Q. 1. What is meant by cultural diversity? Why is India considered to be a very diverse country?
- The term diversity basically means difference not inequality. Cultural diversity means existence of difference types of groups and communities practicing different cultures and norms.
- India is said to be a diverse country because it has many groups and communities in it, which practices different types of culture. These communities may be distinguished on the basis of language, religion, caste, sector or race.
- The toughest challenge faced by cultural diversity is the competition and conflicts between the variety of groups and communities due to difference in culture.
- Sometimes cultural differences are accompanied by social and economic inequalities, which further complicate things.
Q.2. What is community identity and how is it formed?
- Community identity means to which community one belongs to, it is based on birth and belonging and has nothing to do with acquired qualifications and accomplishments.
- It is based on what we are than what we have become.
- Such identities are called “ascriptive”, which means they are acquired by birth and can’t be chosen.
- Community identity provides sense of security and satisfaction to people despite of the fact that it is accidental and not chosen or planned.
- People are very emotionally attached to their community identity and tend to get violent when there is any perceived threat against it.
Q.3. Why is it difficult to define the nation? How are nation and state-related in modern society?
Nation—an entity difficult to define.
(i) Many nations are founded on the basis of shared religion, language, ethnicity, history or regional culture but it is difficult to say that each nation will possess all these constituents. Eg. India. Here is found cultural diversity, ethnic diversity and diverse religions.
(ii) There are languages, religions or ethinicity used across the many nations but those cannot make a nation Eg. English is spoken in almost all countries and there are Christians but that do not form a nation there.
(iii) Thus, we see that conceptually there seems to be no hard distinction as any of the other types of community can one day from a nation but conversely, no particular kind of community can be guaranteed to form a nation.
On the basis of the above three points, it is easy to describe the nation as common cultural, historical and political institution form collectively, an entity of nation but difficulty arises in giving its precise and accurate definition.
Relationship of nation and state in modern society.
(i) Nations are communities that have a state of their own.
(ii) There is one to one bond between nation and state i.e. one nation-one state or one state-one nation.
(iii) Establishment of democracy and nationalism are the sources of a state formation in modern society. The nation is the most accepted for a state while the people and the ultimate source of legitimacy of the nation. It means state needs nation more than a nation needs a state.
Q.4. Why are states often suspicious of cultural diversity?
- Cultural diversity may go beyond the loyalty to the nation or nation state because people have stronger sense of identity with their community i.e. ethnic, religious, linguistic community.
- Recognition of cultural diversity may lead to social fragmentation and a harmonious society in that circumstances, cannot be created.
- Assimilation policy of state may also become harmful. Hence, states resort to either suppressing these diverse identities or ignore them in the political domain.
- Cultural diversity leaves no particular way for the state to implement strictly policies of assimilation and integration. The former try to erode cultural differences between groups. (i.e. ethnic, religious or linguistic) but it is difficult through passing any legislation as it would certainly be protested by one or other group. The latter seeks to assert a single national identity by attempting to eliminate ethno-nation and cultural differences from public by drawing them in the private domain but in that effort, the majority group who will become predominant shall have to bear the brunt of strong protest from other minority groups.
Q.5. What is regionalism? What factors is it usually based on?
- Regionalism in India is rooted in India’s diversity of languages, cultures, tribes and religions.
- It is encouraged by the geographical concentration of these identity markers in particular regions, and fuelled by a sense of regional deprivation.
- Indian federalism has been a means of accommodating these regional sentiments.
- From Presidencies to States
- After Independence, initially, the Indian state continued with the British-Indian arrangement dividing India into large provinces, called Presidencies. Madras, Bombay and Calcutta were the three major presidencies.
- Soon after Independence and the adoption of the constitution, all these units of the colonial era had to be reorganized into ethnolinguistic states within the Indian union in response to strong popular agitations.
- Language coupled with regional and tribal identity and not religion has provided the most powerful instrument for the formation of ethnonational identity in India.
- But this does not mean that all linguistic communities have got statehood. For example- Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. In their formation, language did not play*any role. A combination of ethnicity based on tribal identity, language, regional deprivation and ecology provided the basis.
Q.6. In your opinion, has the linguistic reorganization of states helped or harmed India?
- Prior to freedom India was also divided on the basis of language, the freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and some other leaders promised that the free India would be based on new set of provinces and one principal language.
- In 1947 when India became free from British rulers it was also divided on the basis of religion and language, so the Congress leaders were hesitating to announce a principal language because they were afraid that it may result in more partitions.
- But later on the states were reorganized on linguistic basis such as Punjab was reorganized in April 1966 and the hindi region of Punjab was transferred to Himachal Pradesh.
- As per my opinion the linguistic organisation of state has helped India by strengthening the unity and integrity of the country.
Q.7. What is a ‘minority’? Why do minorities need protection from the state?
