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Nayantara Sahgal returned her Sahitya Akademi award after the horrific incident in Dadri, which prompted her to complain about the "vanishing space for diversity", about "people being killed for not agreeing with the ruling ideology" and about the Indian environment getting "worse and worse in the past 15 months". By implication, the astonishing allegation was that there were far fewer communal incidents before this evil period. Several other artistes suddenly felt perturbed by this "rising intolerance". It is also perhaps just a coincidence that this avalanche of anguish started and ended with the Bihar elections. Just when one thought this unfortunate trend was over, made his "quit India" remark because his wife had started feeling "unsafe". It requires serious consideration: Has India really become intolerant, particularly in the past 15 months? Are religious minorities now unsafe? Are they being systematically targeted and marginalised?
If one swallow does not a summer make, one Dadri does not make a country of 1.24 billion people intolerant. The clamour over banning beef, the disruption of Valentine's Day celebrations, the chopping-off of a professor's hand and the banning of the works of Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie are isolated, regrettable incidents and are not indicators of a nation's intolerance.
A nation is intolerant when its constitution and institutions are intolerant. The Preamble to our Constitution declares India to be a secular republic. In Aruna Roy vs Union of India (2002) and S.R. Bommai vs Union of India (1994), the Supreme Court declared secularism to be part of the basic structure of our Constitution; it held that secularism denoted the positive concept of equal treatment of all religions. In the language of Gandhiji, it meant "sarva dharma samabhava" — equal respect for all religions.