Around the time Lok Sabha began discussing the alleged rise in acts of intolerance, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu conceded Monday there was “some amount of intolerance in society” which, he said, needed “to be identified… dealt with firmly” and not “generalised”.
Participating in a Rajya Sabha debate on the commitment to the Constitution, Naidu declared he was “speaking from the heart”: “There is some amount of intolerance in society, in different areas. That has to be identified, it has to be localised, it has to be dealt with firmly. Instead of that, we are making it generalised.”
He said incidents have not happened overnight after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. “These things have been happening,” he said. “Some people make out-of-turn statements, we have to condemn, we have to isolate them… they have to be condemned and disowned,” he said, without taking names.
Welcoming Congress leader P Chidambaram’s statement that banning Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was “wrong”, he said, “There are two things. One, people writing the books, they should not affect the sentiments of the people, they should not arouse social tension… but at the same time, freedom of expression and freedom of speech, people have got the right. But there has to be broad consensus on how do we go about it.”
He said while banning Rushdie’s book raises cheers, banning a book on Shivaji draws protests. “Different angles are coming, Hindu angle, Muslim angle… Let there be a policy for banning books, or films.”
Naidu also raised the issue of uniform civil and criminal codes. “Dr B R Ambedkar wanted to have uniformity of law, civil as well as criminal… After so many years of experience, have we done justice and moved in that direction? Is there uniformity of civil law? No, so far we have not been able to do it, whatever may be the reasons,” he said, adding he did not favour a particular law, like the Hindu law, prevailing over the rest.
“Let us all be tolerant of each other and tolerant of the verdict of the people,” he said. “Respecting the mandate of the people is the biggest form of tolerance.” He gave examples: ‘X’ has been mandated to rule Tamil Nadu, ‘Y’ mandated to rule West Bengal.
Referring to the Bihar mandate for Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad, he said it has to be respected. “There is no choice,” he said.