace and harmony," he said. Modi said if 125 crore Indians with the mantra of unity, peace and harmony walk one step together shoulder to shoulder, then the country will move 125 crore steps in one go. "Our strength is a nation bound together by unity and which can sacrifice everything for unity and this is the message of Sardar sahab," he said, recalling that Patel's life was dedicated to national unity.
At the beginning of his speech, Modi also remembered former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on her death anniversary, saying she sacrificed her life on this day and it cannot be forgotten. Reacting to his speech, the Left parties said the Prime Minister should know that these values were being threatened by the Sangh parivar and he should crack the whip on them.
CPI MP D Raja said the President's frequent calls for preserving the pluralistic character of the country underscores NDA government's "failure" in performing its duties towards ensuring peace.