I saw the India Today Conclave 2018 debate today on the topic of “Identity Politics” – something that has been deeply ingrained into the Indian political mindset. The panelists included Hardik Patel (Patidar Andolan Leader), Kanhaiya Kumar (ex-President of Students Union at JNU), Sheila Rashid (ex-VP of Students Union at JNU), Rohit Chahal (Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha national media in-charge) and Shubhrastha (right-wing columnist).
Just as expected, the debate, in no time, slipped into panelists mudslinging each other and hardly sticking to the topic. However, a few points and the topic of the debate itself brought a good thoughtfulness on the idea of what kind of identity politics India needs, especially when the politicians in the past have done nothing but dividing the country by race, caste, religion, region and sometimes even gender – just for their vote banks.
I guess the answer was right there when the moderator, Rahul Kanwal, was introducing the participants. Not for once, he used any of the divisive adjectives like race, caste, religion, region or gender, to introduce the panelists. They were introduced based on the work they did and the positions they have held or hold currently. And from the debates and discussions, I have witnessed so far, panelists are always introduced by the work they do and the positions of power they hold.
During the discussion, Kanhaiya Kumar made a point on the identity where he said that if someone asks him abroad that who is he, he will respond by saying that he is an Indian. If someone asks within India, he will respond by saying that he is a Bihari. If someone asks him within Bihar, he will respond by saying that he is from Begusarai. I think that is exactly the mentality we are fighting. Why can’t his identity be the leader of AISF and the students’ wing of CPI? And there should be a full stop after that. It is the identity based on “karma”.
And for humans, it gives the true and greatest joy when the identity is associated with something they have done. And the reason is that the other identities – region, religion, caste, gender, race etc. – humans do not have any control. It is by fate. However, the identity associated with a profession is something that the person has worked hard to “earn”. And with a country like India, building an identity associated with profession can be the greatest motivator for the people to work hard and achieve their dreams irrespective of their religion, region, caste, color or gender.
Whenever we talk about our farmers, we feel proud because they work so hard to bring food to our table. Whenever we talk about our scientists, we feel proud because they enable our technological advancement and improve the quality of life for everyone in the country. When we talk about our athletes, we feel proud because they work hard and bring medals/trophies to our country at international stages. When we talk about our artists, we feel proud as they do not just entertain us but also sometimes bring awards at the international stage through their work. These personalities also feel proud because of what they have achieved in their profession – not because they belong to a particular religion, region, caste or gender.
When farmers strike, we always say “kisaan andolan”. Recently in Maharashtra, the farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai. I didn’t see any news channel reporting it as “Marathi Farmers” but just as “farmers”. Even the protest in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra last year by farmers was called “kisaan andolan” in MP and Maharashtra and never as “Marathi and MPite kisaan andolan”. When farmers from Tamilnadu went to protest in Delhi, they were never called “Tamilian farmers”.
As long as we keep associating ourselves with such pity things, we cannot develop because our horizon will be limited. And unfortunately, problems do not see race, religion, caste, gender etc. before striking.
–Featured Image Source: India Today