Topic: Salient features of Indian Society
Qn. Why do you think that an Indian cannot have a “ single common identity ” . Is the presence of such multiple identities beneficial or harmful to the society ? (250 words)
Why this Question ?
The nature of politics and the changing perception of one’s identity in the recent years have become a common phenomenon of everyday life. The consciousness that builds inside a person as a result of different factors have brought into the mainstream discussion a need to understand how identities are built, the role of identities in our lives so as to understand the role that ‘agents of change’ have in forming and shaping the identities a person assumes.
The first part of the question requires clarifying the reasons for co-existence of multiple identities in our lives
the second part of the question has to focus on the utility of such assumed identities in our lives.
Since it is a 250 word answer, an apt introduction to the question could be to the length of about 40-50 words.
The introduction for the question could be:
India is a unique nation in this world where multiple interests coalesce to form single identity of “Indian-ness”. This single identity is vaguely felt by the individuals as each and every individual also carries with them multiple identities of caste,religion,region and class. The peaceful co existence without any conflict between one’s multiple identities is atestament to the unique Indian culture that had sustained this over 70 years of Independence.
Identity formation and its role in our lives:-
Identities are formed due to person consciousness of ascribing oneself to a particular group. Identities are formed only in comparison and in the context of others. Identities serve a utilitarian objective of associating with a group.These identities have gradually been shaped due to the cultural and historical factors of long years of interactions with members of other communities.
There are various elements that religions have exchanged with each other. The mysticism of vedantic thought has elements commonly shared with Jainism and the fourth purushartha “Moksha” of the Vedic religion incorporates the “Moksha” an essential concept in Buddhism. Bhakthi devotion and Sufi mystic streams in the two major religious systems of Hinduism and Islam have always been transactive ,borrowing and providing the basis for each other. Language has also been heavily influenced by foreign elements. The poetic and literary tastes of people are the end result of assimilation of various words across different cultures .Persian and Arabic words are a common place in the staunch Hindi literary and poetry works.
In this context, a Hindi poet cannot claim a monolithic identity when every part of his work consists aspects that are found in other cultures. Similarly a Sufi cannot have only Islam as his identity as he is a part mystic that was borrowed from the Hindu culture. It is the harmonious amalgamation of multiple identities at work that makes it a difficult task to have a “single unadulterated identity”
Multiple Identities – Is it a boon or bane ?
The spirit of tolerance that pervades Indian thought is a result of such multiple identities. It is the acceptance of one’s multiple identities that allows for the diverse population of India to hold on to one another without any divisive thought.
Hardlining perceptions of a single identity would result in the loss of this virtue of tolerance and harmonious co-existence of different sections of the society. While western societies due to their history have already been segregated on the basis of a homogeneous concept of identity,any attempt to impose a single identity that leaves no room for the existence of other identities of a person can only be a reason for conflict within an individual himself and between members of the society.
It is true that the multiple identities when stoked for political purposes can pave the way for competing and conflicting politics. This delays the strengthening of the identity of “Indianness”.The process of nation building would be delayed by the presence of multiple identities.
It has to be remembered that the concept of nation comprising of one nation – one language- one religion -one culture is a western import that needs to be critically viewed in its adoption to the Indian context. Only when our conceptualization of nation is accomodative enough understanding that each and every member has multiple identities, can the uniquely tolerant culture of the Indian thought flourish.
Competitive politics that ascribes a single common identity on Indians would only damage this essential strength of the this society that had endured for centuries.