Thursday, February 16, 2006

India's Civic Identity

The Indian Republic is approximately 1,262,000 square miles in territory. It has a population of 1,100 million people. Its institutional inheritance and shared civic norms help unite a varied and heterogeneous land.

Independent India is premised on a civic identity. This includes its institutions, its constitution, the rule of law and due process. The emphasis is on liberty, equality and individual rights. The institutions include the Indian administrative service - once the steel arm of empire, the Indian army, the Indian judiciary, the Indian railway and the Indian print media. The Indian middle class of 300 million further strengthens national cohesion. This focus on the civic rather than on race or religion distinguishes India from its neighbors. The accent is on liberal political values.

This civic identity has been under threat since the late 1960s, first by the super-imposition of language-based administrative units and then caste-based public sector recruitment.

British India had multi-ethnic administrative units such as the Bengal, Bombay and Madras Presidencies. The princely states of Hyderabad, Kashmir and Travancore were also multi-ethnic. Administrative units demarcated by language were only created in the late 1960s. This included Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, the 7 states of the North East and the Punjab.

The Indian constitution did not envisage caste-based affirmative action as a permanent fixture either. The original intent was to introduce caste-based reservations for a limited duration of time to address legitimate issues of social justice and to then jettison it in the mid 1960s. The unanticipated continuation and extension of caste-based reservations to a whole slew of non-scheduled castes and tribes only began in the late 1960s.

Fortunately, the politics of language have receded. Caste politics have also stabilized despite pockets of Maoist violence. The current administration now plans to use religion as a yardstick to apportion public and private resources.

The Government intends to introduce reservations in the public sector for Muslims, support religious minority schools, assess the religious composition of the military and survey the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in different parts of the country in order to design a religion-based affirmative action package. Efforts are underway to over-rule the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Illegal Migrants Determination Act. These initiatives will further undermine the civic identity of the Indian state.

The Congress party hopes to gain electoral advantage in doing so. However, this short-sighted policy will only lead to the resurgence of religion-based politics, one that will sweep the party away. It is time to revert to the original vision of the Indian constitution. The emphasis should be on civic norms and institutions, not ascriptive definitions of race, caste and religion.

14 comments:

Praveen said...

With the Congress and Communists at the helm of affairs, this was indeed expected of them. Lots of people went euphoric after the elections that it was a victory of Progressives over the alleged Divisive forces.It should be apparent who is divisive and regressive?Infact

It has been a time-honoured tradition in the Congress to circumvent laws either by amending the constitution or by ignoring it.

As long as the present coalition of sycophants and national-traitors continues, one can look forward to more blows to the country.

We are going to miss the Devlopment Bus again.

Jai Kisan Jai Jawan.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article.I am not optimistic though.There is no political will in India to overturn caste based reservations.If private sector reservations are introduced also, it is going to crush the aspirations of the middle class.

Primary Red said...

While the overall premise of your argument is sensible, its important to not ignore the profound religous polarization created by the sangh parivar. The blame for such cynical politics merits being spread across our political spectrum -- not just at the Congress.

It is also true that Indian Muslims have fallen behind the rest of their compatriots -- in large part due to a self-created isolation. This surely merits some focus -- although the government-heavy approach being pursued currently is gravely misguided.

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

Primary Red talks about the religious polarization created by the sangh parivar. Why blame the sangh? Scratch any Hindu and you get a live Sanghite.

He also proudly proclaims that he is a neo-con. Does he comprehend
who is a neo-con? They are the people who did not want detente and did not want Reagan to negotiate with Gorbachev. Ronald Reagan pushed them aside and
entered into a comprehensive treaty with the Soviet Union, the results of which are apparent today. Only when George W Bush pushes aside the neo-cons in his cabinet will he be able to come to grips with the Iraq situation and deal with it in a realistic way. The neo cons and Bush push for freedom and argue that freedom will triumph over jihadism. This
position reveals a lack of understanding of Islam and jihadism.

And if he is a neo con why does Primary Red not have the "balls" to publish the Mohammed cartoons on this website??? Nervous eh?

Primary Red said...

"Scratch any Hindu and you get a live Sanghite."

Utter rubbish. As far as the cartoons are concerned, you may prefer to get off on bigotry, we don't. Finally, your understanding of the Reagan years shows how out of touch with reality you are.

Best regards.

BangaloreGuy said...

Good point Jaffna. India's Civic identity, as you put it, is a much under-utilised thing, especially by the government unfortunately.

