There is a reason for concern about the emergence of prosperity for intolerance, vice-president Hamid Ansari said on Tuesday, in remarks that came in the middle of protests by members of the intelligentsia over what they call an attempt by radical right-wing organisations to muzzle free speech and individual rights in India.
Stressing that respect for human rights includes acceptance of diversity and not merely tolerance of it, Ansari said: “It is necessary to make sure that a social consensus around equality, justice and empowerment exists, more so because there is reason today for concern about this consensus and about emergence of a propensity for intolerance of diversity and dissent.”
Ansari was delivering a speech on “Social Innovation and Social Harmony” at the Pune International Centre.
His comments came against the backdrop of a raging debate, with at least 75 members of the intelligentsia - including writers, historians, filmmakers and scientists - returning prestigious national awards to protest what they call “growing intolerance”.
The triggers were the murder of rationalist MM Kalburgi, mob lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh over rumours of beef consumption and the murder of two Dalit children in Faridabad.
Underlining the need for being receptive towards various identities in a plural society, Ansari said: “It is for this reason that the Indian Constitution has provisions for the protection of minority rights.”
“This transition from tolerance to acceptance, in actual day-to-day practice, rather than as a mantra in political discourse, is critical for making society fully inclusive rather than selectively so,” he said in Pune.
After the Dadri lynching incident, Ansari had said the state had to ensure the right to life of every citizen irrespective of his religion, and added “citizens have a right to demand security and there could be no development till the security of citizens is assured.”
Days after the mob lynching, President Pranab Mukherjee too said the country should keep in mind the core values of diversity, endurance and tolerance.