Come elections, politics of hate replaces rationality and civility. Pitching one linguistic group against other; one religious group against other; one ethnic identity against other and one caste against other becomes norm of the day. This ugly trend always makes one to wonder how the politicians and political parties always try to drag the public to primitive times. It goes without saying that immediately after independence, the most daunting task for India was to manage its vast diversity. In a country of more than 500 spoken languages, scores of practising religions, hundreds of cultures and sub-cultures, this was no easy challenge. The project of state-building had to bridge the north-south divide, and find accommodation in the Union for dozens of nationalist and sub-nationalist aspirations. Looking back at the past 70 years of its history, India has done fairly well, barring in a few trouble-spots like Jammu and Kashmir, and North-East, and some other areas where more than the politics of ethnicity, caste considerations and economic inequities are the source of strife.
Generally speaking, the main mantra in India’s nation-building pursuit has been its reconciliation with the diversity — providing each ‘identity’ the respect and accommodation. Although nobody can claim that it has been able to do so to perfection, but somehow its record has not been very bad either. However during the past few years, the country seems on a path of reversing all that has been achieved on this front.
Now take Jammu and Kashmir for instance. Instead of reconciling differences of varied entities, their markers of identities have been manipulated through all fair and foul means. Here not only were the differences among the people in terms of their faith and region amplified extraordinarily, but even mutual competition was infused among them in a very negative manner so as to defeat the idea of unified nationalist or sub-nationalist character. Even as this grand strategy has been unfolding steadily since 1947, but the process was further accelerated after 1990 with the onset of militancy in the state. Today after three decades of this divisive politicking, the polarization between various regions and religions is so intense that the state is staring in the face of a far bigger trouble and conflict within its boundaries along the fault-lines of region and religion.
Every individual or community has a legitimate claim on the equal distribution of the economic resources, welfare and development, and proper representation in the government. People no doubt have some really genuine concerns here or there on this count, but to crowd an actual issue of political longings and aspirations with these economic complaints and cultural nuances is sheer subversion. As of now the project of ‘assimilation’ in case of Jammu and Kashmir has been carried forward through exploitation of the given diversities in the society and by broadening differences within the different segments. Irrespective of whether the governments in Srinagar and Delhi concede it or not, fact of the matter remains that today the polarization between various regions and sub-regions seems complete, with each group looking at the other as a competitor and not as a supporter. As the campaigning for general elections has started, the politicians would do some good to the society and the nation if they give up the politics of hate and instead work towards reconciliation and understanding.