Identity in crisis

This is something which has been playing on my mind for a while now, after observing a general pattern of political discourse mainly on the Indian Social Media, blogs or forums. There are groups of people who are finding it difficult to wholeheartedly identify with the nation they live in, or they want to see it from the eyes of a particular social group only. Examples of such crisis are some Kashmiri, few Naga tribes in the East, and some vile communists have recently been observed calling for “DravidaNadu” a new non-existent identity they want to forge! Then, ever since the partition, there is this perpetual tension with the country’s largest minority of Muslims (who by the way comprise a very diverse set of people, and are not a monolith as imagined).

There is also the whole other dimension of caste, out of which the Dalit & tribal cause is the most noteworthy one. There are some very radical Dalit outfits, who can be found demanding land as per the population percentage, but it would be wrong to club Dalits here as most of their demands are for social affirmation, and not a problem of identity or belonging.

These sorts of cranky but isolated voices are not uncommon though and are present in most of the world, in different forms, so there is no need to excessively obsess about them. They feed more on attention. In a curious case, a group of farmers/militants in the state of Oregon in US, wanted freedom from the federal government last year, and made a final stand against the government! (Read about the short lived revolt here)

But, where is this sense of not belonging, not identifying with the larger Indian identity arising from? Why is it that even today, there are elements among India’s Muslims, no matter how minuscule, who burst crackers on the country’s defeat in a cricket match against Pakistan? Some of it can be blamed on history, more so on the way colonial designs played out in the nation’s past. Even more can be blamed on the failures of the successive governments since Independence, of not addressing any of the underlying social faults effectively; in fact some of them can be accused of doing more harm to it by their collective omissions and lies, ably assisted by the elitist intellectual cabal of India.

If you really go to the depth of it, it’s all about building a narrative that suits you. A fragmented image of India suits the narrative of the left, they need victims to thrive – to show all those oodles of empathy, the saviors, and blind you with their blazing righteousness. So, they are constantly in search for newer and more exotic victims. I call it left’s victimphila, and this is true across the world. That hyping every incident for petty politics leads to exceeding alienation among these very weaker sections of society is of no concern to them.

It also suits agenda of certain socio-religious groups, like the increasing foreign funding for evangelical missionary work among the Dalits for a better “soul harvest”, which can work well if you instill some level of perceived hatred against another group; it is rarely a spiritual transformation that they aim for. Ultimately, all of these created perceptions and highlighted divisions are played upon by the left to gain sympathy and power, and implement their own agenda, an “Idea” of India, which for them is a paper concept as defined by them. On the face of it, leftism was about demolishing all traditional identities, and create one classless, non-sectarian identity, but in practice, it only leads to creation of more & more alienated groups. Many of these fault lines, and the role of agenda driven organisations in their exacerbation have been covered in the book Breaking India by Rajiv Malhotra.

Now, what narrative does the Right have to make it all work? Their case is simpler. They make the argument that culturally, there is a common base from which the entire Indian Civilization has arose. Genetics has already proved that most Indians have native ancestry, for many thousand years. This includes all of the minority population as well. Even going by the Aryan “Conspiracy” theory (final nail would be the Rakhigarhi ancient DNA), for the sake of argument, 4000 years is a good enough time to mix up and establish nativity. Up until 2500 years ago, humans on British Isles were just hunting and gathering!

So, secondary to the personal faith or the choice of “God” and the way of worship, or the regional biases of language and ethnicity or caste, is the identity as a citizen of this nation, which for Indian nationalists is a living civilization, metaphorically like a mother, on whose lap we learnt our languages, honed our culinary skills, and formed most of our customs. They see this shared heritage as the ultimate identifier & their goal is to downplay any sub-identities, and make people feel part of that larger continuing story, with small role of everyone that went into it’s making. They tend to prefer icons who stood for defending native traditions. This whole concept has been, not suavely enough for many, encapsulated in the concept of Hindutva. How much of this degenerates into extreme traditionalism is a thing to watch out for.

And then this interminable tussle between the two goes on, and actually works against each other all the time, like the yin and the yang. This also leads to a constant tension in the society, which hampers the whole nation’s happiness quotient. If I be truly idealistic and philosophical, I’d say that even nationalities and any sub-identities don’t matter in front of equality of man. That’s the ultimate ideal, that every life is equal, but that would be too much of a dreamworld! It’s for the people to decide on what do they see themselves as, and the best course for this ship of the sovereign Republic they’re sailing.

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