• Himani Nandal

IDENTITY POLITICS

When talking about identity politics in India, we get to see that the exercise of influencing the identity politics among the citizens of South Asia has been trending since past two centuries with various multidisciplinary inquires. Historians tend to show their interest in this field away too late as they just invoked their interest towards the legitimizing of the origin or to justify the contemporary articulation of the history that already existed, later when identity politics went too deep then in its pursuit the historians were called upon to explain and trace its origin back from early days. Back then also the interest of historians revolved more around the communal identities and the implications for national politics. Now let us throw some more light on identical and how these identities changed and become politically significant in South Asia region.


The modern states of South Asian region which has shared their multicultural and multi religious compositions has been most conspicuous to explore about. These state at the same time also shared shaped the demographic pattern, defined the cultural life, moulded the course of social relations and above all it has set the parameters for the mutual relationships among the different countries in the region. The politics post-colonial world has changed a lot through cultural, economic and political collaboration and cooperation among the countries of the region, given the commonly shared historical experience which was particularly about the colonial oppression and resistance.However, 60 years back such possibilities were not seen in South Asia and rather the differences among the different states occurred due to recriminations which lead to mutual suspicion, distrust, occasional hostility and even armed conflict. And an important factor to this mutual vigil was the minorities who were the followers of this religion. This religious conditions, oppression or discrimination in each country not only affected the internal situation but also affected the mutual relations between the countries constituting these region[1]. Somewhere the demographic up of South Asia helped to reinforce identity politics, the communal discourse was seen between Pakistan and Bangladesh and on the other side in India, the Tamil leaders were emotionally involved in the Sinhala-Tamil conflict which proved that religion and ethnic were the major factor in formation of identity politics in each country. Whereas in India the caste and religious identities were present back from anti-colonial period which lead to concern and anxiety among the minorities like for Muslims in India[2], the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh and Tamil in Sri Lanka. As all the majority religious community felt that they had the responsibility to safeguard their religion of the respective country they lived in and this lead to religious identity politics with interference in internal affairs of other countries, as it also become the reason for why no country in the region was able to maintain friendly relations with its neighbors.


Many examples of role of religious identity politics can be cited. And the latest among all is the movement for formation of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, the whole political debate that’s going on over Ram mandir and the past instances of Baba Mandir, showing that religious identity has always served as an emotive symbol in the politics. Also past partition era the construction of Hindu identity politics came into notice where some of these writers such as Vinayak DamodarSarvarkar and Navaratan Rajaram who were big supporter of Hindu identity politics came up with their fables where they casted Muslims as barbarian invades who indulged in the destruction of Hindu culture and civilization as a religious mission, not only this they also argued that Muslim community was also the reason behind the conversion of religion and destruction of temples[3]. When we look at the modern politics then also, we get see same active Hindu identity politics where almost all political parties are busy refraining from injury of the religious feelings and which can also clearly being seen how the spiritual leaders of the nath community of Gorakhpur[4]. Yogi Adityanath who also represents the ascetic Saira sectarian movement has resisted the application of the fixed religious identities of Hindu and Muslims[5]. “The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) foreground Hindu identity as its political platform and experimented within it to arrive at a programme to unite Hindus. The prime example of Hindu identity politics was the movement leading to the destruction of the Babri Masjid the tortuous path of temple political demonstrated that the mainstream parties took care to ensure that religious identity was not ruffled.” [6] In India and other South Asian countries, it’s harder to read the identity politics without talking about the class community relationships as identity politics does not represent the interest of a community as a whole so it is necessary to have a class with dominating community. And therefore, the identity politics is anti-democratic as it doesn’t address the interest of the collective which goes by the name of a community of caste or religion.[7]

When talking about identity politics in India, we get to see that the exercise of influencing the identity politics among the citizens of South Asia has been trending since the past two centuries with various multidisciplinary inquires. Historians show their interest in this field at a later stage as their interest is invoked towards the legitimizing of the origin or justifying the contemporary articulation of the history that already existed. Later when identity politics went too deep, then in its pursuit the historians were called upon to explain and trace its origin back from early days. Back then, the interest of historians revolved more around the communal identities and the implications for national politics. Now let us throw some more light on identical and how these identities changed and become politically significant in the South Asia region.

