The duty to practise tolerance

It should be expressly included and highlighted in the list of fundamental duties in our Constitution

Written by Soli J. Sorabjee | Updated: March 23, 2017 2:39 pm
The co-relation between rights and duties is not a new-fangled concept. (Illustration by C R Sasikumar)

One of the cardinal features of our Constitution is the guarantee of a wide array of fundamental rights which are judicially enforceable against the state. The Constitution of India, as originally framed, did not make any specific provision for the duties of citizens. It was only in 1976 that the specific Chapter IV-A was incorporated by a Constitutional amendment and Article 51-A was enacted. It lists 10 fundamental duties, articulated in elegant language.

The co-relation between rights and duties is not a new-fangled concept. Gandhiji summed up the matter admirably: “I learned from my illiterate but wise mother that all rights to be deserved and preserved come from duty well done”. Walter Lippmann, the philosopher-journalist, was emphatic that, “For every right that you cherish you have a duty which you must fulfill.” Article 29(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 [UDHR] declares that “everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible”.

One important duty which is not specifically mentioned is the duty to practice tolerance. One cannot effectively perform fundamental duties unless tolerance is prevalent in society. The immaculate premise of our Constitution is tolerance and mutual accommodation. Tolerance is not merely a goody-goody virtue. It entails a positive mindset which permits and protects not only the expression of thoughts and ideas which are accepted and are acceptable, but which also accords freedom to the thought we hate, and protects the proponent of heterodox views.

At present, the rise of intolerance is alarming. We recently witnessed its shocking manifestation when certain persons who were offended by some themes in the movie Padmavati, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, vandalised the sets and other property of the producer. In the not too distant past, we witnessed another example of intolerance in the case of movie star Khushboo, who opined that men should no more expect their brides to be virgins and added that when youngsters indulge in pre-marital sex, they should use protective measures. These are possible views and are also held by others. One may disagree, but her criminal prosecution manifests frightening intolerance. Suhasini Maniratnam, who agreed with Khushboo’s views, became the target of a vicious public campaign and is also facing prosecution. This is fascism in action. If this fascist trend is not curbed swiftly and stringently, it will undermine our democracy.

Consider the case of the young Muslim girl, Nahid Afren, who was forbidden by Muslim clerics not to sing the songs which she did with genuine feeling. There were no objectionable words in the songs. It is creditable the young girl did not succumb to the threat of the clerics.

The best antidote to intolerance is the practice of tolerance. The sad fact is that tolerance cannot be legislated. Bernard Levin rightly reminds us that, “in every age of transition men are never so firmly bound to one way of life as when they are about to abandon it, so that fanaticism and intolerance reach their most intense forms just before tolerance and mutual acceptance come to be the natural order of things.” Therefore, we must develop the capacity for tolerance by fostering an environment of tolerance, a culture of tolerance. Stereotypes and prejudices must be eschewed.

The press has an important role to play. It should incessantly preach the message that no group or body has the monopoly of truth and morality and we must respect the point of view of the “other minded”. The press must unequivocally condemn instances of intolerance, without fear of consequences.

The role of education cannot be overemphasised. It should inculcate the virtue of tolerance in students at all levels. It should ensure that prejudices and stereotypes are eschewed and are not perpetuated.

In its celebrated judgment in S. Rangarajan vs. P. Jagjivan Ram, our Supreme Court emphasised that, “freedom of expression which is legitimate and constitutionally protected, cannot be held to ransom by an intolerant group of people. We must practice tolerance to the views of others. Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person himself.”

To my mind, the paramount duty to practice tolerance should be expressly included and highlighted in the list of fundamental duties in our Constitution. If that duty is conscientiously performed, it would result in a salutary change in our society and also ensure peace and harmony. We should take a pledge today to practice tolerance and to ensure that intolerance, with its inevitable corollary of violence, does not subvert our democratic values and disfigure our way of life. We should resolve to promote tolerance in our multi-religious, multi-cultural nation and thereby strengthen and enrich our pluralist democracy, which is the pride of our nation.

