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Tolerance: a proposed consensus


(c) Sanjeev, please stop putting a childish spin on things. I did not 
suggest that if Bill Gates doesn't give you a job, you should shoot him. 
But it is possible for the government to make sure that some people from 
a given caste or religion don't have easy access to jobs. The lack of 
such opportunities might drive their families into poverty and even 
death as a result. I was pointing out this type of "economic" force is 
just as deadly as physical force whereby those families could simply be 
killed. I have no idea why you tried to make it look farcical. Don't 
make me stop responding to you, I like debating opinions with you, but 
the last two interactions have produced patronization and twisting my 

My comment:

Dear Ash, I don't see why I cannot use argument to counter-argue your
point. I must be sure of what you mean before I debate with anyone, plus
I must use the examples cited to better understand the entire picture.
That is not patronizing or whatever! That is a bit of humorous use of
'simlie' in this debate. If you don't like it, I'll cut it out. No one
likes my homor. I should probably cut out 'stage comic' or a 'funny
writer' from the list of careers that I can pursue! Too bad: I had
dreams of being a P.G. Wodehouse ...

But do please answer my 3 questions, else I have a feeling that you are
letting either your 'gut' feelings or the sheer size of numbers run your
arguments. You must try to respond to my 3 questions. You always have
the choice of not responding, and I respect that choice. But if you
don't respond then that would be rather unfortunate, given the wide
generalizations that you have made, such as "The lack of such
opportunities might drive their families into poverty and even death as
a result." I do not know by these statements what you mean. Honest. I am
confused. Does this in any way allow the use of physical force? That was
the point, isn't it? We were trying to understand whether a private
citizen has a right to use physical force when prompted by use of
economic force against that citizen. I believe that NO situation of use
of 'economic force' permits the use of physical force if we are to build
a free society where ALL children are protected irrespective of the
beliefs of their parents.

If such 'lack of opportunity' does NOT imply the automatic license to a
private citizen to use physical force, then a lot of implications arise
from that.

You say: "Behind them is a corps of many more people who are quite
indifferent to mosque-breaking or nun-rapings." What do you mean to
imply by that? Is it something we must guarantee in India? The right to
break mosques and to rape nuns? I do not know why you said that. I am
actually a bit disheartened to listen to such a statement. 

Economic force, according to me - is the same as economic incentive. It
is a matter of choice, it is not irreversible, its adverse consequences
can be contested in court, etc. We are talking here of setting up the
right economic incentives for all people to participate in the growth
process of India. We are also talking of ensuring perfect law and order,
a basic condition without which economic growth cannot take place. I
know that well, given my experience of Assam, that no investment goes
toward states or regions which are unable to provide 100% security of
life and property. Your statement frightens me: do you mean to say that
India should set the example to the world in permitting everyone to
commit violence on everyone else? If that happens, do you expect anyone
to invest in India at all? 

There is a deep and very powerful relationship between a free society,
tolerance and economic growth. Let us ensure through our discourse that
we set a powerful agenda for the provision of law and order. I do
believe that L&O is the first and primary responsibility of government.
Let us insist on that: what we said in the free citizen piece:

"If I do not wish to permit it to exist, I can use the powers of voice
to challenge it, and with mutual consent of my fellow sojourners, change
it. That is my chosen obligation and the only mutually acceptable method

As I see it, there are some concerns that you are expressing, and these
concerns are legitimate: but these have already been expressed in the

"That religion is a purely personal matter never to be brought into the
area of poltical discourse, and no religion is supreme nor worth
fighting about. All religions are to be fully respected."

Some of your statements might be misconstrued to imply that
disrespecting other religions is acceptable, such as: "But I might have
a faith that requires eliminating kaffirs, surely the state can forbid

I am not in favor of that. I do believe that anyone can think of the
other as a kafir or whatever, but he/she cannot kill on the basis of
that belief.

The state HAS to forbid that since it involves the use of physical force
as against persuasion or even 'economic incentive.' 

I do agree that in matters of belief, the use of economic incentive is
also not quite a sensible thing to do, but do remember that economic
incentive always leaves choice at the door of the person choosing to be
so affected, while in the case of physical force, no choice is
permitted. Let us see the levels here:

a) Calling somebody a bad name: That is bad and we must oppose it, as
citizens, but more through forgiveness. Further, if we do wish to pursue
that case, we the government should be permitted to punish that person,
but at a very low level of punishment. More like a reform or writing an
essay that this is a bad thing. We want to persuade the person that it
is not gentlemanly to call another person bad names.

b) Giving an economic temptation to someone to change their faith: That
is bad and that can be again, punished under the law, at a slightly
higher level than the first one.

c) Using one's beliefs to actually harm another person's property or
life: That must be IMMEDIATELY and seriously punished by the government. 

I hope we agree on these things. We have no choice but to respect other
religions if we are to consider economic growth and the challenge of
catching up with the developed world. 

And to that effect, the fundamental constraint we have to set in place
is that of non-violence over people or property on the grounds of
religious differences. 

About actual cases of intolerance in India, I would urge all of us to
move away from those things. The human mind is designed to needlessly
fester on perceived insults. But insults by people gone by are gone. Let
us forgive them. On IPI let us send out the message of what is called
National Reconciliation: Our manifesto says:

"The creation of a sense of fraternity amongst peoples of India is a
task long overdue. The task of sitting down together and discussing
things out has to be carried out very seriously."

Let us all talk, seriously. But let us LOUDLY and CLEARLY suggest that
abjuring physical violence is a basic norm that we must work by. We must
also economic temptation in the case of religion, since that might be
construed as disrespect.

In the end, I really don't care what happened in the past. We cannot
undo it by going backward. Unfortunately, I CANNOT live in the past. I
can only live in the present (momentarily) and mostly in the future. So,
it is for that future that we are talking on this forum. Not for the
past which is DEAD for me and for you. 

For the future, we must engrave into our hearts:

"Tolerance means the complete absence of use of physical force against
anyone (or against public or private property) by any citizen on ANY
pretext, except specifically for self-defence."

By the way, this is ALREADY etched deeply into all our laws, and we need
not do anything about it. We just need to practice it.

I am including this "consensus" statement in the Preamble. If anyone
would like to modify it, please do so. I do hope that this would mark
the temporary end of the debates on tolerance.


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