ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reclaiming Diversity in India

A recent seminar, “Democracy, Political Establishment and the People”, organised at Chandigarh provided a rare occasion to rethink the idea of “diversity”, which to me is one of the most crucial elements of the Indian formation. Recent social and political upsurge has been significantly marked by at least two major events – the historic assertion of dalit consciousness and the dramatic upsurge of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on the one hand and a parallel consolidation of communal consciousness, which attempts to dwarf every aspect of our social and political life. While identity and corruption, respectively, remain the fundamental issues with which the former two social and political formations engage, there are larger challenges from the latter for the idea of diversity.

British India experienced a peculiar transformation of social fabric. While administratively India was transformed into a uniform and hegemonic structure of law and governance, socially it was lampooned by colonial scholarship as segmented and divisive. Colonisers proclaimed that Indians cannot govern themselves in the midst of complexity and diversity. They attempted to homogenise every aspect of Indian social life and selectively hegemonised the Indian political class. Diverse Indian customs, governance structures, languages, laws and social relations, etc, were systematically scrutinised within the narrowly defined paradigm of an ideal, pristine past constructed through a selective reading of textual traditions that were defined as authentic as against the unauthentic and diverse Indian past.

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