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The debate on debating the idea of India

Mint readers and the columnists comment on the issue of our Indianness
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First Published: Thu, Jan 24 2013. 02 45 PM IST
Navy officers rehearsing for Republic Day parade in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Hindustan Times
Navy officers rehearsing for Republic Day parade in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Photo: Hindustan Times
Updated: Thu, Jan 24 2013. 06 49 PM IST
When Mint columnists Rajeev Mantri and Harsh Gupta filed their weekly column yesterday , their objective was to initiate a discussion on the core of our Indianness. Refuting what Prof. Ashutosh Varshney, professor of political science at Brown University had said about Narendra Modi in an interview with New York Times , Mantri and Gupta posed the question: “If minorities, be they religious, ethnic or linguistic, must exist as groups and these groups supersede individual identities, what, then, does it mean to be an Indian?”
The response to the purported debate has been overwhelming and acerbic. While Prof. Varshney made his point through a series of tweets (Read here), vigorously challenged by the authors, Mint readers have shared their views on the subject. The debate as it unfolds:
Wonderfully put. As long as there are reservations there will be the clamour for conversion. People now want to “convert” to OBC status for more and easy access to state doles.
Thank You Mr.Rajeev for the article. It takes courage to write this in today’s Indian Journalistic Milieu. You brought out what we Hindus have in mind. It gives us, the real minorities of India (Hindus) a new courage that there are some right thinking individuals exist in our midst. Thank you Livemint for this article. We need you Mr. Rajeev. Please stay the right path and not get drifted by the paid journalism which is in vogue today. Asattamoa Satgamaya!!!
Satya Vachan
The moment I see an article starting with reference of some one else’s quote, i realize the author doesnt have anything of his own to offer ; or may be he is not very confident on his opinion/thoughts.
Saved my few minutes by not reading it.
Sagar Pattnaik
“Thanks to increased economic freedom since 1991, there are an increasing number of Muslims who see themselves, first and foremost, as aspirational Indians. But ultra-conservative Islamist leaders and “secular” politicians, who are both invested in denying the individuality of the Indian Muslim for maintaining their power, want to box these individuals into a group identity. “ -------------------------------> THIS
This article is only showing the hypocracy of so called ‘secular parties’. They rant about caste but perpetuate caste by reservations.Most ‘secular” parties are castiest and muslim/christian religion based parties. They rant about BJP being communal but themselves appease Muslim and Christian fundamentalists. Modi’s stance of development for all and appeasement for none is the right thing.
Abdul and Derrick’s comments says a lot about the rot in Indian politics. Abdul wants a seperate electorate like pre-partition Muslim League which perpetuates the divisions and will lead to another partition while Derrick is obsessed with Modi behind 2002 riots inspite of the fact that SIT, the anti-Modi media, anti-modi social activists could not prove anything. It is very difficult to change the attitudes of such people since they already made up their mind irrespective of facts.
Forabetter World
This article is skilfully written as it fools the reader into thinking that there is an actual ‘debate’ going on. It is basically just depoliticising any kind of struggle by a minority or group that is excluded from the benefits of India’s (and especially Gujarat’s) socio-economic model as being anti-Indian. This is such a dangerous stance as it silences debate and progress by ignoring genuine concerns by a whole part of the population that are either left out or directly harmed by prevailing policies.
By saying that Indians are first and foremost individuals, and thus united by their individuality completely misses that point that individuals are not the same- they all have different interests and belong to different classes.
The article is also very hypocritical - because on one level it’s saying that there should be no room for religious and or other identity based differences in politics -but then it’s praising Modi, who is part of the Hindu nationalist party. Hindu nationalism believes in the supremacy of Hindus over the minorities. The article argues against reservations and separate policies for the minorities because that would be anti-Indian....but then goes on to say that Modi’s policies aren’t favouring any group in particular. What about the fact that his government has already marginalised and ghettoized minorities in Gujarat? The reason there haven’t been communal riots in Gujarat over the last 10 years is precisely because of the fact that the last riot was so successful in terrorising the Muslim community ...and actually there is no need for a communal riot (to win votes) as the BJP is already in power.
Modi played the communal card to get into power, and he keeps on using it as and when it pleases him...
As for the history of communal riots - this tactic has been played by politicians in India and Gujarat for a long time.....and each time it should condemned as a political strategy. The fact that it happened under the Modi government as well as other leaders previously doesn’t mean that Modi should be let off the hook. Just because others have done it before, doesn’t mean that Modi should get away with it. How will society ever progress?
What the article doesn’t seem to understand is that there is no such thing as being ‘Indian’. Being Indian is meaningless because it skirts over the fact that there are real differences in terms of class (let alone race, gender and caste) that have real implications for these groups. By grouping everyone as the same and assuming they all have the same interests, it’s very easy to see how a whole set of economic policies (i.e. the type of liberalisation that is occurring in Gujarat and elsewhere in India) can be depoliticised. The fact is that liberalisation and free markets will benefit some classes over others - it won’t benefit all individuals. Liberalisation itself is political - it’s the economic model of the wealthy and business class. Eventually there may be some light trickle down to the poorer classes, but overall inequality will go on increasing as the ruling classes will benefit more than others.
Johnson Thomas Karingozhakal
The first, second and third identity of India should be Indian and not religion based! If religion is permitted for vote bank and minority politics it will naturally resurrect majority religious identity. This is why in no civilized country there are religion based reservations but only ethnic origin as in the US Affirmative Action or income based as in Europe. There are no reservations for Jews in Europe although Hitler tied to annihilate Judaism....there’s also no reservation for Romani Gypsies in Europe. Reservation is practiced often by the dictators and dynastic rulers in the developing countries groomed mostly in Britain.
