The media in all its self-righteous glory and with an insatiable appetite for debate, pounced on the news of a mentally deranged man slapping Sharad Pawar. One slap from a publicity hungry youth had the media in a tizzy. “Are Indians becoming intolerant?” every channel asked indignantly. Hell hath no fury like a politician scorned. That the media continued playing clips of the unfortunate incident on the sidelines, even as they discussed the topic is another matter. How could ‘your channel’ disappoint the viewer who came in late and was unable to see the thappad footage? So they continued replaying the thappad footage, a la Ekta Kapoor’s serial, and milked the issue just as Harvinder ji wanted.
Firstly, shoes flying in the air are a global phenomenon and labeling all Indians as ‘intolerant’ is a sweeping thought. Though undesirable, pelting footwear is a symbol of suppressed anger and simmering resentment. After killing thousands and maiming innocents allegedly in search of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, one shoe hurled at George Bush, though objectionable was inconsequential.
Back home, attacks on Bhushan and Kejriwal were politically motivated. With several misguided youth willing to smash jaws and clench paws either for publicity or moolah, personal attacks cannot be the premise for labeling all Indians ‘intolerant’. The attackers of Bhushan were product of a political system of patronage, who ostensibly got enraged at his Kashmir referendum remarks. If asked to donate blood for injured Kashmiris, will these young people come forward? I doubt it. Attack on Bhushan in the presence of cameras reeked of opportunism by an inconsequential political outfit which should be criticized, not the average Indian.
The attack on Rajesh Talwar and Ruchika Girotra’s molestor cop outside court premises were also the handiwork of one mentally challenged youth, who should have been under the watchful eyes of Delhi Police. Both acts cannot be used to paint all Indians with one brush.
Status message of my renowned writer friend said, “Ek hi tha, but solid tha boss”. Many educated liberal Indians expressed glee as allegedly one of the most corrupt politician was assaulted. Intellectuals on television were concerned about this very glee which people evinced. If you keep slapping the aam admi on one cheek, don’t expect him to offer the other cheek all the time. Let us be clear that the glee did not originate from a dramatic erosion of morals. The glee was a symptom of the malaise of decades of suppression of the public opinion, of lasting frustration and simmering resentment. Having said that, I agree that expression of glee at a seasoned politician being slapped was misplaced.
Okay, so if one deranged man committed the offence of slapping Mr. Pawar, shouldn’t Pawar have reined in his party workers from burning public property after the incident? But he preferred to keep silent and let his rough-neck squads do the talking. That was intolerance. With the opening of FDI in retail, Uma Bharti’s comment, “I will personally lead a mob and torch malls” transgressed all limits of tolerance. She was not told to zip up by her party. Ms Bharti is known for her intolerant comments, “Ek dhakka aur do” but since she is our leader, she can presumably get away for inciting passions. When Mamata Banerjee stormed a police station and created ruckus, it was an act of 'intolerance'. When chairs and mikes flew in J&K assembly, the actions smacked of intolerance. When Jitin Prasada kicked a protester at Rahul Gandhi’s rally, he was being intolerant.
The odor of intolerance if any emanates from the political cesspool. Before calling the average Indian intolerant, it behooves our leaders to examine their blooming political gardens.
The average Indian shows signs of intolerance only when he indulges in road rage, abuses his wife, or when he bashes up others. A detailed study can show whether such cases have increased over the years, before we can debate and conclude that Indians have become intolerant.
As for the common man, he tolerates a tight slap of power cuts, bumpy roads, civic apathy, comatose governance, prevalent corruption, political opportunism, price rise etc., day in and day out. Even when it goes beyond his threshold levels. Yet he smiles and hopes that one day “sab theek ho jayega” (all will be well).
If anything, the common man should be applauded for his tolerance and not branded as intolerant.