Why India must allow hyphens
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America allows minorities to flourish. The White House celebrates Diwali today. Yet America remains strong as a nation. One does not have to become a France to acquire national purpose and strength. Since the 19th century, India has played with two ideas of India: one that sought European-style nationhood, built on uniformity; another that sought integration of minorities via recognition of diversities. Hindu nationalists have always sought the former; Gandhi and Nehru, whose ideas won out and were finally enshrined in the Constitution, thought accommodation of diversities would make minorities secure. They were not consciously thinking of the US, but their intrinsic understanding was that India was nothing if not diverse. They also thought that imposing uniformity would undermine India, not make it stronger. In India, undifferentiated citizenship is an ideologue's or a philosopher's pipe dream with ghastly real-world implications. It will unleash incalculable violence. Haven't we learned from the violent tragedies of Europe in the first half of the 20th century?
A singular national identity was also equated with masculinity by Hindu nationalists. Vivekananda, whose sayings Modi tweets, came to promote "three Bs" for Hindus: beef, biceps and the Bhagavad Gita. For Gandhi, as also Nehru, India's identity could be soft and feminine. For them, femininity was not a crippling evil; if anything, it was a sign of inner strength. One did not need beef and biceps to generate national resolve.
Does Modi want to integrate minorities by giving them space to breathe and feel Indian because India respects their belief systems? Or does he want them to be undifferentiated Indians, or Indians whose values would be defined by the majority community?
If Indians can be Gujarati Indians or Hindu Indians, why can't there be Muslim Indians or Christian Indians?
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