I have tried to understand this topic and share my insights for the same. I have tried to deconstruct the topics in different subject areas. I tried getting an opinion on those subject areas and then link them to have a holistic view of the topic.
Before I share my comments on the dictum ‘Unity in Diversity ‘, let’s look at India in general.
India is imagined in a plethora of ways. The political ideology always has an impact on the nation. A nation exists because of the people. The pathos and ethos which binds them together and makes them move towards an ideal state of affair is long and testing. There are moments of glory in the history of a nation when all political parties rejoice and encourage activities which benefit the image of a nation. For instance, The Nobel prize awarded to Amartya Sen in 1998 when he transformed economics into a moral science in which he targeted many public policies like education and hunger. The same policy has been adapted to the framework of India and used for development by ruling politics. There is need of Innovators and entrepreneurs like Sen who can lead India to a state of absence of malnutrition, illiteracy and poverty. Behind the deathly blows of caste rivalries and religious feuds is a stark reality of limited resources. Behind the demand of a separate land – is the desire for recognition and growth opportunities. Only, if the political system could design policies to combat it!
I strongly believe in the dictum ‘Unity in Diversity’. I would like go about in a theoretical and later, practical way in justifying the same.
India is a vast country in which people belonging to different religions, castes and creeds live together. Though usually they live in harmony and co-operation with each other, sometimes the harmony is disturbed and disturbance creates many social problems. In order to bring the people belonging to different religions together and in a bid to bridge the gap in cast differences, the country’s social reformers have made positive attempts to forge unity in diversity.
India is the cradle of many cultures. In this ancient land, the people belonging to different cultures are living together preserving their own culture and cultural unity, In spite of the fact that there is an apparent disunity in the country, basically there is cultural unity which is visible in every walk of life. It is on this account that it is said that in India there is unity in diversity.
India is a land of many religions. There might be different factions and sub sections from the main streamline and that might prima facie give an idea of religious disunity, but on the whole there is unity in so far as each religion is concerned. We basically believe in the theory of dharma and karma. The theory of rebirth and purification of soul, salvation and the philosophy of hell and heaven hold s good every where. Respect for mosques, temples churches, Gurudwaras and religious gods and goddesses is prevalent.
A multitude of gods and religious practices, the existence of hundreds of groups called castes, variety of foods and clothing and different types of kinship organization, which one finds in India, create an impression of a bewildering variety impossible to classify and of a society divided into innumerable tiny compartments. Many anthropologists, especially those dealing with the phenomenon of casts, have described this a illustrating the fissiparous tendency of the Indian society, while others have called it horizontal segmentation of the society.
Indian philosophy is a product of the Indian society, and reflects the various cultures which have blended together after the time the Aryan entered India. The developed and elaborate rituals on the one hand, and the monistic philosophy on the other, are not an evolution of purely Aryan tradition, but a product of the fusion of the Aryan and the non-Aryan. While the region west of Punjab and including the present Delhi region seemed to be the region of the development of early Aryan thought, the central and the eastern Gangetic plain to the north of the river Ganga was the region of the rise of new specta, culture -contact, culture-confilict and final fusion.
Changes have occurred in the overall conception of the gods and modes of worship, and ideas of purity. There are also in existence different modes in different regions. These changes are not due merely to internal evolution. Neither are they due to continuous fission of religious bodies. Independent groups living in the same continent were practicing different modes of religion. The overall changes are due to gradual ascendance of new , non-Vedic ideas, and the existing differences are due to interaction of independent groups who kept their separateness and reacted to each other’s cultural capital in different ways.
The early Aryans themselves racially mixed, and showed a certain catholicity in taste, but the later conquerors, like the Mughals and the fairer British, have made public preference to fairness of complexion in women, though extreme fairness of skin in men is not valued much, at least in the south. Details of formal art forms, like rhyming, are different for different regions. In classical poetry there was no end-rhyming. In Prakrit poetry, especially in Marathi and sometimes in Ardhanagadhi, one finds the end-rhyme. Apparently, this practice influenced Marathi poetry, too. In the neighboring Karnataka, however, we have line which have a rhyme in the beginning and not at the end. All these differences, and also those in dress, ornaments, decoration of house, and food are partly regional, and partly found also in different castes of the same region. It is necessary to study this multiplicity region by region, and it will unfold a tale of cultural conservatism as also cultural borrowings and changes due to cultural adjustments between separate ethnic groups.
