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Social Intolerance Essays

“Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practises tolerance; let us not dilute it.” These stirring sentiments were expressed by Justice Chinnappa Reddy in a Supreme Court judgment pronounced in August 1986 which invalidated expulsion from school of students belonging to Jehova’s Witness faith. Regrettably, over the years, tolerance has been replaced by the rising menace of intolerance which strikes at various fields of human endeavour and creativity: writings, music, drama, paintings and movies.

Intolerance stems from an invincible assumption of the infallibility of one’s beliefs and a dogmatic conviction about their rightness. An intolerant society cannot tolerate expression of ideas and views which challenge its current doctrines and conventional wisdom. Consequently, unconventional and heterodox thoughts and views have to be suppressed. That is the prime motivation for censorship.

Extent of dissent

One criterion to determine whether a country is truly democratic is the extent of dissent permitted. A liberal democracy is one in which all groups in the country accept the fact that in a free country, people can have different opinions and beliefs and shall have equal rights in voicing them without fear of legal penalties or social sanctions. Right to dissent and tolerance of dissent are sine qua non of a liberal democratic society.

Today we have reached a stage where expression of a different point of view is viewed with resentment and hostility and there are vociferous demands for bans. The banning itch has become infectious. Sikhs are offended by certain words in the title of a movie; Christians want the movie, The Da Vinci Code, banned because they find some portions hurtful. The ban was struck down by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. No one dare write an authentic and critical biography of a revered religious or political leader. The American author James Laine who wrote a biography of Shivaji in which there were unpalatable remarks about Shivaji was sought to be prosecuted which was quashed by the Supreme Court. Worse, the prestigious Bhandarkar Institute at Pune where Laine had done some research was vandalised. That was mobocracy in action. The exhibition of M.F. Husain’s paintings was stopped by intimidation followed by vandalism of the premises. The exhibition The Naked and the Nude at the Art Gallery in Delhi is threatened with dire consequences because it is considered obscene by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad women’s wing. The musical performance by a teenage girl rock band in Kashmir was coerced into silence because the music was termed un-Islamic by a popular religious leader. There are media reports that Mani Ratnam’s latest movie Kadal has come under fire on account of Christian ire that it has ‘hurt’ the feelings of the community. One wonders whether we are hell bent on emulating the Taliban.

Fortunately, our Supreme Court has been a valiant defender of freedom of expression. The well known actor Khushboo faced several criminal prosecutions on account of her remarks on premarital sex and its prevalence in metropolitan cities which were considered to be against the dignity of Tamil women and ruined the culture and morality of the people of Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court quashed the criminal proceedings on the ground that “under our constitutional scheme different views are allowed to be expressed by the proponents and opponents. … Morality and criminality are far from being coextensive. An expression of opinion in favour of non-dogmatic and non-conventional morality has to be tolerated and the same cannot be a ground to penalise the author.”

The movie, Bandit Queen, was banned on the ground of obscenity because of the very brief scene of frontal nudity of the bandit Phoolan Devi in the movie. The Supreme Court struck down the ban and ruled that nakedness is not per se obscene. The Court emphasised that the Censor Tribunal which is a multi-member body comprised of persons who gauge public reactions to films had approved exhibition of the movie. This aspect was also highlighted by the Supreme Court in its judgment in T. Kannan.

Exhibition of movies is included in the fundamental right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution. One of the reasons frequently assigned for imposing a ban is that it hurts the sentiments of a certain section of people in society. ‘Hurt feelings’ is a slippery slope for banning expression. Any book or movie or play which criticises certain practices and advocates reforms will ‘hurt’ the sentiments of the status-quoists. For example, the abolition of Sati or the abolition of certain superstitious practices in the name of religion. Criticism should not be equated with causing offence. In the context of hurt feelings, the Supreme Court has repeatedly laid down that the standard to be applied for judging the film should be that of an ordinary man of common sense and prudence and not that of “hypersensitive” persons who sense offence in every scene or perceive hurt in every statement. The right method is to vigorously refute the criticism by rebutting its reasoning and data on which its conclusions are based.

Another ground for imposing a ban is the bogey about apprehension of breach of law and order and outbreak of violence in view of threats by certain groups about the exhibition of the movie. As far back as November 2000, the Supreme Court in KM Shankarappa’s case categorically ruled that “once an expert body has considered the impact of the film on the public and has cleared the film, it is no excuse to say that there may be a law and order situation. … In such a case, the clear duty of the government is to ensure that law and order is maintained by taking appropriate actions against persons who choose to breach the law.”