The modern states of South Asian region which have shared their multicultural and multi-religious compositions has been most conspicuous to explore. These state at the same time also shared shaped the demographic pattern, defined the cultural life, moulded the course of social relations and above all it has set the parameters for the mutual relationships among the different countries in the region. The politics post-colonial world has changed a lot through cultural, economic and political collaboration and cooperation among the countries of the region, given the commonly shared historical experience which was particularly about the colonial oppression and resistance. However, 60 years back such possibilities were not seen in South Asia and rather the differences among the different states occurred due to recriminations which lead to mutual suspicion, distrust, occasional hostility and even armed conflict. An important factor to this mutual vigil was the minorities who were the followers of this religion. This religious conditions, oppression or discrimination in each country not only affected the internal situation but also affected the mutual relations between the countries constituting these regions [1]. Somewhere, the demographic map of South Asia helped to reinforce identity politics. The communal discourse was seen between Pakistan and Bangladesh and on the other side in India, where the Tamil leaders were emotionally involved in the Sinhala-Tamil conflict which proved that religion and ethnicity were the major factors in the formation of identity politics in each country. Whereas in India the caste and religious identities were present back from the anti-colonial period which leads to concern and anxiety among the minorities like for Muslims in India[2], the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh and Tamil in Sri Lanka. As the majority religious communities felt that they had the responsibility to safeguard their religion of the respective country they lived in, it led to religious identity politics with interference in internal affairs of other countries.

It also becomes the reason why no country in the region was able to maintain friendly relations with its neighbours.

Many examples of the role of religious identity politics can be referred to. The latest among all is the movement for the formation of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. The whole political debate that is going on over Ram mandir and the past instances of Babari Masjid, showing that religious identity has always served as an emotive symbol in the politics. Also, in the past partition era, the construction of Hindu identity politics came into notice where some of these writers such as Vinayak DamodarSarvarkar and Navaratan Rajaram, who were big supporters of Hindu identity politics, came up with their fables where they cast Muslims as barbarian invaders who indulged in the destruction of Hindu culture and civilization as a religious mission. Not only this, but they also argued that the Muslim community was also the reason behind the conversion of religion and destruction of temples[3]. When we look at modern politics, we observe the same active Hindu identity politics where almost all political parties are busily refraining from injury of religious feelings. It can also clearly be seen how the spiritual leaders of the Nath community of Gorakhpur[4]. Yogi Adityanath, who also represents the ascetic Saira sectarian movement, has resisted the application of the fixed religious identities of Hindu and Muslims[5]. “The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) foreground Hindu identity as its political platform and experimented within it to arrive at a programme to unite Hindus. The prime example of Hindu identity politics was the movement leading to the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the tortuous path of temple political demonstrated that the mainstream parties took care to ensure that religious identity was not ruffled.” [6]

In India and other South Asian countries, it is harder to read identity politics without talking about the class community relationships as identity politics does not represent the interest of a community as a whole. Therefore, it is necessary to have a class with dominating the community. The identity politics is anti-democratic as it does not address the interest of the collective, which goes by the name of a community of caste or religion.[7]

Tags: Identity, Politics, states, south asia, ethnicity, nationalism, language

[1] Frontline.thehindu.com. (2019). IDENTITY & POLITICS. [online] Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2810/stories/20110520281008300.htm [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019]. [2] Manchanda, M. (2007). Book Review: Meeto (Kamaljit Bhasin-Malik), In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia. Historian and the census, 7(1), pp.41-45. [3] Khan, H. and Khan, H. (2019). A far cry from Adityanath’s Hindutva, the Nath Yogi tradition has a history of religious pluralism. [online] Scroll.in. Available at: https://scroll.in/article/896582/a-far-cry-from-adityanaths-hindutva-the-nath-yogi-tradition-has-a-history-of-religious-pluralism [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019]. [4] Marrewa-Karwoski, C. and Marrewa-Karwoski, C. (2019). Far from Hindutva, Yogi Adityanath's sect comes from a tradition that was neither Hindu nor Muslim. [online] Scroll.in. Available at: https://scroll.in/article/833710/far-from-hindutva-yogi-adityanath-comes-from-a-tradition-that-was-neither-hindu-nor-muslim [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019]. [5] Khan, H. and Khan, H. (2019). A far cry from Adityanath’s Hindutva, the Nath Yogi tradition has a history of religious pluralism. [online] Scroll.in. Available at: https://scroll.in/article/896582/a-far-cry-from-adityanaths-hindutva-the-nath-yogi-tradition-has-a-history-of-religious-pluralism [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019]. [6] Anon, (2017). [video] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDDG46Y1jsE [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019]. [7] Frontline.thehindu.com. (2019). IDENTITY & POLITICS. [online] Available at: https://frontline.thehindu.com/static/html/fl2810/stories/20110520281008300.htm [Accessed 20 Oct. 2019]. Cover Image: Wordpress

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