Sunday, June 27, 2010

Identity Politics, a Divisive Mantra

Politics itself is divisive. It does not unite, but divides. However, democratic politics is unavoidable since no better system of governance that would have the stamp of approval by the governed has yet been invented.But identity politics is pure poison.
*Linguistic Identity Politics: Linguistic states were formed in India in 1956 with the good intention of encouraging preservation of sub-cultures. Culture of a society is very strongly bound with the language spoken by the people of a region. But look at the consequences of the formation of linguistic states. Biharis are beaten up in Maharashtra. Kannadigas do not want to share Cauvery water with the Tamils. Kannadigas and Maharashtrians are quarrelling over the district of Belgaum. Assamese resent Bengali immigrants. But what was most unexpected are the fissures within a linguistic state. U.P. a Hindi speaking state could not satisfy the aspirations of its Hindi speaking hill-inhabitants and Uttarakhand had to be formed. Bihar , another Hindi-speaking state had to agree to let Jharkhand region to have its own state since the tribal there felt being exploited by the mainstream people of the rest of Bihar. Telengana people can not stomach the dominance of their Telugu-speaking brothers in Andhra and Rayalseema areas of Andhra Pradesh. The people of Chattisgarh separated from the Hindi-speaking state of Madhya Pradesh though the people of both M.P. and Chattisgarh speak Hindi. Now, the people of western Uttar Pradesh want a separate state. The Marathi-speaking people of Vidharba region want a separate state carved out of the Marathi-speaking state of Maharashtra. It is clear that concept of linguistic states has failed.Language alone can not unite.
Racial Identity Politics of Dravidian parties: This is much worse than linguistic politics and has the potential to split the nation. The British , for their own selfish reasons, propagated the theory of Aryan-Dravidian divide. In the early part of the last century, some organisations in the then-Madras Presidency started using this theory as a tool to beat the upper castes of the state with; it was widely perceived that the Brahmins of the South were originally from the North and by implication, they were not part of Dravidians. So, some of the educated non-Brahmin communities effectively deployed this perception to bring down the Brahmins from the latter's dominant position in the society and professions. When the country achieved independence, some new political parties were formed in South India and these parties in their efforts to defeat the Congress party used the weapon of ' Dravidians being different' to spread hatred against the North and by implication the all-India Congress party. This poisonous Aryan-Dravidian theory ( which has been rubbished of late by many historians as baseless) brought the Dravidian parties to power and gave the people a fictitious feeling of having men of their own feather in power. But the damage the Dravidian identity politics has caused to the sense of unity is considerable.
Religious Identity Politics: In the name of secularism, most of the political parties have been deceiving the minorities ; they talk of protecting them without doing any thing substantial to improve their living standards. But this very talk is seen by the Hindus as appeasement of minorities. This reaction by the majority community has enabled the more extreme sections of the Hindu population to practise politics based on religion. The issue of secularism has dominated politics for close to two decades, creating a set-back to efforts to tackle real issues like economy and governance.
Caste Identity Politics: South India started it ; the politicians connived among themselves to award the Backward community status to most of the castes. The so-called upper castes were systematically edged out of the Public sector and Government job market. In that process, they were driven out of the state; huge sections rendered helpless by the unjust reservation policy migrated to the North in search of higher education and employment. The politicians of the South especially Tamilnadu are gloating that they have solved the caste problem; what they have done is execution of a South Indian brand of ethnic cleansing. Bloodless, if it offers any consolation. The Northern states have just begun messing up with the caste issue. Mandal was the start. In the north, it is competitive backward politics. Mulayam - Laloo brand which recognizes only Yadavs as the backward community deserving help, Nitish brand which talks about the Most Backward Communities ( euphemism for all backward communities except Yadavs) etc. This fire which has been started by the politicians will not stop in a hurry. What gets burnt out and what escapes unscathed are things that are in a sealed container called Future.

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