Have Indians always been so tolerant of our leaders and their lies?

We must be extremely tolerant to take in our stride the lies about Delhi riots or the right-wing promoting cow-urine to keep COVID-19 at bay. Mishandling the economy is now of no great consequence

<b>quarantine centre at Manesar&nbsp;</b>(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)
<b>quarantine centre at Manesar</b>(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Ranjona Banerji

How incompetent does a government have to be before the citizenry wake up and take notice?

We in India have long prided ourselves on our “tolerance”. No one on the planet is as tolerant as us. Look at how much we have tolerated for the past six years.

O yes, I hear you screeching guff about tolerating 80,000 years of Nehru-Gandhi rule and corruption and India going nowhere and whatever else that’s spread by our right wing factories of nonsense.

So, were we that tolerant really for the past 80,000 years? Did the Nehru-Gandhis ever get voted out of power? Did anyone other than a Nehru-Gandhi ever become prime minister of India? Did the Nehru-Gandhis rule every state in India for the past 80,000 years?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, read on. If you answered “yes”, then bear with me.

Now, how tolerant were we after The Emergency? Was Indira Gandhi re-elected to power in 1977?

And how tolerant we were in 2012 when the Comptroller and Auditor General made up a grim story about Rs 1.76 lakh crore lost to the exchequer thanks to corruption in the sale of 2G spectrum? O, we were angry, we were very angry. We went on huge rallies. We formed and supported India Against Corruption. We were horrified that the government of the day had cheated us like this. And what did we do when the next general election came along? We voted them out of power.

It was only after that election, after May 2014, that we thought to ourselves, let’s try this “tolerance” gig again. Like when we discovered the CAG had exaggerated greatly, even lied about all those losses. Accountants do make mistakes, what’s the big deal? We were tolerant when the CAG boss was rewarded for lying. Don’t you remember once in 1511, another person was rewarded for lying? What’s the big deal ?

And so it has been, over and over again. Public mob lynching of Muslims, of Dalits? These things happen. Open buying of elected representatives? There’s nothing new in that. Voting machines which only allow you to vote for the BJP? The future is in electronics.

Our crowning moment of tolerance was surely our reaction to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand announcement of demonetisation. More than 85 per cent of India’s currency became illegal and there we were, in spite of all the hardships, overjoyed that corruption, black money and terrorism had all been destroyed in one demonic “masterstroke”. After all, there was no gain without pain.

From November 2016 to today, the Indian economy has not recovered. Truth be told, it’s deteriorated further. We know that. Is there any need to repeat the extent of our “tolerance”? There’s the hatred on the increase. The state-sponsored violence and murder. The destruction of education policies. The infiltration of institutions. The blackmail of political opponents with judicial action. The toppling of opposition governments. The list of our blessed tolerance is endless.

But where do we go from here?

All we have seen from our Central government, since the emergence of the coronavirus to the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic, is stupidity and incompetence. And in fact, criminal negligence. The very fact that any number of people from the ruling party have suggested that Indians can be immune with the regular ingestion of cow dung and cow urine and that none of these people have been pulled up, gives you a clue as to how uncaring this government is.

As the spread of Covid-19 was being declared an emergency across the world, Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior government and party members were busy engineering a split in the Congress Party in Madhya Pradesh. It was only after that was achieved that they bothered about the World Health Organization’s declaration.

While Shah lied for over an hour in Parliament about the violence in Delhi and about his government’s disastrous Citizenship Act, confusing information was sent out by the Union health ministry, the aviation minister and external affairs ministry, amongst others.

Many right wing fascist minds have used “tolerance” as an insult, implying that Hindus have allowed other religious undeserved freedoms because Hindus are far too tolerant.

It’s time to relook at our version of tolerance. Today it means we’re allowing ourselves to be led to a precipice with no safety net.

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