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The identity crisis of an Indian

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An exciting archaeological discovery was published yesterday. Due to the change in course of river Ganga near Bhagalpur, archaeologists were able to find a hillock which was used as a training ground for shilpkars or sculptors in the 6th century (Gupta Age).

What is more interesting though, is the reluctance shown by the government (state archaeology directorate) in pursuing this further. Reason? There is an old mosque nearby and highlighting a Hinduism related discovery might bring imbalance to the communal harmony in the area.

In a different news, Lucknow’s name has been proposed to be changed to Lakshman Nagri, given its historic connections to Lord Ram gifting the city to his brother Lakshman. Swathes of people online have been asking whether this discussion was needed when there are issues like poverty and road accidents etc.

What is common between the two exhibits above is there is no apparent external force suppressing the hillock study or showing frustration with name changes of historic cities. It is a group of Indians themselves (in fact largely Hindus) driving the narrative in both cases.

Which brings us to the question ..

Why do these news make headlines?

The underlying fact is that as Indians, we have been trained to aim for a secular, neutral stance on almost all topics. The point that this has mostly been enforced on the majority population by design is a discussion for another day. A fear psychosis has discouraged to get involved in any ‘communal‘ debates which might ‘polarise’ people and make us a target for retribution. Hence by virtue of a mechanical reflex we become disgusted listening to anything which is even borderline ‘sensitive’; which leads to further discouragement of discussions burying of the topic altogether.

Why is it bad to avoid these discussions?

The above cycle of fear and discouragement has resulted in a nation which is not sure of its own identity. Despite 9 years of a relatively nationalist regime, we are nowhere near having a national narrative about India.

What has been touted as the ‘Idea of India’ so far is a status-quoist view which looks at India as a rag tag summation of diverse communities but fails to provide a blueprint to help all these diverse groups work together towards a common goal.

Without having homogeneity in some basic aspects of our belief system, our history, there is no way of succeeding in the modern world as a nation and therefore reaching maximum potential as individuals. Several examples prove the same. USA, Japan, UK, USSR, China, France all had a common national story to act as foundations of subsequent growth. This resolves needless conflicts and makes the population focus on what’s important for them in the long term.

A gobbled priority list of identities (national, regional, religion based, caste based) leads to confusion, bad understanding of history and inferiority complex. For several generations, Indians have looked down upon their own products in favour of foreign made goods. Ferrero Rocher is considered a low grade chocolate in the US but is a top tier one in India – only because NRIs from the 90s brought it back. Indian defence exports have increased 2000% in the last 15 years, but before that the country was 100% dependent on imports for all defence needs. Several Indians’ twitter profile bios carry the Ukrainian flag and sunflower symbol but ask why we should overtly push for display of the Indian one.

What’s the solution?

There is a need to define a hierarchy within our several identities. It is at least reasonable to say that the national identity should be kept supreme. One can be proud of their region, state, religion, caste etc. but without undermining the national identity.

Of course, there is a lot more which can be done. Investment in archaeology is long due. Factual discoveries about the ability of our ancestors is a great anti-dote to inferiority complex that exists in Indian minds. It is also a great way to connect the diverse communities by one human thread.

Education based on revitalised understanding of archaeology and history is another necessity.

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As India gains self-confidence and emerges a global leader by 2040, I explore themes around the recipe of this resurgence. Read more on my website.
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