Identity And Politics

Published on Countercurrents.org, by Swati Roy, 04 November, 2009.

A young man finds it difficult in the Nation’s Capital to find a house. That he is a Kashmiri Muslim, may not be a reason good enough for him to not be rented a house. So there are people who frankly tell him that they do not rent a house to Kashmiri terrorists.

Two of my friends were pulled out of a queue outside a venue where Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was to address the public. The reason- they were Muslims. Why, they were even sent to the police station and had it not been for the professors, they would have to spend a night there. Certainly in India, there’s plenty in a name!!

Some of my hostel-mates from the northeast states of India, (while I was in college) soon shifted to hostel where they said they had their “own people”. By own people, they meant people from their own states, those they could identify with. This shouldn’t be surprising when there are plenty of us ‘normal looking Indians’ wondering at their Mongoloid features, treating them as belonging to some other country altogether and categorizing them as ‘Chinkies’. All this, while we patriotic Indians make it a point to stand up for the National Anthem believing that all of us are a part of the largest democracy of the world.   

While submitting the admission form at a prestigious college, I was taken aback when the lady collecting it checked the details, and in spite of there being no instruction/ space/question related to my marital status whatsoever, asked me to mention MARRIED and specified further to do so in block letters, on the very front page of the form. I had mentioned my husband’s name where they required me to mention my immediate contact in the city and his relation to me. But how is my status as a married/single/divorcee going to affect the admission procedures, when there is a test to help for the same? …

… We in India have a lot of British legacies. One of them is Criminal Tribes Act 1871, which notified several tribes, such as the Pardhis of Maharashtra, as criminals. In 1952, these tribes were denotified. However, they still are an easy prey for policemen and bear the stigma of being criminals.

Identity helps us connect us with ourselves, with others. But there is a problem when we thrust identities upon people and tie them up with it, instead of respecting and giving space to it. There is a problem when identity supersedes the individual and we judge people at a superficial level. That’s when most of the clashes/riots and in fact, partitions have happened. That’s the question that makes minorities/weaker section of the society feel discriminated. (full text).

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