The same bogey of breach of law and order and violence was raised by the State of Tamil Nadu regarding exhibition of the movie, Ore Oru Gramathile. The Supreme Court firmly rejected the State’s plea in its decision in Rangarajan in March 1989 in these words: “Freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or threats of violence. That would tantamount to negation of the rule of law and a surrender to blackmail and intimidation.” The Court reiterated that “it is the duty of the State to protect freedom of expression. The State cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem. It is its obligatory duty to prevent it and protect the freedom of expression.” It is noteworthy that the Supreme Court endorsed the celebrated dictum of the European Court of Human Rights that freedom of expression guarantees “not only views that are generally received but also those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no democratic society.”

During the hearing of the writ petition regarding the movie Dam999, certain observations were made orally off the cuff by the Supreme Court about law and order problems that may arise because of the exhibition of a movie. The writ petition was in fact dismissed as infructuous because the period of the ban had expired. There is no mention or discussion of the decision in Rangarajan at all in the operative part of the Supreme Court order. The salutary principle laid down in the Rangarajan decision has been approved in three subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court. It firmly holds the field and has not been diluted at all.

In contravention of the law

Banning of the movie Vishwaroopam by the State of Tamil Nadu was clearly in contravention of the law laid down by our Supreme Court. The sad part is that Kamal Haasan, producer of the movie, agreed to carry out cuts in the movie as demanded by certain Muslim groups. It was not a settlement but surrender by Mr. Haasan albeit for pragmatic reasons. However it lays down a bad precedent because it concedes to certain intolerant groups demanding a ban, a veto or appellate power over the decision of an expert body like the Censor Board.

Our Constitution prescribes certain fundamental duties to be performed by citizens (Article 51-A). One duty of paramount importance which should be performed is the duty to practise tolerance. Otherwise democracy, a basic feature of our Constitution, will be under siege and the cherished right to freedom of expression will be held hostage by an intolerant mindless mob.

(Soli J. Sorabjee is a former Attorney General of India)

Intolerance Essay Types Reason Effects Society Solution Speech Quotes & Slogans

Intolerance Essay 


Intolerance has become a hot topic all of a sudden. We hear about it 10 times a day, but what exactly is it? Well, if put in simple words, disallowing something that one person (or a group of persons) doesn’t like is intolerance. It’s often seen among religions, races, and opinions of people. With advancement in means of destruction the risks of intolerance have multiplied. Today the most serious category of threats associated with it are not in terms of growth that it can stiffle – they’re in terms of destruction that it can do to the world.

Types of Intolerance

There’re many types of intolerance in the world. However, the most widespread ones are:

  • Religious/Racial Intolerance: When intolerance is shown towards a religious group or its beliefs, it’s known as religious intolerance. Similarly, racial intolerance is one that’s shown towards people of any particular race.
  • Ambiguity Intolerance: Some people show intolerance towards ambiguity as they perceive it threatening. This type of intolerance is often seen in workplaces, and while not necessarily bad, it sometimes creates unnecessary problems for everyone.
  • Liberal Intolerance: Liberals in our world often claim to give everyone the same opportunity of expressing their views regardless of their social backgrounds. However, when they find the views of conservative people to be different, the same liberals start feeling uncomfortable. This type of intolerance is very common in college campuses.

Reasons of Intolerance in Society

There’re a variety of reasons behind intolerance in our society. The biggest ones are:

  1. Media and Entertainment Industry: Whatever those celebrities may say, it’s a fact that they’ve a big hand in making our societies intolerant. Violent movies and news reports have become a norm in today’s world, and they leave a major negative impact on our thoughts and thinking processes.
  2. Political Groups: Religion, race, caste and creed have long been used by political groups as pillars for politics. There’ve been well-documented cases when political groups showed deliberate intolerance towards any particular group of people to boost their vote bank, which is further worsened by the next cause in our list.
  3. Unsocial Elements: When political groups ignite the fire of intolerance for their benefits, the unsocial elements also take advantage of those events to create some name for themselves. Sometimes they’re also involved in the play by political parties themselves. And whether someone believes it or not, in most cases people belonging to this category do the worst crimes that can be done under intolerance.
  4. Historical Events of Intolerance: Intolerance is a big problem because it’s a self-sustaining vicious cycle. Once a particular religion, race or group of people are shown intolerance, it stays in their minds and in turn they too become intolerant towards the religion or race that started things first. This intolerance is then passed on to future generations, which keeps it sustained in our societies.