This government is following on in the tradition of the Nehru-Gandhi family - divide and rule. And the common folks bear the brunt.


btw states re-org'n started in 1956 (Karnataka was created, for example), and some archival excerpts from that era (courtesy Deccan Herald) throw up interesting facts. Like how most of the Kannada speaking people actually opposed the formation of Karnataka(then).
Also if I recall right, Punjab was an existing state - Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were actually carved out of Punjab.

Anonymous said...

While Primary Red hides behind the shield of bigotry, brave newspapers all over Europe have published the Mohammed cartoons. So has "the Weekly Standard". Applying PR's rubric I guess all of these media outlets prefer to "get off on bigotry". PR is a self styled neo-con running away from his self proclaimed roots. Surrender to the jihadists only
inflames their passions, and does not douse them. They do not believe in civic norms and institutions. There are two seminal events in the history of Independant India. The first, was the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane, and the second
the attack on the Indian parliament on Dec 13. In both cases the confused "Sangh" government surrendered to the jihadists. Did the attacks
stop? They never do and never will until the jihadists are crushed.
Introducing reservations for Muslims is just another form of surrender. It will not stop the jihadists and will certainly erode the civic identity of the Indian state.

libertarian said...

anonymous: your rants lose credibility behind that facade of anonymity.

Jaffna said...

Bangalore Guy, Anonymous

Bangalore Guy, you are indeed correct. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were carved out of the Punjab to partition what was then East Punjab (West Punjab was part of Pakistan) into separate Punjabi and Hindi speaking states. The present Sikh majority Punjab was a new state, not the old East Punjab. Of course, it is debatable whether Haryana was indeed Hindi speaking but most there chose to define themselves as Hindi speakers for census purposes.

I am not too familiar with the origins of Karnataka except that it was the successor of the erstwhile Mysore princely state that must have had Kannada speaking territories in the Madras Presidency and Hyderabad merged with it.

Anonymous, I am not sure whether posting pictures of the Mohammed cartoons in our blog is relevant or desirable. It is a sensitive issue and one needs to respect religious sentiment. This is not India's battle and the issues solely pertain to (i) Europe's ongoing search for identity in the context of unprecedented immigration and the purported challenge of self-censorship; and (ii) sections of the Muslim world's inability to proportionately deal with intended caricature and satire targeted at their religion through the civic means available to them. The Salman Rushdie affair and Theo Van Gogh come to mind in this regard.

Anonymous said...

KPS Gill's article on Cartoons Controversy is a must read:

http://www.dailypioneer.com/indexn12.asp?main_variable=EDITS&file_name=edit3%2Etxt&counter_img=3

Offensive though these cartoons may have been - and they were not offensive to at least some Muslims, who saw in them, not an insult to the Prophet or the faith, but rather a critique of the unrelenting violence that has become the defining character of much of the Muslim world - the criminal incitement and calls to 'butcher/kill/behead those who insult Islam' have only reinforced the images the cartoons reflected, "allowing mass hysteria to define Islam's message"...

Indeed, why is it that all occasional and invariably qualified criticism of these terrorists is accompanied by vague justifications of the need to 'understand root causes' and the 'hurt' caused to the 'Muslim psyche'? Is the 'Muslim psyche' uniquely susceptible to injury?

Primary Red said...

Since you clearly have little idea on what this blog stands for -- especially on the "root cause" argument, we draw your attention to a post that should give you some pause before you start judging us for having personally found the cartoons offensive (even though we aren't Muslim):

http://secular-right.blogspot.com/2005/07/answering-contemptible-charge.html

Since we aren't part of the root-cause crrowd, your question is misdirected.

Anonymous said...

Dear Primary Red, how about being a little less touchy and defensive? You have been jumping gun left, right and center on this cartoons issue. That menion of "root cause" argument is not mine, Gill's! Those paragraphs are excerpts from his article.

Primary Red said...

Dear Anonymous:

We've been extraordinarily consistent on the issue -- as have you been, albeit you on the side of perptuating the bigotry.

Unless one is really dense, its not that difficult to understand how we can find bigotry in the cartoons without compromising our contempt for jihadists.

As far as what Mr. Gill has to say, we just needed to make sure no impression is left standing that somehow we have implicitly or explicitly endorsed the "root cause" argument.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

Primary Red, honestly speaking, you are disgusting. In your system of circular logic, anybody who does not agree with you is a 'bigot' and their diagreement with you itself is proof of 'bigotry'.

Here is a definition of 'bigot' from the dictionary:

Main Entry: big·ot
Pronunciation: 'bi-g&t
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French, hypocrite, bigot
: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices

Guess on whose leg the shoe fits?

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