"On the ground I see an environment of public harmony in India. That's why I initially referred to this debate as a manufactured one," Jaitley, who arrived here on Sunday on a two-day visit to the UAE, said.
"It becomes an issue for discussion when people try to give the country a bad name and there the onus is on all of us as Indians to clarify the issue. But on the ground there is no indication of intolerance," he told reporters at a media briefing here yesterday.
At least 75 members of the intelligentsia have returned national or literary awards in an escalation of protests by writers, historians, filmmakers and scientists over "growing intolerance", voicing fears that the country's robust democracy might be "coming apart" in the current atmosphere.
Jaitley had dismissed the protest as a "manufactured paper rebellion" that was politically motivated.