Challenges of Ethnic Diversity in India

India is the land of diversity. The country is a mixture of cultures, festivals and different types of people. People from every part of the world adorn and appreciate the rich culture of India. But this land of different cultures is also the land of every kind of differences, distinctions, and divisions. A country with such a vast ethnic diversity faces problem in every aspect. Not only the people suffer but so does the government. And if also most people have a mindset which is reluctant to change, there is the government too which is reluctant to bring about some practical changes.

Education plays an important part in a person’ life but almost half of the population of India is uneducated and thus the mindsets and views are quite narrow-minded. Though they are very proud of their culture, class, caste or religion, they don’t want to respect others and discriminate people on the basis of everything.

 

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United we stand, divided we fall. It is true. But how can we expect such a situation when the people themselves don’t want to be united. When the views differ, when education is missing and where cultures are so many, how can the entire population be united? It is a fact that we can be more close and friendlier to a person with whom our mindsets and tastes match. And in India when it happens, it’s not the unity of the country but the unity if the culture (sometimes) and this is called groupism and not unity. Hindustan or the land of Hindus is the home of every religion in this world. There is no such religion which doesn’t exist in India. And moreover, the class and caste systems in Hinduism make the matter worse. Above that, every state has its own culture, food, literature, and language. So, these are the ways in which India becomes a rather colorful country, with all the cultures. These are also the ways in which India becomes a battlefield for every cultural group to agitate, protest and fight. Other than being the land of gods it is also the land of chaos. There are useless traditions in every part of India which needs to be discarded.

In India, almost every child is taught that which religion or caste is good and which is not, with whom they should mix and whom they should avoid. The young minds grasp things quite quickly and this affects the coming days too.

Let’s talk about caste system the first. Caste plays an important role in India. The so-called lower castes like Dalits get oppressed every day by the people of their own religion. They are highly ill-treated and they have to face enough hurdles only because of their caste. The distinctions continue to get worse in the western part of India. The higher castes, however, enjoy a respected position in the society but they have to struggle a lot when it comes to academics and career. Being from general category isn’t easy. Before independence of India, many freedom fighters had fought for the well being of the Dalits and the other lower castes. Dr. B.R(Bhim Rao) Ambedkar had introduced the law of reservation of seats for the tribals, lower castes, and scheduled castes. This law was a good one though as it could have helped the lower castes in getting the education and better career opportunities. But this law was started to be misused. In academics, the cut-off marks for a person belonging from the general category were too high whereas for the SC the cut-off marks were too less. Same takes place in case of jobs or college admissions. The fees are much lower for the scheduled and lower castes. This really helps the scheduled caste people but the general category suffers a lot. Sometimes it’s more pressure on them. Not all families have the ability to pay the high school or college admission fees but they too expect their child to go to a good school or college but for them, the fees aren’t made less if also their child somehow manages to get the cut off marks. The people from general category don’t get proper career opportunities too and thus, they lag behind if also they have good skills.

The next issue is regarding the different states of India. It’s really good to see the different cultures of the states of India. Each state has a culture, language, literature, and cuisine. But this great variation poses a great difficulty. Each state has its own everything and no state has anything in common with another state. In some states, people don’t know the two main languages of India, Hindi, and English. Thus, when a person from a state goes to these states where Hindi and English are not spoken much, they face a lot of communication problems. It is not possible for a person to know every state language. There are more than twenty state languages.

The second problem is cuisine. North Indian and East Indian states have more non vegetarian dishes in their cuisine; south India and west India have mostly vegetarian dishes in their cuisine. The foods in the south are less spicy, the foods of north and west are usually dry and the foods of east comprises of curries. Thus, if a person from any northern state of India visits any state in south India, he/she usually has a lot of problem in adjusting with the less spicy foods which are mostly available in south India.

India is also known for its different festivals. Each state has its own state festival. If also they are celebrated in other states, the celebration isn’t that big. For example, Ganesh Chaturthi, which is the festival of marathons, is celebrated in a really big way in the state of Maharashtra whereas in other states the celebration is not that big and sometimes the celebration is organized by the Marathi people who live in those other states. So, it’s just like a cluster of small countries within a country.

Moreover, even the people of a particular state lack unity. In the last few years, India has witnessed the partition of many states. Gorkhaland is a part of West Bengal but the people of the state wanted Gorkhaland to be partitioned from West Bengal. After a lot of chaos and agitation their protest and demand were subdued. But this didn’t happen every time. Many new states have come into existence. For example, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Uttrakhand. Thus, even state culture fails to bring about unity among the people.

The irony lies in the fact that people don’t hesitate to mock other states. Unity is absent but respect towards other states decreases every day. The people belonging from one state love to mock the culture of other states while being proud of their own culture. Afterall, people have many options on the basis of which they can discriminate each other’s skin color, language, cuisine, culture, and literature. Everything is a basis of discrimination in India. The young generation loves to mock the states and such mocking posts are filled in every social media sites. They feel completely out of place when they hear of a state and choose to mock the alien culture.

Let’s talk about the state of Kashmir, the state which has been changed from a heaven to hell. The culture of Kashmir is still appreciated by many but conditions are such in the state that people don’t go there in that big numbers. The state, which has more of a Muslim population, agitates and protests in form of stone pelting and every way possible to become a part of the neighboring Muslim populated country, Pakistan. That’s quite common though. They are trying to unite with a country where people have same culture and views like their own. However, the state might face many political problems if it is given freedom and thus the Indian government doesn’t give it freedom.

