What is tolerance? How should a tolerant person react to historical figures like say Hitler or Aurangzeb?

What is Tolerance and Degrees of Tolerance

For me tolerance is a “feeling” towards something. There can be various degrees of tolerance and I have tried to capture the three points in the continuum.:

  • Saintly Level (The ultimate level)
    • Ever wondered how Buddha was peaceful even when there were so many things “wrong” in the society?
    • At this level the person is “enlightened”, understands everything, will not have hate towards anyone or any act.
    • Yes the person will not hate Hitler, Aurangzeb or any criminal. It doesn’t mean the person approves of the act. The person sees the “criminal” also as a human being who is acting as per the experience/guidance/non-guidance they have received.
    • Non-examples: A person who criticizes other person cannot be at this level. So politicians cannot be at this level. There is no known existing human being at this level, though some may think themselves at this level.
    • Perhaps, at this level the person will only explain the acts and its consequences.
  • Law of Karma Level – Behavior level (Normal Tolerant)
    • Here we judge a person by the action and not their beliefs.
    • The golden rule : Treat others, like you would like to be treated is followed.
    • As long as others are not getting harmed, people are fine.
  • Belief Level (Intolerant)
    • In this case if the person doesn’t belief as me than they are punished.
    • Degree of punishment will again differ based on degree of intolerance. It could be imprisonment, death, boycott or some other punishment.
    • Will give rise to “cancel”/”boycott” culture.

There is another dimension to tolerance of not generalizing an individual’s behavior to group, which is not covered.

Hiding Truth is Not Tolerance

If you hide the truth, it is not tolerance. Some possible reasons for hiding truth:

  • You think yourself superior to others, so feel that others will not react properly if they come to know the truth.
  • You are benefiting some way from the lie (maybe the feeling of superiority is the benefit or you fear being harmed/labelled).

For example if you can talk about racism in front of whites, casteism in front of powerless Brahmins why not in other cases.

Nelson Mandela did not hide racism to avoid majority reprisal. He also said “Nobody is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion.” Such Truth helps in greater understanding of the society and takes us toward “Saintly level”.

Seeking Truth is not Intolerance

When the truth is tried to be hidden, lots of contradiction starts emerging in the society. This results in people seeking the truth or privately hating each other.

In case of Ashoka, we know that he fought the Kalinga war and then he turned to non-violence.
In case of Mughals, Babur mentions in Baburnama that he wanted to kill non-believers. It will be natural for people to ask what changed to make Mughal tolerant, if they changed at all? Or was it like the political parties of opposing ideologies forced to come together to be in power?

Like Britishers fought other Europeans Mughal also fought with other Afghan rulers. Even during Britishers, in Jallianwala Bagh the person firing from the gun was a non-britisher, even though General Dyer was giving the command.

Asking questions about Mughals is not about questioning a religion. It is questioning the leaders. As the current justice Chandrachud said “Intellectuals have duty to expose the lies of the state”. Let the whole truth be told and people decide.

As mentioned in my articlePolytheism in India and Lessons world can Learn in “Tolerance” or even Better “Acceptance”, India as of today is tolerant. I don’t think the truth will make India intolerant. It will make the society stronger. Rather right people speaking the truth will make the path easier else it will be difficult.

Note: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Babur – You can refer this where Babar talks about becoming Ghazi.

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