Effects of Intolerance

The effects of intolerance are so far reaching that sometimes they can’t be perceived by a common man:

  • Stops the Flow of New Ideas: When people from any particular group of society are barred from voicing their ideas, the ideas can’t flow as quickly as they could, which leads us to the next point.
  • Stifles Research and Development: When there’s lack of ideas, there’s lack of innovation and research. Lack of research, as you may expect, stiflesthe growth and development, as intellectual property isn’t private property of any elite religion, race or social group.
  • Spreads Disappointment: The people whose voices are suppressed feel disappointed by that, and stifled development may bring even more disappointment among all social groups.
  • Divides Societies: Last, but certainly not least, intolerance divides societies. Sometimes it divides them so much that even after having a shared history people belonging to two different religions or races start hating each other as their worst enemies.

Impact On Society :

Pros & Cons

Intolerance, when shown against wrong things (i.e. laziness, average performance, cocky attitudes), can be constructive tooStiflesinnovation and development by preventing the the flow of new ideas
Sometimes intolerance also helps in limiting stupid speech that could spark even more intolerance and hatredLeaves hard feelings in the hearts of people who suffer from it
Intolerance sets the bar high for administration and powerful personalities – cause one small mistake of words or activities can spark a fireDivides the society and nation
Sometimes when a religious or racial group has to be pulled together, and nothing seems to be working, intolerance can pull them togetherWhen shown towards a religion/race, it leaves unforgettable traces in the pages of history for generations to come
Creates unnecessary problems in workplaces
Projects a wrong image of the nation/religion in front of world
Leads to a lot of bloodshed in many cases
Makes it easier for outside forces to exercise their power on the nation


There’re a variety of solutions that can be applied to prevent intolerance. Some of them are given below:

  • Education: This is arguably the best (and first) way to stop the growth of intolerance. Quality education that teaches about tolerance and its importance in societies can help a lot in mitigating intolerance.
  • Awareness: Organizations and governments should accept the existence of intolerance in their societies and organize campaigns to spread awareness about it. Public too should accept the fact they’re intolerant and they need to correct their actions and thoughts.
  • Review: The results of each effort done to mitigate intolerance should be measured, and the efforts with best results should be repeated. There should be an agency in every state or country to analyze the cases of intolerance and their growth from time to time.


Intolerance in our societies is not something that we can pass on. It’s a problem that needs treatment immediately. We should accept its existence and make necessary efforts to prevent it from growing further because the more it grows, the more difficult it can be to eradicate, and more destruction it can do to the world.


Speech On Intolerance

The worst thing about intolerance is that it not only feeds itself but also grows itself as tolerant societies are often suppressed by intolerant ones. On the other hand, intolerant societies also do nothing except for spreading more intolerance. Therefore, if a change has to be brought, it can only be brought by collective efforts. And the efforts in that direction should start from the top – from governments of all major nations. If governments are willing, they can really bring a change in their societies as they possess all the resources to make it happen.

And that change should be brought quickly, especially among the developed nations, because tolerance is necessary for development. While developed countries provide a high quality lifestyle to majority of their individuals, non-developed or developing countries don’t. Therefore, governments of such countries should aim to tackle the issue of intolerance before their developed counterparts.

In a modern and developed society, there should be only one kind of intolerance – the one that’s shown for intolerance. Any other thing, whether they’re someone’s opinions, religions, races or anything else, shouldn’t be suppressed at all. Only then a nation can start moving rapidly on the track of prosperity.

Fortunately, some big names have taken initiative in this direction. UNESCO has drafted a lot of instruments that prevent not only intolerance but also racism, including “Declaration of Racial Prejudice, 1978.” Global companies have also come ahead by bringing diversity into its staff composition, and various NGOs are also taking interest in the cause. But to speed up the process and spread it widely we’ll also have to change ourselves. We need to learn respecting others’ views, religions and races. Once we do that, we’ll be able to experience a new world in our surroundings, which will be exceptional by all means.


Slogan & Quotes On Intolerance

Intolerance and anger cripple people’s understanding.


Intolerance shown in support of tolerance doesn’t make any sense.


Tolerance is important, but no one should get so tolerant that they pass intolerance.


Intolerance is a form of violence and it creates hurdles in the path of democracy.


The world is too small to fill it with intolerance.


Intolerance is not about the difference of beliefs – it is about how you treat those who’ve those different beliefs.


Snatching the rights that you want for yourself from others is intolerance.


Religious tolerance should be practiced by all; but there’ve been so many cases of intolerance in the name of religion that people don’t bother to care about tolerance when it comes to religion.


Intolerance leads to loss of faith in everything.


To know someone’s true religion we don’t need to look at his faith – we need to look at his intolerance instead.


If you respect other people’s religion, there’s no way you may get into religious intolerance.


One person’s freedom of speech shouldn’t lead to intolerance of others.


Toleration of intolerance doesn’t make anyone liberal.


Little bit of intolerance is in every man – what we should care about is gross intolerance.


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