North-East India is still a part which is present in the map but is forgotten by people. There are mostly different tribal groups living in the northeast. Most people mock the people of the area saying that they look like Chinese or Nepalese and more than that some people don’t hesitate to act as if they don’t know that there was northeast India at all.

The next main issue is RELIGION. Well, communal harmony is a tern which was never found in India after independence. People of two cultures (state culture or caste) may find a way to adapt to each other’s thoughts and views but different religions have different views. Sometimes, the views of two religions are the complete opposite of each other. In such a situation unity is possible if the people are educated and have a broad mindset to accept the differences but as most of the population is uneducated, unity among different religions never happens.

However, as a result of this, communal riots take place. Ever since independence riots have been taking place in India. The Gujarat riots of 2002 had taken a heavy toll of life.

Freedom of religion is there in the Constitution of India but I wish freedom of choice was there too. In India, interfaith marriage is the biggest mistake that a person can ever do. The couples get isolated not only by the society but sometimes by their families too. It’s more heinous than any other crime in India. Mostly the couples are mercilessly killed. And why only interfaith marriage? Even if a person loves someone who is of the same religion but not of the same caste, the same chaos and conflicts take place. This shows that how the young generation of the country faces problem in getting modernized if also they want to. They have to face so many hurdles only for a marriage and mostly the hurdles are too many for them to overcome. The young generation is still not given freedom of choice by the society. The framers of the Indian constitution should have thought of the coming days before framing the constitution in order to add the laws which were really needed. But what can you expect from a copy-paste constitution which is also the bulkiest constitution in the world but has still not been able to maintain peace in the country?

Even localities get divided according to religion. There are ‘Hindu localities’ and ‘ Muslim localities’. People may forget the name of the street or locality but manage to remember it by such terms. For example, if a locality has more of a Muslim population, the people of other religions who stay in the locality feel insecure and uncomfortable. Same goes for a locality with a majority Hindu population. It is natural. People feel more comfortable to stay around people who are like them, whom they know and who have the same belief and views as their own. And another irony is that people start fearing to go to a particular locality if the people of their religion are not there in majority number. For example, there are many Muslim localities where Hindus prefer not to go and there are many Hindu localities too where Muslims prefer not to go.

Even children are taught which religion is good and which is not. Even before they learn to write words properly, they are taught by their family how to judge people and on which grounds should they judge them. Now, if the child generates a good reasoning power later in his/her life, such teachings are questioned by him but if the child fails to have a good reasoning power, this teaching eats his/her leftover reasoning power every day.

Hinduism itself has so many cultures in it and these cultures are totally different from each other while the gods remain the same. Nowadays, even crimes are taking place because of religion.

More than that, freedom to profess a religion of own choice is being constantly hindered. A bus filled with people going to Amarnath was attacked by terrorists in Kashmir and a person carrying beef was killed too. Such things show clearly what lies in the future ahead.

Religion is a way which teaches us to understand the truth, to value it and teaches us how to respect other religions.  It’s just a path on which we are supposed to walk to get to our goal of understanding the truth.  It’s not meant to be decorated. Religious fanatics spend their lives in decorating the path and not actually walking on it. We pollute our own religion when we discriminate against other religions. No holy books teach to discriminate others.

Now, the main challenge faced by ethnic diversity is a backward country development. When conflicts surrounding cultures are so many, the government has to look after these. Moreover half of the population is so much into their culture that all they do is fight and discriminate against other cultures. The government has to spend most of its time in solving this issue and there is also the problem of poverty. As a result, the country’s population fails to develop completely. And moreover, how much can the government try to unite the people and to look after every conflict that is going on in the country? If it starts to look after the needs of every culture, class, tribal groups and religions then who would look after the security of the country?  the government should try to educate the population more. So that, people can accept differences and respect them. Moreover, education will help a lot in discarding the useless traditions which have no meaning.  Every culture in India has some of the other useless rituals which is illogical. To make people understand that, education is necessary. It sharps our reasoning power. Before independence of India, many freedom fighters and politicians had to put an end to many rituals like Sati (burning a woman after her husband died) and child marriage. They had helped in encouraging widow remarriage too.  Because of them our society got rid of these evil practices. But, practices like child marriages still continues in the villages. In this 21st era, we have to put an end to the evil practices of this kind.

 

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A secular country is not easy to govern. The land of gods and cultures is not as colorful as it looks. But we can never say that it is not colorful at all. Education, understanding, evaluating and sympathizing with other cultures will gradually make India a better country and much colorful.  As most of the people don’t know about it that how all the cultures and religions had become united against the alien rule to bring about freedom in 1947, they think unity among different ethnic groups and cultures isn’t possible. But it is.  We are still not independent.  We are now ruled by narrow minds, fear, insecurities, and lack of education. Culture doesn’t matter. Mindsets and an urge to develop does matter. Respecting people matter and so does the reasoning power of the people.  We have developed but we need more development and should try our level best to help ourselves and our country to develop. The government should also give equal opportunities to every person. Every person should develop completely. Many talents go unnoticed because of reservations. Such talents should get recognition.

We all live on the same land. We all eat the salt of the same land.  We all sleep and wake up on the same land and that land is India-the country with the largest ethnic diversity. We need to get freedom from these fears and narrow mindsets. Ethnic diversity will face much lesser problems if the people realize the value of unity and understanding and stop discriminating against others. The golden bird(India) should get enough feathers on its wings so that it can fly high to achieve the limit which is the sky.

 

writer

Misti Sarkar
Kolkata, West Bengal, India

 

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