India And The Bogey Of Intolerance – OpEd


By R. Upadhyay*

Since independence there was hardly any instance of any fierce debate on the issue of intolerance as is being seen by now from the streets to the Parliament.

This is strange as there have been many instances of religious intolerance in the past like the communal bloodbath in Kolkatha on the preceding year of Independence, communal riots in different parts of the country particularly in Maharashtra, Bihar, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and not so recent backlash of the murder of Indira Gandhi.

Why this “Intolerance Debate in the Country now?

What has changed now for the new “war of words” on intolerance is the power shift in Delhi. Once out of power, incidents relating to religious bias are being politicised. It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows. This appears to be true when the Communists, Socialists, Casteists, left-oriented Academicians, Historians and a section of biassed Media which also serves like a political party have all combined together to raise the bogey of intolerance and use it as a “stick” castigate the government.

The politicians have deliberately divided the people of the country into minority and majority on the basis of religion and constitutionally endorsed certain privileges to the former.

Contrary to the mandate of Article 15 in the Constitution which reads “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion …….”, in the name of secularism, some political groups for their own vested interests have enacted laws for separate universities, special privilege in the name of religious minority and have thus deliberately divided the country into two political camps namely secular and communal.

“Mahatma Gandhi, in his book My Picture of Free India, wrote that in an India well governed by the Constitution, there is no scope for classifying citizens as minority as all of us are the children of the same Mother India” (http: //…).

Inspite of this, a former P.M. in UPA Government went to the extent of issuing a policy statement in December 2006 that Muslims will have the first claim on India’s resources.

Tufail Ahmad, a British citizen of Indian origin (from West Champaran district of Bihar) and presently a Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington D C in a paper entitled ‘Secularism is a threat to Indian Muslims’ observed: “Secularism creates herd mentality and pushes Muslims into minority syndrome” (http: //,-new-age-islam/secul…

Against the backdrop of the confrontationist political environment created in the name of secularism, the US President Obama during his last speech in New Delhi in January last emphasised on religious intolerance in India which was factually not true. Although many people did not endorse Obama’s call, a section of the politicians gleefully accepted the call and accused the government of its intolerance. The recent criminal incident at Dadri was quoted to tarnish the government of its intolerance.

Such people have perhaps adopted the political strategy of the often quoted saying attributed to Vladimir Lenin that “a lie told often enough becomes the truth” and William James also saying something similar: “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough people will believe it”,

The Bihar Election and the Intolerance Debate:

To understand the communal game in Indian politics we may examine the alliance of some of the political parties with the Islamists in the Bihar election. Ideologically, Islamists and ‘secularists’ are poles apart in their world view. In fact secularism in India means “sarva dharm sambhao”(equal treatment of all religions by the state) but strangely, the Islamists are often found using the ‘secularists’ as their points’ men for fulfilment of their communal goals.

On the eve of Bihar election an Islamic institution by name Imart-e-Sharia had made a deal with the Grand Alliance of ’secularists’. The objective was mainly and clearly to garner the Muslim votes and nothing else.

The Rise of Imart-e-Sharia:

It was in 1906 that Aga Khan made a demand for reservation for Muslims. This was followed later when Imart-e-Sharia that was established by Deobandi Ulema in 1921 as a religio-social organisation mainly as a counterweight to the concept of pan-Indian nationalism which was often projected differently by the ‘secularists’.

In fact Imarat-e-Sharia (House of Islamic law) is supposed to rightly guide the Muslims about what is Halal (Permissible) and what is Haram (prohibited in Islam). “The law of Sharia intervenes in both religious and secular life, including penal punishments and judicial matters, as well as the acts of worship and family life. Muslims are expected to accept the Quran as the word of God, and the Sharia as the regulator of society and daily life”.

“Islamic political theory specifies three basic features of an Islamic democracy: leaders must be elected by the people, subject to Sharia committed to practising “shura”, a special form of consultation practised by Muhammad, which one can find in various hadiths, with their community”. (

Imran Nazar Hosein, a distinguished Islamic scholar from Trinidad whose ancestors from India had migrated as indentured labourers to this Caribbean island in his paper – “Can Muslims vote in elections of the modern secular state?” strongly argued that “participation in electoral politics in the modern secular state constitutes Shirk (sin of practising idolatry and Kufr (polytheism / blasphemy) ”. (…)

Similarly, Dr. Israr Ahmad, an Islamic scholar from Pakistan had declared that “it is Haram for a Muslim to participate in the electoral politics of the modern secular state” (Ibid). India is not an Islamic democracy which recommends that “leaders must be elected by the people subject to sharia”

Imart Contradicts its own Principles:

But contrary to such Islamic principles and political theory of Islam that do not even permit participation of Muslims, Moulana Anees-ur-Rehman Qasmi, nazim (general secretary) of Imarat-e-Sharia had asked the Grand alliance parties in Bihar to provide tickets to the Muslims in proportion to their population and cautioned that “If Muslims aren’t given enough representation; it will have a serious adverse reaction. There is every likelihood that people will get upset and won’t go to vote at all. That is the biggest worry.” (…

This communal bargain of the Islamists for political ends in Bihar election with the politicians who were supposed to further the cause of secularism is apparently an Islamic deviation which seems to be a part of the joint political strategy of the Islamists and a section of the political parties only to defame and destabilise a democratically elected Government.

Intolerance Debate should not divide the Country:

In fact the hotheads among the two ideologically opposed combine launched a sustained campaign against Government that not only gave them dividend in its comprehensive defeat in the just concluded Bihar Assembly election but also succeeded in generating a political debate thus tarnishing the secular identity of the country as a whole

By and large the country is generally tolerant and the word “intolerance” is being misused by certain political groups to advance their own political interests and ambitions. If they are keen to bring the country back to the politics of British India, they will not succeed and people of independent India will not allow it either.

Let us put an end to such debates that divide the country and be really intolerant to those who bring up the issue of intolerance just to divide the country.

*The author can be reached in E-mail [email protected]


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *