India as a nation is often questioned for its claim to the concept of unity in diversity. The makers of the constitution considered and reckoned the complexities and diversities of our country even if they could not address all the issues of every region at a time. The problem, however, aggravated when there arose the idea of homogeneity among some dominating classes and castes which were driven by the mindset of superiority and not of equality. I observed that the practice of inequality begins from caste system as well as the linguistic-based discrimination. The idea of homogeneity with a mindset of superiority and sharing the same nation would be unimaginable, vulnerable and sound vague because the mindset of the so-called upper castes and classes have already been constructed and inherited since the ancient ages. So, what is the purpose of the idea of homogeneity if this invisible construction built in our minds cannot be removed? Thus, unity in diversity makes more sense if we really believe and act on the idea of India as an inclusive nation.
India is too diverse that we cannot even digest and recognize the main ingredients of our own food. One can see that even after so much of debate, India could not have a national language. Hindi and English is known to be the official languages of the Government, but the fact is that India is a nation with diverse languages and it is impossible to impose one of these languages as the ‘national’ language.
To look at the regional division, there is a debate of the North and the South India. Majority of the North Indians will say that everyone should learn Hindi because the ‘majority’ speaks Hindi, and a South Indian will say that s/he will not force you to learn her/his language but s/he respects her/his own language in the way s/he respects others; we do not need to learn Hindi in order to survive in India. You debate over it using words like – majority, democracy, respect, identity, culture, diversity etc. Let the debate continue if there is a possibility of finding a conclusion with a legitimate compromise. But who will be the compromiser? I doubt compromising or surrendering one’s identity by either of the party is going to happen. While the debate is going on between the North and South, I being a North easterner, what do you expect me to do? While on the other hand, those who reside in the extreme North of J&K, North westerners like Punjabis and the westerners like Rajasthanis and Gujaratis are overlooked. You totally forget to question about these regions. To be specific, look towards Northeast. Which languages are they supposed to speak? There are diverse ethnic groups and several languages and dialects in this region. There is no single dominating language. Every tribe has a different ethnicity and dialect and they love their own.
Indian languages are broadly categorised into four i.e. Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Austric, and Sino-Tibetan. The reorganization of the Indian states was neatly fit into the scheme of linguistic regions. But in North-Eastern region, the reorganization of states was done neither on the basis of linguistic nor on ethnic factors. It was done according to the convenience of the Indian administration. You can see for yourself what the aftermath of this reorganization is like. There evolved so many underground factions in the region. The best example you can see is the Naga inhabitants who fall under four states – Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. This region often faces disturbance, furore, agitation, clashes between factions and Indian armies. Most prominently, we can also see the palaver between the Naga leaders and the Government of India.
North Eastern region comes under the category of refers to Austric and Sino-Tibetan. India as a democratic country, we need to align ourselves according to the majoritarian equations. Some people claim to make Hindi the ‘National’ Language, but this claim can be wrong in a democratic setup. According to the Supreme Court in 1958, a minority community refers to a community which is numerically less than 50 per cent. Not even a single linguistic group in India can claim 50 percent of the total population of the country. Hindi is a language which is spoken by not more than one-third of the total population of India. North East People would not want to learn Hindi alone to attain Indianness as they are fond of diversity by nature. North Easterners accept Unity in Diversity and respect each other’s differences equally.
The Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination based on caste, race, language or gender. Is India free from this kind of discrimination? Are we obeying the constitution? If we are honest enough, the answer would be ‘no’ to these questions. In my opinion, the Indian caste system is one of the major reasons that perpetuate racial discrimination. It is evident from the instance of discrimination against the North Easterners. Most of the North Easterners are tribal; they have their own unique ethnic social systems. They have no idea about the existence of the caste system or the Varna ‘previously’ followed by the Hindus. Since the mongoloid race of India does not fall under any category of the Varna system, they are considered as outcastes. The Shudras and the Dalits are the most discriminated group in this system. Likewise, it is also clear that the mindset of the dominant Brahminism would find it difficult to accept the inclusiveness with the mongoloids as counterparts as long as the evil casteist mindset prevails in them.
The debate over the Idea of India cannot conclude with one single factor as its diversity is too vast. Unity in Diversity, however, brings the best conclusion, for India evolved with the idea of unity; unity of different ethnic, groups, communities and races living in co-existence. The beauty of India lies when every section of the society patriotically claims ‘I love my India’.
Haineube Newme, MA Political Science, University of Delhi.