Social Diversity as Issues of Security Threat
Differences of power, wealth and geography do determine what we perceive as the gravest threats to our survival and well-being.
The Indian cultural tradition is unique. The notions of dharma (normative order), karma (personal moral commitment] and jati (caste) as the hierarchical principles of social stratification are basic to Indian culture.
A certain level of configuration of these elements and consensus have brought about persistence and equilibrium in Indian society, and hence no major breakdown has taken place in its culture. It is said that the change is in the cultural system and not of the system. In other words, basic cultural and social values and norms still continue with some modifications.
The uniqueness of the Indian culture does not simply refer to its esoteric nature. It requires a thorough study in terms of its history. Absorption and assimilation characterised social and cultural change. Aryans and Dravidians lived together. Hindus and Muslims lived in close proximity – socially and culturally. Later on, Christians joined them. Today, Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and people of other faiths participate together in the government, industry, commerce and other sectors of public life. Thus, there has been a continuous unity even in the situation of stark diversity.
In the wake of India’s partition, the major problem facing the country was of dousing the communal fire and rehabilitating the huge population which had moved from across the border. One would have expected that this would be taken care of within a couple of years and after that the country would embark on a process of national reconstruction and consolidation. Not that this did not happen, but the progress was greatly hampered by the challenges which the country found itself confronted with in the different theatres.
Factors of Disunity:
Despite a rich cultural heritage, egalitarian policies and programmes, and the ‘rule of law’, narrow loyalties, parochial ties and primordial interests have also increased in the post-independence India. We find divisive forces in many parts of the country. India is a land of sharp contrasts having very rich, upper caste and class people on the one hand, and extremely poor, lower caste and class people on the other.
There are minority groups based on a variety of considerations such as religion, language, region, customs and traditions. Even, the so-called majority group, namely, the Hindus, is divided into several sects, castes, clans and linguistic groups. These groups have certain aspirations for their members in regard to better education, employment and a high standard of living.
All members belonging to different castes and communities do not have equal chance or access, and hence they are denied ‘distributive justice’. Such a situation of unequal opportunities in life, which itself is rooted into socially structured inequalities, aggravates tensions, mutual distrust and frustration.
Socio-economic fragility is the predisposition to suffer harm from the levels of marginality and social segregation of human settlements, and the disadvantageous conditions and relative weakness related to social and economic factors.
The consciousness of unity and a feeling of Indianness are seriously hampered due to situations of hierarchy and inequality. Today, India is faced with this problem due to a lack of synchronisation between the form and contents of its social structure.
At times, ethnic groups tend to operate as diametrically opposed groups due to clash of their real or supposed interests. Such a clash of interests may also take the form of communalism. Some groups may take undue advantage of their large numbers or of superior social origins to corner a major share of the national resources.
The other communities with smaller populations may feel deprived of what they feel are their ‘legitimate claims’. Situations of mutual distrust, disaffection and distance may arise between various ethnic groups. One perspective is that ‘relative deprivation’ is the root cause of all ethnic strife.
Sometimes ethnic conflict is due to the distinction made between ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’. ‘We’ (insiders) against ‘they’ (outsiders) is an attitude found in all societies. Immigrants are treated as ‘foreigners’. Such a problem arises when people speaking Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya, Hindi, Kashmiri, Punjabi, Urdu, Marathi and Sindhi consider each other different in the national context. Members belonging to one state often consider members from other states as outsiders. They would not like them to seek employment in their state.
It is clear that the language situation in India is quite complicated and hazardous for national consolidation and development. The structure of linguistic states came into existence in India after a great deal of acrimony and bad feeling.
In the absence of an all-India language as a unifying force, the formation of linguistic states has taken the country towards narrow sectionalism, provincialism and parochialism, endangering national integration.