In my view the most important Indian identity is its sacred/semi-sacred and secular heritage (the secular here is not Muslim or minority heritage but the arts/crafts/grammar/Rashtra Meemasa/Artha Shashtra as the like.
I think the article lacks the practicality and Gujarat is the bad example for the topic. In India elections are fought in the name of caste, community, language etc. For example in Andhra, power is dominated by Reddy’s and dalit’s are intentionally denied access. If you go by this article than Dalit should have the same right as Reddy to become CM but that will never happen, than what dalit’s shall do...continue to support reddy’s or choose their own leader?? Similarly Yadav community in UP!
Having seperate electorates will enable highlighting all the issues specific to the particular community in a proper and meaningful manner otherwise they get diluted in the so called One nation concept.
Modi belongs to BJP and BJP has communal agenda (targeting minorities especially muslims) and not development agenda. Development agenda of Modi is out of desperation post 2002 riots for his own security. Let BJP field modi in Karnataka and see if they vote for Development or Shettar community!
There has to be seperate electorates in order to have proper checks and balances and India to prosper. There has to be a secular front representing all of these electorates.
Separate electorates are communal. They will lead to Direct Action Day and massacre of innocents as Jinnah did. One nation one people. Modi’s development agenda is the only genuinely secular option available to us.
Raj malhotra
I would request you, don’t go by the name, but by substance. North korea the so called leftist secular govt. is the worst offender of riligous prosecution against christian. Same thing is in china against muslim and christian.Congress only decalres itself secular, but it is having hidden agenda. You can count assam and rajasthan riots are away from media scrutiny because of its name is secular not substance.
You are confused in differentiating with opinion and action.
Derrick D’Costa
Very inaccurate article
1. If witnesses were tutored, it does not change the reality that many died under Modi and the perpetuators including Modi still enjoy substantial immunity from prosecution. One should not go by words in todays politics but solely by actions especially where cases are shifted outside Gujarat. Talk is cheap and does not dilute the anti minority stand of the BJP.
2. Why is it that certain ministers of the BJP are still behind bars inspite of all the support of the Govt.? .
3. One important overlooked matter is the sporadic attacks on all minorities in India to drill down their second class status, if this issue is preferable to say Pakistan or bangladesh it is still a very negative thing in a democracy, was India secular only so long as it took to aggregate territory or is it still looking towards becoming a secular republic. Periods of mass violence 1984, 1992, 2002, 2008 and 2012 indicate that this is not the case due to immunity from prosecution. As long as there is mass violence identity will be linked to religion.
4. lastly, how relevant is maulana Azad as he lived in different times.
In India thousands die every day because of lack of healthcare, sanitation, nutrition & education. But why this fascination with 2002 riots? Why doen’t anyone talk about the 1984 riots when 3x more people were killed? In Gujarat more than 200 casualties were of non-Muslims mostly in police action. How many non-Sikh casualties happened in 1984??In Gujarat the administration called for the Army after about 2 day (Feb has 28 days). And this was the Army which was deployed for war during Operation Parakram. How long did it take to deploy the Army in 1984?If certain members of the BJP are behind bars, is because the law took its course and the perps were punished. How many Congress leaders went behind bars for 1984. Most of them went on to become cabinet ministers!!Attack on minorities do not happen out of the blue. The murder of the 80 year old Hindu preacher in Orissa did not happen out of thin air; it was a pre-meditated act committed by the handlers of the minorities. Even Gujarat riots happened after the bodies of the nearly 60 people reached Ahmedabad.
All this talk of Hindu terror is designed to keep the minorities in fear so that they vote like sheep for the UPA. It is designed to distract from the poor governance which Indians had to endure under the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. It is the poor governance which is responsible for deaths equal to hundreds of Gujarat riots everyday.
The UPA is following a dangerous policy of divide and rule. They are no different from the British; they exploit the fault lines in India and are making them wider.
Think about it for some time.
Derrick D’Costa
►Victor sir, I did mention 1984 if you read my comment, the point on the UPA is well taken, I did say talk is cheap and it applies much more to the UPA as they are in government. The point you make is slightly more insidious that if minorities behave they will be allowed life and dignity, and if there is a rumour or fact of misbehaviour they will be collectively punished.
Is there a real policy of divide and rule though, or was Indian society always divided and our childhood blessed with enough ignorance that we did not see.....
Pawan Rao
Why dont u analyse Situation of minorities and resettlement camps of Assam,meerut,Hashimpura,1984,Malyana,Bhagalpur,Bangla infiltration(all under congress) and then we can call u being fair. If modi govt provides 24X7 electricity, Agri Growth,Roads dont u think it reaches everyone including minority,if he had differentiated in these factors the it would be alarming.Inspite of christian missionaries carrying out conversions hindus have been largely tolerant. India is Secular only bcoz it is Hindu Majority Nation, by and large hindus are tolerant. I dont see sikhs,parsis,jains complaining nor any party speaking for them, bcoz they dont alter elctorate result. Please throw some light on the riots/resettlement on the above mentioned riots and we will see where u stand on them.
Skanda Nagaraj
Modi enjoys immunity from prosecution? Really, can you please explain.
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First Published: Thu, Jan 24 2013. 02 45 PM IST