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Shabana Azmi :”It was a concerted effort to make religion the only identity

A fierce debate over intolerance in India has gone viral. Discussions and debates stirred a firestorm of nationalist criticism.

Shabana Azmi in reply to a question on the intolerance debate raging in the country, at the Lucknow Literature Carnival, said, “It was a concerted effort to make religion the only identity. This is not India ki pehchaan (India’s identity).” She added.

“Intolerance has always existed and will continue as long as there are human beings. When it turns into a law and order problem, the state needs to deal with it. The maturity of the state is reflected in how it handles the situation.”

In an interactive session by the audience, Azmi said “Intolerance has become the buzzword. But it has always been there and will not disaapear. With the multitude of people, cultures and religions, it is bound to be there. However, sensitivity is required from all sections and it is better not to get in the debate of who said what.” The actor said. “When I talk of 1992, I feel that my being a Muslim is just one aspect of my identity. But everyone then said: ‘Oh, aap Muslim hain! (Oh, you are a Muslim!)’.”

“This ‘concerted effort’ however, is not the identity of India. India is known for its Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb,” she said. “Composite culture is our biggest strength. Isko mehfooz rakhna Hindustan ko mehfooz rakhna hai (To secure this composite culture is to keep India secure),” she added.

Giving the example of cultural similarity of a Kashmiri Hindu and a Kashmiri Muslim, she said. “A Kashmiri Muslim might not then feel connected culturally to a Tamil Muslim and this is the beauty of the Indian composite society.”