The writer is former attorney general for India

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  1. H
    Hemant Kumar
    Mar 23, 2017 at 4:11 am
    Right to tolerance is like confining air in a fist. Ha ha Ha. He should go and write poetry.
    Reply
    1. I
      IslamForFoools
      Mar 23, 2017 at 4:16 am
      I want to fck your mom writer, please tolerate it.
      Reply
      1. I
        IslamForFoools
        Mar 23, 2017 at 5:37 am
        Isis terrorist inspired from kuran spotted here
        Reply
        1. I
          IslamForFoools
          Mar 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm
          Isis terrorist. Kuran slave Isis terrorist.
          Reply
          1. I
            IslamForFoools
            Mar 23, 2017 at 4:14 am
            People like ,you should be ashamed of their existence and should slap their parents for being what you are today. Blame goes to your lame, ignorant families, who made you what you are today
            Reply
            1. I
              IslamForFoools
              Mar 23, 2017 at 2:17 am
              Pleuralistic society without Islam is the only way ahead for human race. Islam is incompatible with life.
              Reply
              1. I
                IslamForFoools
                Mar 23, 2017 at 4:13 am
                Those who support Islam as religion should not have place on this earth because people like you will turn every beautiful nation into Syria and Afghanistan and stan and Iraq and Iran and so on
                Reply
                1. I
                  IslamForFoools
                  Mar 23, 2017 at 12:51 pm
                  Tolerating Islamic terrorism is not called tolerance, its called Cowardness, you media wants every non Muslim to be coward so thta Islamic terrorism can take over the world. Hindus of this nation will avenge , jai Shri ram.
                  Reply
                  1. I
                    IslamForFoools
                    Mar 23, 2017 at 12:53 pm
                    Ultra coward
                    Reply
                    1. I
                      IslamForFoools
                      Mar 23, 2017 at 4:11 am
                      You are downfall of human race. Dehumanized people like you should have no human rights, you pseudo intellectual (jihadi terrorist)
                      Reply
                      1. I
                        IslamForFoools
                        Mar 23, 2017 at 4:12 am
                        You are the one fanning Islamic terrorism throughout the world due to your ignorance and personal egos
                        Reply
                        1. I
                          IslamForFoools
                          Mar 23, 2017 at 4:15 am
                          You have no idea how lame and coward you sound, you are one of those people who light the candle as. A protest of Islamic jihadi terrorist kuranic attack on non Muslims
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Samanya Admi
                            Mar 23, 2017 at 2:33 pm
                            This is just absurd to think that tolerance should be enforced on citizens, as it would men to compromise with societal values and norms in the name of "tolerance". Does Mr. Sorabjee know that he lives in one of the most decadent societies in the world, created by several generations that have grown up on decadent Bollywood, not Indian or Hindi cinema? This is what keeps a India entrenched as a third world country. Is in the land of Laxmi women respected or in the land of Ganesha a child respected? A common man has a hard time living a dignified life. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;The generation of the likes of Sorabjee has not built India but destro it - read it from the lips of coming generations. Thank you, we do not need such sermons from you. So, come to the point!lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Jai Hind.
                            Reply
                            1. P
                              PPrasad78
                              Mar 23, 2017 at 9:01 am
                              How come IE allows posts which makes extremely abusive, derogatory, hurtful , intolerant comments on religions, but censors well argued and logical comments !
                              Reply
                              1. K
                                K SHESHU
                                Mar 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm
                                Tolerance must be included in consution as a prime duty by court and infringement of right to expression should be made punishable under rule of law
                                Reply
                                1. V
                                  Vikrant
                                  Mar 23, 2017 at 1:33 pm
                                  It is very easy and safe to give lecture on peace and tolerance to those who are already tolerant. Kindly go and give a lecture on tolerance in kashmir - ask the kashmiris to let kashmiri hindus return back to the valley. Go to JNU and ask the commies there to show tolerance when RSS wants to organise a discussion on Indias cultural richness.
                                  Reply
                                  1. V
                                    Vidhu
                                    Mar 23, 2017 at 5:29 am
                                    It is not proper to pinpoint a few selected incidences. What happened in past ! Release of a movie; Fire or Gangajal ..... Release of a book Sat anic ... Charlie Hebdo .... lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;It is mainly on social media that a few fanatics spread hate and intolerance. Interests of people are different in gulf and middle east than in India. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Common attributes and goal. Result is same terrorism.
                                    Reply
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                                      ahmad faraz
                                      Mar 23, 2017 at 4:19 am
                                      u are wrong at one point, there is fatwa against Nahid Afren. most people just imagine that everything said by Cleric or molvi mulla would be fatwa so first learn about fatwa then describe the issue.
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                                        Ajay G
                                        Mar 23, 2017 at 3:51 am
                                        Yes. Intolerance is increasing to silence of those Muslims who just watch the barbarism in the name of religion.
                                        Reply
                                        1. A
                                          Ajay G
                                          Mar 22, 2017 at 11:18 pm
                                          Nahid Afren could continue because she got support from Hindus, nationalists too. lt;br/gt; lt;br/gt;Others failed because nationalists turned against them.
                                          Reply
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                                            Ali Raza
                                            Mar 23, 2017 at 6:30 am
                                            It is always very strange to hear this person lecture us on tolerance. To know what tolerance is, he ought to visit Iran and live there as a Parsi. But I guess, when things are given on a platter, they are not valued.
                                            Reply
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