As we have discussed, there seems to be a rising level of intolerance in academia and campuses for opposing views. A recent international conference showed this intolerance in the response to former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Justice Rajinder Sachar in his speech on “Radical Islamism.” In an effort to address stereotypes and intolerance shown Muslims, Sachar noted that 95 per cent of beef traders in India are Hindi. The reaction was an immediate walk out with some academics demanding that Justice Sachar not be allowed to continue and turning off the lights and fans.
Sachar was making a provocative but clearly relevant point in the meeting of scholars and delegates from India, Canada, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other countries. On a panel with prominent Muslim scholars on the last day of the conference held at RC Degree College in Mathura, he noted that among all the beef traders in India, 95% are from the Hindu community: “Almost 95% beef traders are Hindus. Still, a man was lynched in Dadri because he ate beef. This is the death of mankind and humanity. Eating habits have nothing to do with religion. Even I can eat beef.”
The reference was to BJP’s Sardhana MLA Sangeet Som, who has been ensnared in a controversy over allegations that he owned a beef trading company. Sachar asked “MPs and MLAs, too, own beef companies. Then why is only the common man being targeted by right-wing groups?” That was all it took for scholars and delegates to try to stop him from uttering another word.
Labeling Sachar as “anti-Hindu” over such comments is all too familiar in today’s environment. Rather than address his point, critics attacked and sought to silence him. This includes academics who are supposedly part of an intellectual tradition that values open and passionate debate. Yaduraj Yadav, a college teacher who attended the conference, said Justice Sachar should not have made references to Hindus and their scriptures to drive home his point. Really? He was talking about religious intolerance and extremism but he was only supposed to talk about Muslims?
I have no idea if Sachar’s figure is correct but that is beside the point. No one seemed to want to engage him on the question or the suggestion of hypocrisy and intolerance shown by Hindus. It could have been a productive discussion but it was instead cut off by people who prefer to attack the speaker than the point he is making.