I was asked this question on Quora a couple of months ago. This is what I said.
India has ALWAYS been an intolerant nation. Even before it was India we found way to be and show intolerance to anything that was not ‘our own’: caste, religion, sex, language, culinary habits : show me a metric and I will show you how we discriminated and showed our intolerance.
Immediately after independence in 1947, when the leadership was avowedly secular, India we saw a brief period when the State was not intolerant; it genuinely believed in pluralism. We the people did not change, we continued to be intolerant but found little help from the State. That lasted a short time only.
Within a few years we were back to habitual intolerance and sacrificing human rights at the altar of political expediency. It does not help that we as a peoples have fragile egos that get threatened by any small thing.
- my vegetarianism way of life gets threatened by my neighbour eating meat.
- my sexual urges are brought to fore because a woman I do not know and have never met wears a short skirt.
- someone’s way of communing with their god, makes my god worried and that makes me feel like lashing out.
- someone making love with people of the same sex makes me worry that I may get infected; naturally I have to stomp it out.
Given that we are a billion plus in numbers, we can find something to be intolerant about all the time. Stupid political leadership does not help. This leadership is across parties. Nothing specifically to do with the BJP or Narendra Modi. It is just that since the BJP has absolute power, majoritarianism is adding fuel to intolerance.