Intolerance debate
The year 2015 was marked with the intolerance debate that was triggered by dadri lynching incident and murders of noted rationalist writers. [Collage: Family of Dadri lynching victim (on left) Actors Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi (in the middle) and Aamir with wife Kiran Rao (on right)]IANS/Reuters/PR Handout

The tolerance-intolerance debate, which was triggered by the murders of rationalist writers and lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri area over rumours that he ate beef, rocked India as several people bashed critics for their comments on "rising" intolerance, even calling them "traitors".

While several among the public took to social media to vent out their anger on people supportive of the view that there is intolerance in India and it is rising, some politicians publicly alleged that people claiming existence of intolerance in the nation have inclination towards either Congress or the Left.

There were other leaders who asked the critics of "rising" intolerance in India to go to Pakistan. Those who were asked to go to Pakistan include actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, who had shared their opinions on the intolerance debate.

So how did this debate start?

Two noted rationalist writers Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi were killed this year, even as the Maharashtra Police was investigating the murder of Narendra Dabholkar, another prominent writer. It was alleged that the Hindu right wing organisations were behind these murders.

Dabholkar, a campaigner against superstitions and black magic, was shot dead by unknown motorcycle-borne assailants on 20 August, 2013, in Pune. Similarly, Pansare who raised his voice against the Hindu ideology in many of his books was shot at by assailants near his home in Kolhapur city on 16 February. He succumbed on 20 February this year. 

Months later, on 30 August, 2015, two assailants shot dead MM Kalburgi at the front door of his home in Dharwad, Karnataka. Kalburgi had upset the Hindu organisations with his criticism of superstition and idol worship.

While the murders of the three writers had already left the writer fraternity aggrieved, the Dadri incident on 28 September in Bisara village near Dadri, Uttar Pradesh added fuel to fire. A mob attacked the house of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi and lynched him on rumours that his family had eaten beef and stored cow meat at home.

The writers protested against the murders by returning their Sahitya Akademi Awards -- a movement that was later termed as 'Award Wapsi'. Historians, scientists and filmmakers were the next to join the protesting litterateurs.

The incidents of Award Wapsi became a matter of "disrespect" for both the nation and its prime minister as several political leaders, including Union Minister Arun Jaitley, said that the protesters are "tarnishing" the image of India by wrongly portraying it as intolerant when there is complete tolerance in the nation.

The union finance minister went on to say that 'Award Wapsi' is a "manufactured politically-motivated rebellion" and many of the returnee of awards are "rabid anti-BJP elements".

Those protesting against the murders of writers and Dadri lynching demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi take serious note of the situation and do the needful. While the comment from the prime minister did come, it was a bit late and not everyone was satisfied with his response. 

Statement from 'Khans' and suggestions to go to Pakistan

Shah Rukh Khan, while addressing the Twitter town hall organised by a media house on his 50th birthday, said there is 'extreme intolerance' in the country and the worst mistake a patriot can do at this time is go against secularism.

Though the actor later refused to have made the above statement, the damage had been done as people started lashing out at him for "calling India intolerant". BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said in tweet that Shah Rukh "lives in India but his mind is in Pakistan".

BJP MP Yogi Adityanath compared him to Pakistani terrorist and alleged mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai blasts Hafiz Saeed, and suggested that he go to Pakistan. However, BJP leader Sadhvi Prachi went on to another level to criticise Shah Rukh by calling him a Pakistani agent.

These statements from the leaders of ruling party led to demands for action against the leaders.

The intolerance debate grew intense with Aamir Khan's statement at the eighth edition of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony in November. "When I chat with Kiran at home, she says 'Should we move out of India?' That's a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make. She fears for her child," he had said.

Aamir's statement was also met with severe criticism and Shiv Sena members in Lucknow even performed his "mock funeral". While a sedition case was registered against him in Kanpur sessions court, a filmmaker filed a police complaint in Delhi.

The social media too did not refrain from lambasting Aamir. People asked him which country would he prefer to go to and other social media users asked people to boycott Aamir's films.

Several in the film fraternity, including Raveena Tandon, also lashed out at the actor and Anupam Kher asked Aamir to "spread hope instead of fear". But there were others such as AR Rahman, filmmaker Farhan Akhtar and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who stood in support of Aamir.

The incidents of physical violence had triggered the tolerance-intolerance debate that seems to have ended with verbal spar, reaching no conclusion so far. 

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