The peculiarity of Indian social life is that ethnic groups have lived separately from one another. They have devised a mode of inter-group behavior which avoids mutual interference or merging so that the identity of the original group is not lost. There has been fusion. There has also been fission within large groups, but the main cultural feature is the retention of group integrity. This type of social organization made it possible for certain groups to progress while certain other groups became progressively primitive.
Although India’s present Constitution has many flaws like separate provision for different castes and creeds, particularly those who are backward and are schedules in the Constitution, the recent industrialization processes and agrarian reforms have brought about a new secular outlook which has given rise to the promotion of a new culture. The new generations of all cases, communities, religions, and sects are getting chance to come together in farms, factories, educational institutions, universities and government bodies for employment. This coming together has caused a blending of different cultures, emanating from difference communities or tribes, under the impact of modernization. Traditional rituals of the older generation are no more in vogue in the new secular communities which are coming up. The unity of interests and attitudes in economic, social and political fields is helping to accelerate the social processes which are giving common values, cultural traits, art forms, architecture, music and dramatics. All modern art activity is assimilating the basic cultural values of all tribes, and giving rise to what may be called national culture. However, our national problems lie in inability to distinguish between cultural imperatives and administrative and economic necessities to find out how a nation be built up from the foundation of cultural multiplicity. Each religion preaches purity of character, benevolence and piety along with honesty. Religious books are shown respect and honor by all. The people go on pilgrimage with respect and reverence. There is always devotion in prayers and so on. Basically all religions believed in religious toleration. In this way there is religious unity in the country.
In India there is now great cultural unity. Indian philosophy of life, literature, customs and traditions are basically the same. The institutions like those of marriage etc. are found throughout the country. There are certain rituals and sanskaras which are observed throughout the country. Similarly there are many festivals which are celebrated with great zeal and vigor throughout India.
We find a kind of emotional unity in the country. The very name of India or Bharat Mata brings us emotionally closer to each other. Though in India there are different languages and each language has its own literature, yet Sanskrit brings all emotionally together. We treat and consider Sanskrit as the mother of all Indian languages and that brings us emotionally together.
Permanent elements of Indian culture are:
Maximum stress is laid on spirituality and not just on the earning of wealth.
Maximum stress has been laid on religion. Dharma or righteousness is promoted. A dharma or injustice should be checked. We are also reminded that even gods take birth as human beings to check the spread of a dharma and kill those who stand in the way of dharma.
All along India culture has taught us to follow religious toleration. It implies that every religion must be given an opportunity to observe its ideology and viewpoint. It also means that every other religion must be shown respect for what is good in that. There should be no violence in religious affairs.
Capacity to absorb all good cultures should have that capacity. Hinduism comes to the forefront in this respect. It has always either completely absorbed them or largely influenced all cultures.
Indian culture is very wide I its approach to every problem. It lays stress on religion, spiritualism and salvation, without ignoring material and married life. It has always said that the people should be led according to Dharma.
Stress on freedom of thought and expression, Hindu culture has always believed that culture becomes rich when the people have freedom of expression. Thoughts and expressions will enrich the culture and that will become dynamic.
The unity to the desired extent is not achieved as there arise serious hindrances to national unity.
Regionalism is not great hindrance. It implies that the region is above the nation. It should only be developed and the people of that region along should be given the benefits of their development. The region should have maximum autonomy in running its own administration. Regionalism should promote love for the region as well as for the nation as a whole.
Now coming to the arguments put forth by Ramchandra Guha in his thoughts about India being an unnatural nation , or being a single divided nation. I think he does have enough examples to illustrate the fact that , yes India is a divided nation after all. The main aspect to understand here is , which factor is more overbearing.
Nations are made of two things- Memories and Amnesia. The forgotten memories are best buried together by opposing groups and the good memories must be shared and cherished. Only then is kinship born .However, reality is different. Even if some people forget misfortunes, the rest never do. They pass it on to their successors, shaping their minds to avenge it.
In India, secularism made its appearance not only as a concomitant of modernity and nationalism but also as an answer to communalism, another mode political with its pretentions to nationalism. The Hindu nationalism was a natural growth from the soil of India” Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in the secular, modernist position and “Muslim nationalism – it inevitably comes in the way of the larger nationalism which rises above differences of religion and creed.” While an ideal nation has images, policies and practices and its state continues to be debatable the nation state now has a powerful and tangible material, intellectual and spiritual force. Whenever an independent nation state is established, the connect with nationalism takes a backseat. This is due to the availability of resources for the oppressed, minority or unheard part of the population.