- Minority usually involves some sense of relative disadvantage.
- Privileged minorities such as extremely wealthy people are not usually referred to as minorities; if they are, the term is qualified in some way, as in the phrase “privileged minority’.
- When minority is used without any qualification, it implies a relatively small and also, disadvantaged group.
- The sociological sense of minority implies that the members of the minority form a collectivity i.e. they have a sense of group solidarity, a feeling of togetherness and belonging.
- This is linked to disadvantage because the experience of being subjected to prejudice and discrimination usually heightens feelings of intra-group loyalty and interests.
- Groups may be a minority in statistical sense, such as people who are left-handed or people born on 29th February, are not minorities in sociological sense because they do not form a collectivity.
- Religious or cultural minority groups need special protection because of the demographic dominance of the majority.
- These groups are politically vulnerable. They must face the risk that the majority community will capture political power and use the state machinery to suppress their religious or cultural institutions, ultimately forcing them to abandon their identity.
- Religious minorities like Parsis or Sikhs may be relatively well off economically but they may still be disadvantaged in the cultural sense because of their small numbers compared to overwhelming majority Hindus.
- Another set of complications arise by the fact of India state’s simultaneous commitment to secularism as well as the protection of minorities.
- The protection of minorities requires that they be given special consideration in a context where the normal working of the political system places them at a disadvantage vis-s-vis the majority.
- This leads to the accusation of favoritism. But supporters would state that without this protection, secularism can turn into an excuse for imposing majority community’s values and norms on minorities.
Q.8. What is Communalism?
- Communalism refers to aggressive chauvinism based on religious identity. Chauvinism is itself an attitude that sees one’s own group as the only legitimate or worthy group, with other groups being seen as inferior, illegitimate and opposed.
- Communalism is an aggressive political ideology linked to religion.
- This is a peculiarly Indian or South Asian meaning which is different from the ordinary English word.
- In the English language, ‘communal’ means something related to a community or collectivity as different from an individual. The English meaning is neutral, whereas the South Asian meaning is strongly charged.
- Communalism is about politics not about religion. Although, communalists are intensely involved with religion, there is no necessary relationship between personal belief and communalism. A communalist may or may not be a devout person, and devout persons may or may not be communalists.
- Communalists cultivate an aggressive political identity and are prepared to condemn or attack everyone who does not share their identity.
- One of the most important features of communalism is that religious identity overrides everything else, it also, constructs large and diverse groups as singular and homogenous.
- Examples of communal riots in our country- Anti Sikh riots of 1984; the Gujarat riots.
- But, India also has a long tradition of religious pluralism, ranging from peaceful co-existence to actual mixing or syncretism. This syncretic heritage is reflected in the devotional songs and poetry of the Bhakti and Sufi movements.
Q.9. What are the different senses in which ‘secularism’ has been understood in India?
- Secularism is hard to define clearly rather it is quite controversial. It is quite complex term in social and political theory.
- The process of separation of religious and political authority is called secularisation.
- Being secular can be defined as not being communal. So a secular person or state is one which does not favour any particular religion over others.
- India is a secular State as it respects all the religions equally. The best example is that we have public holidays on the festivals of all religions. e) In western sense, being secular means maintaining distance from religion where as in India being secular, means giving equal respect to all the religions.
Q.10. What is the relevance of civil society organisations today?
- Civil society is the name given to the arena which lies beyond the private domain of the family, but outside the domain of both state and market.
- Civil society is a non-state and non-market part of the public domain in which individuals get together voluntarily to create institutions and organisations.
- It is a sphere of active citizenship: individuals take up social issues, try to influence the state or make demands on it, pursue their collective interests or seek support for a variety of causes.
- It consists of voluntary institutions formed by a group of citizens. It includes political parties; media institutions, trade unions, NGOs, religious organisations and other kinds of collective entities.
- The main criteria for inclusion in civil society are that the organisation should not be state controlled, and it should not be purely profit making entity.
- Examples-Doordarshan is not a civil society entity though private television channels are. The Indian people had an encounter with authoritarian rule during ‘Emergency’ enforced between June 1975 and 1977. Forced sterilisation programs; censorship on media and government officials; civil liberties revoked.
Civil Society Today
- Today the activists of civil society organizations have a wide range of issues including advocacy and lobbying activity with national and international agencies as well as active participation in various movements.
- The issues taken jip range from tribal struggles for land rights; devolution of urban governance; campaigns against rape and violence against women, primary education reform, etc.
- Media, also, has started to play an important role in the civil society initiatives.
- Example-the Right to Information. Beginning with agitation in rural Rajasthan for the release of information on government funds spent on village development, this effort grew into a nation-wide campaign. Despite opposition from the bureaucracy. Government was forced to respond to the campaign and pass a new law formally acknowledging citizens’ right to information.