Intellectuals can play an important role in eliminating religious intolerance in the country. They must realise their role in strengthening ties between people of diverse persuasions and call out vested interests in minority communities
Once the Bihar Assembly election result was out, the award wapsi tirade evaporated quietly. Many heaved a sigh of relief. There were better options pending before the luminaries whose creative talents could be used more profitably in their pursuit of excellence. The Sahitya Akademi found no provisions in its rules and regulations to take back the award once conferred on a luminary and informed the anguished returnees accordingly. It's indeed heartening to note that one of the outstanding and highly respected of authors of Hindi, Kashi Nath Singh, is now ready to take back pahle wapas kiya gaya award. Media reports suggest that this transformation among several awardees is a consequence of their conviction that the 'purpose is served'. That is fine with the common citizen.
Shall one now conclude that most of those like-minded luminaries who joined the award wapsi bandwagon shall henceforth be concentrating on spreading the message of tolerance and acceptance of diversity, without political and ideological compulsions? And to achieve social cohesion and religious amity, they will shun their personal prejudices towards individuals and political parties? Every word and sentence could make a big difference. It is a tough task and highly sensitive.
Maybe Aamir Khan realised it a bit too late. The former brand ambassador of the Incredible India campaign has, once again, attempted to contain the damage he had inflicted on his own image by recalling, in a TV interview, a personal conversation with his wife. His recent reiteration that, he is in "deep love with India, cannot stay abroad for more than a fortnight", and that he shall "always speak the truth", may make many non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin sit up. A tolerant society that India has been for ages, Khan can rest assured that Indians, in India and abroad, shall continue to love him, and adore him, even if some select ones may call this trait a historical weakness.
There are, however, several learning experiences of the recent times, and of not so recent times, which can help in changing the outlook and widening of the canvas for those who are, genuinely, contributing towards the elimination of intolerance. Mere inheritance of great traditions and social practices is no guarantee that these shall not be dented, through persistent machinations by vested interests. Far-sight and eternal vigilance are the roots of growth for every society. Slackness in this regard can be fatal. India has to persistently guard against fissiparous tendencies and isolated spots of intolerance that do exist and are exploited by anti-social and anti-national elements.