Sunday, 20 January 2013

India: The State Nation? Via HT Blogs

“A state-nation creates a sense of belonging among its people even while simultaneously giving political guarantees for diversity and minorities,” he says. The point is it can still create a loyalty to the Centre which allows it to create a single economic space, push a nationalist foreign policy and all the stuff a nation-state does so well." -  Prof Ashutosh Varshney

We are in a time of great change, which is causing angst and uncertainty among us Indians - a feeling which is manifest in any number of indicators. Central among this is the feeling of worry at the prospect of a weak centre  which has been highlighted by many instances, and has led to many people, self included, of worrying and blaming the centre for doing nothing and being weak. For all such Indians, the attached article is a recommended read, as it opens vistas of thought that are simultaneously revolutionary (at least to the uninitiated) as well as logical.

A weak centre raises the bugbear of increasing regionalism, and the attendant worries of the centre-state balance; it hampers decision-making and the formulation and especially implementation of national prerogatives and strategies. Converse logic also hold currency - that a strong centre necessarily means marginalisation of minorities and ethnic groups; and that it is necessary to have overlording central setup for a successful nation. The advent and stunning rise of regional trends, and the attendant coalition politics that it creates, is a cause of worry among us.

And yet, "survey after survey shows that 80 per cent or so of Indians are proud or very proud to be Indian and only about 20 percent put their regional identity ahead of their national one. The first is beaten only by the US and Australia. The second is remarkable for any country of its poverty, diversity and democracy." as stated in the article. So long as this trend of 80-20 can be maintained, there does seem to be no apparent reason to worry.

The article does provide food for thought... first of all, it makes intuitive sense. Second, the surveys quoted also seem logical, since most people from us also can identify with the stated results. Third, and most important, it makes the point that both the centre and the states can be strong, and in fact lead to a stronger India in the long run. This is indeed a unique thought: but it does explain the unity in diversity that we have displayed in India. A strong state ensures that the needs of ethnicity and of the local region are taken care of; that these local problems, culture and aspirations do not vanish in the larger national picture. This gives fewer reasons for secessionist pressures to emanate, since there is a mechanism in place specifically to deal with local, regional and ethnic issues. Thus, it tends to ultimately strengthen the national fabric.

It is further true that despite 65+ years of existence as a single nation, India has retained its ethnic diversity and not become a cultural melting pot. Each region has held onto, and in fact, retained its cultural uniqueness; most sub-cultures and languages are vibrant and alive in a very real sense. Regional problems tend to be limited to their own regions and require little intervention from the centre; the people are also increasingly showing the ability to separate the local from the national issues during voting... 

Food for thought indeed! 

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