The last few weeks have seen a flood of honors being returned by writers, scientists and artists.. There have also been many statements from academics, historians, artists and scientists showing their concern about the growing intolerance and erosion of our plural values. Those who returned the awards are amongst outstanding contributors to literature, arts, film making and science. They in a way have been pouring their heart out at what is going on in the country at the social and political level.

The growing intolerance has taken the lives of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi. Incidents like the lynching of a Muslim on the issue of beef eating has shaken the collective conscience of society. In the face of this strong statement from diverse sections of society those related to the ruling party, BJP; its parent organization RSS and many of its affiliates have been strongly criticizing these people on flimsy grounds.

At the same time the President of India disturbed by the developments has at least thrice reminded the nation about the core values of pluralism and tolerance. The Vice President has reminded the state of its duty to protect the ‘right to life’ of citizens. International rating agencies like Moody’s Analytics have pointed out that unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi reins in his colleagues, India stands to lose her credibility.

Disturbed by the current growing atmosphere of intolerance eminent citizens are feeling uncomfortable. So we have the earlier statement of a former police chief Julio Rebeiro that he is feeling disturbed as a Christian in India. Now actor Naseeruddin Shah has said that he is being made to realize his Muslim identity for the first time. Poet, film maker Gulzar has stated that today people ask your religion before they ask your name. Many prominent entrepreneurs like Narayan Murthi and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw have shown their concern over growing intolerance. In the same boat of those calling for preserving values of pluralism are people like Raghuram Rajan, the RBI Governor.

The ruling dispensation, the BJP leaders have come out scathingly on them and labeled the whole outpouring of concern as ‘manufactured rebellion’, a term used by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. It has been alleged that those returning awards are leftists or those who were recipients of privileges from the state when Congress was the ruling party and now with the BJP coming to power from the last one year, they are baffled and so the protests. It has been alleged that these people are trying to derail the ‘development story’ being written by the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Jaitley even goes to say that Narendra Modi is the victim of intolerance by these people returning their awards. Some like Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh have pointed out that it is a mere ‘law and order’ problem for which state governments are responsible while these people are targeting Modi government.

What has happened is neither a law and order problem nor the one related to loss of patronage as it is related to the much broader phenomenon related to intense communalization of society. This time the degree of communalization has crossed all civil limits. The jibe that these people did not return their awards at the time of the Emergency, anti -Sikh violence, migration of Kashmiri Pundits and at the time of the Mumbai blasts of 1993 is a very superficial way of dealing with the social response to the phenomenon of growing intolerance and its degree. As the awards which have been returned and the statements put out by different groups do give the reasons for the same and these reasons pertains to the cumulative process and not this or that event. All these incidents mentioned by Jaitley and company have been a tragic part of recent Indian history. Many a writer did protest against most of the incidents and more that have not been mentioned by the august leaders!

The present times cannot be compared with the tragic incidents of the past for various reasons. Take the case of the Emergency for example. It was a dark chapter of Indian history, still it was the authoritarianism imposed mostly from the top. What is most disturbing in the current times is the vast network of organizations related to the ruling party whose followers either themselves create hatred in the society or they mobilize the social sectors through hate speech; the result of which is violence. Currently there is a twin attack on the values of tolerance and liberal space. From the top the ruling dispensation has people like Yogi Adiyanath, Sakshi Maharaj, Giriraj Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti who keep spreading divisiveness while basking in the glory of power and at the societal level divisive statements prevail.

At yet another level is the institutional control by communal ideology. Major institutions and educational places are being mauled by divisive ideology. Our frontline areas of science and technology are being tampered day in and day out. The promotion of blind faith is the byproduct of this very policy. Blind faith and the large section of religious entrepreneurs (Babas, Modern Gurus) have a major say and have a major influence on the present political powers. As such the ideology spread by RSS, the one of Hindu nationalism, is dominating on social and political field. And lastly at the level of social thinking the ‘Hate other’ ideology has been promoted through various conduits using the issues like Ghar Wapsi, love jihad and beef. It is this which is creating the intense social insecurity amongst the religious minorities. It is this which is leading to incidents like Dadri. Such incidents are being projected as law and order problem to deliberately overlook the erosion in democratic space.

Essentially the insane communal violence has its roots in the prejudice leading to hate for the religious minorities. And that’s what flows from the ideology of Hindu nationalism, or any other sectarian nationalism, in the name of any religion or race. In current times the fountainhead of Hindu nationalism which is, the major factor here, is RSS. Not to say that Muslim sectarianism has its own divisive and supplementary influence. Through different conveyer belts this ideology assumes the ‘Hate other’ sentiment and that’s where cow slaughter, beef eating become the ground to kill the people. The practitioners of sectarian nationalism vow that ‘we will kill and get killed’ while defending our Holy mother the cow.

This is just one case in point. The major factor leading to present atmosphere lies in the qualitative transformation of ‘hate for others’. The stereotyping of minorities which began with Hindu nationalism has assumed horrendous proportions where the likes of Gulzar have to say what he said. So while the Jaitleys will keep undermining the steps taken by these people and while the Rajnath Singhs’ will keep dubbing it as a law and order problem, the dissatisfaction amongst those standing for democracy is growing, liberal space and tolerance is shrinking. We will have to keep thinking of more ways to draw the attention of larger sections of society towards the threat looming large on our democratic society, the threat of sectarian propaganda and politics leading to stifling of democratic space. And these are not the ordinary times, the divisive process have assumed menacing proportions and cannot be hidden by the illusory growth story!