Gautam Adhikari Vs. 'The Intolerant Indian'

In New York on June 2, Gautam Adhikari argues that modern India survives by remaining a secular, pluralist democracy. (4 min., 17 sec.)

NEW YORK, June 2, 2011 – In a discussion here of his newly-released book, The Intolerant Indian: Why We Must Rediscover a Liberal Space, veteran journalist Gautam Adhikari began by examining the foundations of modern India and its relationship with democracy.

India itself, he argued, is classically liberal, and could not function without a democratic framework binding together so many diverse cultures and 18 different official languages. Therefore, it was only natural that India's founding fathers envisioned a liberal democratic nation and wrote the Indian constitution accordingly.

Moving to the present day, Adhikari distinguished this traditionally tolerant India from what he called "intolerant Indians." These latter, in his view, are exemplified by fundamentalist Hindus who envisage India as a "pure land" for themselves alone — thereby mirroring, intentionally or not, the founding concept of Pakistan, whose name means "land of the pure for Muslims."

In the ensuing conversation with Frank G. Wisner, former US Ambassador to India, Adhikari discussed India's shift from being a largely secluar, pluralist nation with democratic ideals to one whose politics he sees as increasingly directed by religion.

Nonetheless, the veteran journalist cast his country's future in a positive light, observing that India is demographically one of the youngest nations in the world and that the more globalized younger generation shows signs of respecting traditionally tolerant ideals.

Wisner concluded by asking what Adhikari's views were on tolerance in the United States. Adhikari answered drily, "Better than Europe," drawing laughter from the audience, and noted the ways in which various cultures, although initially shunned and rejected, are eventually absorbed in new forms in America.

Reported by Inhae Song

The Intolerant Indian is available at