There has been a raging debate of late in the media about the tolerance of India and Indians. The heavy hitters and the so called ‘intellectuals’ have not minced words declaring India as an increasingly intolerant country.
However, I believe that Indians are the most tolerant people in the social world. Being a student of science and management, I would want to make my point borrowing from the disciplines.
Tolerance calls for variance, which India has
Scientifically speaking, one can talk of tolerance (say for a machine) only when there is a variance. With over 900 languages, and a home to Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism, India is at the epitome of diversity. Looking at our variety in culture, eating habits, value systems, religious practices, and temperament, it is hard to believe that India knits itself as one single social country.
Which other country, let alone continent, comes to your mind which is as diverse? In fact, if we remove India from Asia, the continent would indeed shrink considerably in its diversity, whether it be cultural, religious, ethnic, or even economic.
For those who compare tolerance of Indians with the west often forget that in comparison west has very limited diversity, including in the USA where heterogeneity is seen only in commercially developed cities. The growing case of police shootings, and college rages is a case in point that Americans are just incapable of handling variance.
Whereas in India we accommodate a whole lot. The case of Europe is a far cry. The whole of Europe could hardly match India for its variance, and you know the socio-economic challenge the nation is facing regarding migration, and terror threats. Is rise of terrorism a fallout of growing intolerance? What does the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015 talk about the tolerance of Europeans?
Tolerance calls for social maturity, which India has
Have you ever heard of people complaining about intolerance among newborns or kids? Hardly. Social tolerance is often spoken in context of adults, and especially people in their later years. Similarly, tolerance makes sense to be talked about when countries have been around for some time. With a clean slate offered to the USA some 350 years back, it is relatively easy to modulate variance, and seek tolerance.
But with a culture and a country which is over 5000 years old, tolerance takes a different meaning. Only China can match India’s maturity. But in China, variety is curbed very systematically in the last one century.
How come India survive for so long without being a tolerant country? We weathered the invasions and assimilated the learning, without losing a sense of identity. The Mughals, Portuguese, Dutch, Jews, Iranians, of course Britishers, all found a refuge in India, and people say India is intolerant!
If Indians were intolerant how come people of Indian social origins are found even in the remotest places in the world? Our adaptability comes from our tolerance. Having survived for so long, little doubt that India would be the longest standing civilization, and a mother of civilizations.
One doesn’t have to go any further than looking at the way we navigate our city traffic. That’s tolerance, isn’t it? Being a country which is ‘work in progress’ tolerance is the only way, and we have intuitively learnt it, and extremely adept at it.
Having traveled across India and abroad, I am convinced that India offers a great example of how adaptation works. The very flexibility and nimbleness of Indians is our strength and offers us great tolerance.
That’s an emotional take on a rational subject in the social world.
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