Thoughts about Intolerance

What is intolerance?

We come together to write, question and think about how the words we engage with and are encountering in our varied social, political and virtual lives have the power to create, affect and polarize discourses on nationhood, secularism, and political ideology.

The word ‘intolerance’ instantaneously signifies the presence of two opposing interests: it is the absence of ‘tolerance’, and therefore, creates a situation where there is a victim, and an oppressor; an us and them; an ‘other’. It can be said that the word ‘intolerance’ itself creates and circulates a feeling of insecurity and uneasiness.

The term ‘intolerance’ is rooted in the production and maintenance of the politics of fear.

But what does the word ‘intolerance’ do to the word ‘tolerance’? As the debates around ‘intolerance’ intensify, anything that is ‘tolerant’ becomes an ideal, but debating or questioning its meaning (why ‘tolerance’ instead of ‘mutual respect and acceptance’?) is removed from popular discourse. Instead the words acquire some normative meaning; and debates and discussions are polarised between concepts less than ideal for the maintenance of a healthy, functioning, critical, diverse society.

This platform envisions to create a means by which we can ‘track’ intolerance in its varied forms across South Asia. But beyond a mere collection of stories or reports; it calls for criticism, for questions, and ruminations on the relationship between what we have seen (and don’t see) in the news, and politics, religion, colonialism, neo-liberalism, history, memory, words, and power.

In a world where technology helps us live and relive acts of ‘intolerance’ on Facebook, Twitter (real and fake accounts), and a plethora of left- and right- and whatever-else-they-call-themselves news channels and websites, our virtual lives and the spaces they inhabit have become battlegrounds which extend into our lived realities. Verbal warfare and trolling reinforce the already growing atmosphere of fear, and in the midst of processing the endless flows of real-time information with opinions and articles, perceptions are skewed and the sense of anger, frustration, and helplessness intensifies. We would like to invite dialogue, discussion and critique — not simply negative for negation’s sake — but to question the guiding idea of ‘intolerance’, and create a new form of collective reflection, interrogation and action that can help us negotiate the current terrain of dominant politics.

Through this blog ” Thoughts” we also  seek to share interesting articles, stories, visuals, music and art connected with inter-related themes of tolerance, diversity and harmony.

We welcome ideas and suggestions for content from our readers.

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 ( Written by Akshyeta Suryanarayan, Meghna Nag Chowdhuri and Varun Khanna)