Identity politics will produce Giriraj Singhs

Rohit Dhankar

[Posting every day is a bad idea. But still… Also these thoughts are truly “loud thinking”, not very well worked out. Just a rough cut.]

“There is a need to increase population of Hindus in the country. They should take this issue seriously as their population has been decreasing in eight States in the country,” Mr. Giriraj Singh, Union Minister of State, said in October 16, as per a report in the The Hindu, 5th December 16.

“The country is facing population explosion, it has to be controlled soon,” the same Minister says in December 16, and as per The Hindu report, and he also thinks that “after ‘notebandi’ (demonetisation), there is an urgent need to make laws for ‘nasbandi’ (sterilisation) in the country.”

Looking at his record one needs waste no time in explaining that he wants ‘nasbandi’ for Muslims and ‘increase of population’ of Hindus. The question is: should such a person be a minister in the government of a secular country?

Percentage of Muslim population in the country is increasing can hardly be denied. Nor can one close ones eyes to the fact that in some areas (particularly along the Bangladesh boarder) it has changed the local demography beyond recognition. This phenomenon cannot be explained through the ‘general minority mentality’ syndrome as population of Hindus in both Pakistan and Bangladesh is constantly decreasing in spite of Hindus being in a minority in these countries. Those who think that this phenomenon has nothing to do with religion and political use of it are over stretching their intellectual capabilities.

However, the question still remains: should not people like Mr. Singh be shunted out of the government? Those who govern a democratic country are expected to rise above their sectarian biases and of being capable of a little more intelligent thinking. They should try to understand the complex factors what influence reproduction rate in any section of population. And they are to do with economic and educational status of the section in question as well. Yes, religious beliefs and practices are a very important factor, but that is not the only factor.

It seems to me that what makes such leaders acceptable to the masses is intense identity politics in India. Identity politics encourages—nay, depends on—excusatory principle of membership of a political formation, it is not open to all citizens on the basis of their political views. It is restricted by caste or religion or any other basis that provides a fulcrum of identity. It harms the moral and intellectual development of the members of such formations as they cannot grow beyond their restricted identities; and induces the same desire to play identity politics in other communities. All this gives rise to intense competition between communities, the humanitarian values and individual freedom suffers.

All communal (I am deliberately using the term “communal” for “community based”) identities are exclusory in nature and repressive to individual members of their own communities. If it is allowed and appreciated when Jats, Rajputs, Brahmins, Dalits, Muslims etc. organise themselves and struggle for their interests; how does one oppose some more sinister (and perhaps cleverer) minds to organise Hindus to fight for their own interests? One understand that politics is a messy business and does not always take a straight path; therefore, there may be times when a deliberately disadvantaged section of population comes together and fights against injustice done to them. But this has to be played with care, the basic principle of organisation has to remain political and the politicians have to be wise enough to know when to stop playing it.

Indian people have to learn to go beyond their restrictive identities to recognise themselves humans first and foremost; and then construct an identity of being Indians for themselves. The smaller indemnities of being an Indian and belonging to a caste or religious group have to submit to the paramount identity as a human being; and have to be governed by the principles of equality, justice and freedom for all humans.

That is the only way to neutralise people like Modi and Giriraj Singh. Pitching one identity or interest group against another is a sure way to lose. If all this sounds too simplistic to some complex minds, go on and obfuscate as much as you please, Girirajs and Modis will thrive. Politics in India at this moment has to be conducted in a simpler language that people can understand, and make sense of. “Sab se pahale tum insaan ho; Hindustani, Pakistani, chini baad men. Aur Jat, Rajput, Dalit, Musalman, Hindu to use se bhi baad men.” I think an ordinary Indian can understand, argue, debate, accept and reject this proposition. And that is what is needed at the moment.


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