Both Gandhi and Nehru believed that the idea of a nation as a singular space. Inspired from thinkers like Leo Tolstoy, Thoreau and Ruskin, Gandhi’s impeachment of modern civilization was a political project on behalf of India as a nation. An Important historical moment is the round table conference in London 1931-32, held for drawing the constitution for a future independent India. Gandhi went on a fast unto death in protest at Ambedkar’s attempt to have untouchables recognized as a minority community like the Muslims and Sikhs. This period is of great significance because it reflected the competing ideas about the legitimate place – the citizenship – of the “community” and the minority “within what it meant to be Indian. Notions of fossilized communities, a majority Hindu population as well as liberal democratic ideals, had existed side by side in India for much of the nineteenth century.
Prior to the insidious entry of the British, India was a wealthy nation also known as “sone ki chidiya”. The garments, the jewels and the food items were in surplus and of extremely good quality. India was imagined to be a prospering entity under rulers. The political instability gave way to British Raj, with the set up of the East India Company. The 200 years of British raj, had new systems introduces in the society like the land revenue system and postal system. These changed the lifestyle of Indians. Although the British did not consider Indians as civilized but the belief was that India is a close-knit nation and so they came up with the system of divide and rule.
The much touted Swayamwar (selection of spouse by a princess in an open forum) is indicative of this deficiency and our total disregard for forging unity.
Whereas matrimony amongst the royals in the Europe has always been an instrument of forging strategic alliances, Swayamwar invariably created more enemies than friends. All rejected princes and kings felt insulted, nursed a grudge and waited for an opportunity to take revenge to redeem their self-esteem. History bears testimony to the fact that every Swayamwar was followed by acrimony and internecine wars.
Reverting to the role of the British, they never divided us to rule, simply because they did not need to. We have always been and continue to be a divided lot. Formation of states on linguistic basis was never attempted by the British. The Mandal Commission was not constituted or implemented by them. Nor was the Babri Masjid demolished by the British. The current agitation in Maharashtra has not been initiated by the East India Company. Caste based reservations and quota system, the prime splitter of the Indian body politic, were not invented by the erstwhile rulers. Nor are they preventing us from enacting a uniform civil code.
The list is endless. We have a knack and penchant for generating innovative issues to divide ourselves. We are doing our best to ensure that we remain embroiled in petty bickering and internal dissentions.
To us, our region, religion, caste and sub-caste are more important. Worse, we flaunt this narrow identity and give it precedence over nationalism. If after 60 years of independence, Kashmir and the North East are still not emotionally integrated with the country, the failure is ours.
Undoubtedly, the politicians are the fountainhead of all fissiparous tendencies. One does not have to be a visionary to predict the danger of abetting illegal migration from Bangladesh for garnering votes. North Indians in Mumbai are not welcome but illegal Bangladeshis can stay. If political leaders can imperil national security for the sake of power, they can stoop to any level.
Sadly, they cannot be expected to change as they believe in the ends and not the means employed. To them, vote bank politics preclude letting countrymen stay united. Additionally, spineless and politicized bureaucracy simply follows their dictates and cannot be expected to deliver either.
Immense damage is also being inflicted on the unity of the country by the media through its irresponsible and thoughtless reporting. For the sake of cheap sensational news, petty vandals are given the coverage befitting a mass leader. Every news item is reported with a religious, caste or creed slant – ‘a dalit girl molested in a Delhi bus’ (as if other women are not molested in Delhi buses) or ‘church guard killed’ (in reality an argument between two security guards had turned violent) or ‘Muslim driver runs over a boy’ (his being a Muslim is of no relevance).
Thus I think ,
With all its problems and troubles, India always finds a way to hold itself together. India now has become extremely mature and practical about things. It does wait for a Cricket World Cup , Or a patriotic Bollywood movie to express its feeling of oneness , but the realization that being together , united , is the only way to progress and prosper has been established.
So though I agree with M. Guha’s arguments of India not being a single nation , I think that’s essentially how India has been and will be. But the truth lies in the fact that we find our won ways to display unity and move ahead in our attempt to progress. India has learned to live with the fact that it’s a nation full of diversity and the tolerance levels hence created have made sure the diversity camouflages under the spirit of accepted oneness or uniqueness.