At the inspiration stone-laying ceremony for the country’s new Parliament building, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that during a vibrant democracy like India, there was room for differences, but not disconnect. this is often a welcome acknowledgement of the Argumentative Indian who loves debate, who is interested by the planet around them and is hospitable ideas, regardless of where they’ll come from. this is often because India may be a truly crossroads culture, its present determined by an extended history of engagement with other races and cultures.
This engagement could have taken place through invasions, migrations, trade or evangelical missions, but these have led to a remarkably diverse and plural society blessed an innate cosmopolitanism. there’s no homogeneity among its people, neither of race nor religion, neither of language nor traditions. it’s the shared historical experience, a mutual enrichment of cultures and an affinity born out of a deep attachment to the thought of India that underlie its nationalism. In its most positive and dynamic articulations, this nationalism has been accommodative, not exclusionary. it’s infused with a way of common humanity.
This is the connect that hopefully PM Modi was pertaining to because without this awareness of common humanity, how may be a connect possible once we afflict one another , as we must sometimes? those that seek identity through exclusion narrow their own space; those that seek uniformity find yourself during a barren aridity that dries up precisely what’s sought to be preserved. For history shows that cultures flourish through mutual enrichment, ideas advance through debate, and what’s more dangerous isn’t ‘questions to which there are not any answers, but answers which can not be questioned’.
A broader unity
Political democracy has taken root within the Indian soil because the values it seeks to nurture are aligned with India’s own striving as an independent nation, a nation that has found its voice after centuries of whispered yearnings. Nowhere is that this more apparent than within the genius of the Indian Constitution. It recognised that unity during a diverse country like India can’t be achieved through suppression of its myriad identities, but in these being transcended and celebrated during a shared sense of common citizenship.
It is only that citizenship deviates from its basis in individual and inalienable rights that the assertions of narrower caste or community-based identities begin to be seen because the only thanks to prevent injustice and discrimination. Once this is often acquiesced to in one case, how does one illegitimise it in another? If one particular caste or community insists on a veto over whatever offends its sensitivities as a gaggle , how does one deny this to a different group? And there are numerous different groups in India. is that this not a recipe for 1,000,000 mutinies?
There is an expectation that a broader Hindu unity are often built on a Hindu-Muslim binary. But that ignores the very fact that a Hindu is additionally deeply attached to his other identities, for instance , as a part of a language group, a membership of a caste group, a specific sect of the Hindu faith, perhaps a more modern professional group and maybe as a part of a vested economic or business group — the list is endless. there’s little likelihood of ‘one-nation one-language’ being achieved in India. Even a touch that this could be the intent of a government in power triggers dangerous political reactions. To justify the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, a number of its champions argue that if the Christians can have their Vatican, the Muslims their Mecca, why should the Hindus not have their Ayodhya? Is that not limiting the very notion of Hinduism as a faith with no boundaries?
PM Modi spoke of the Indian tradition of talking and taking note of one another as a part of our ability to attach as Indians. But this assumes a willingness to understand what the opposite is saying, otherwise this is able to be a dialogue of the deaf. We hear but we don’t listen. And as soon as we start to connect labels to our interlocutors, we are absolved of the necessity to concentrate to what they’ll be saying. If the protesting farmers are infiltrated by ‘Khalistanis’, Maoists and Left-wing provocateurs, does the govt got to listen? If some elements among our Muslim community are suspected of harbouring pro-Pakistan sympathies, should they be allowed to speak? If some writers and social activists are ‘urban Naxals’, should they not be prevented from speaking; better still, should they not be incarcerated?
There are any number of labels to settle on from to stop the speaking and therefore the listening. Labels preclude connecting. If PM Modi really wishes to celebrate India as a democracy, then he should stop this labelling exercise forthwith. The Minister of Commerce shouldn’t see hidden Leftist hands behind the farmers’ agitation and thus belittle it. This disconnects instead of opens the way for understanding what’s driving their protests, braving the weather and military action .
India is just too diverse a rustic to permit a monochromatic frame to be imposed thereon . it’s a landscape with multiple colours and shades in between. The way forward is to permit this profusion of colors to become even more varied, and more vibrant. Every label wont to exclude this or that colour diminishes the entire . Labels prevent sharing and celebrating our diversity. they are doing not allow us to attach with one another . allow us to forswear a ‘government by label’.
The author is Professor in Stanford University and Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research. Views are personal.