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Communal Violence and Assertion of Identity - Indian Social Institute

Communal Violence and Assertion of Identity - Indian Social Institute


COMMUNAL VIOLENCE AND ASSERTION OF IDENTITY 21 North-East even in the post-1947 period, the expression of “Assamese nation” was maintained alongside the idea ofIndian nation”. One response to the popular resistance in these regions was the re-organization of the North-East on a linguistic basis (Prabhakara, 2009:8), which occurred after the war with China in 1962. In response to the Naga insurgency and the demands for Naga self-rule, the Government in 1963 established the State of Nagaland. In 1966, the Mizos of the Mizo Hills district of Assam rebelled, in response to which the district was converted into a Union Territory in 1972 and subsequently into a fullfledged State. The North-east Frontier Agency, created in 1954 out of the North-East Frontier Tracts (one of the “excluded areas” of colonial Assam), was given its own legislature in 1969, made a Union Territory in 1972 and subsequently established as a separate State of Arunachal Pradesh in 1987. Today there are seven separate states in the northeast – Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya (Pandey, 2007:57). Bodoland is now still demanding a separate Bodoland. These steps, instead of containing the separatist demands in these regions, have instead led to regionalism taking on more complicated forms, where the earlier call for Indian nationalism has now transferred itself to ethno-nationalism (Prabhakara,2009:8) . The reasons for such separatist demands are fuelled more out of a crisis of identity – the fear and hatred of “the other”. Today, these tribal communities still feel alienated from India due to several reasons, the main ones being racial differences from the dominant communities of India and distance in physical communication. Further, economic inputs have led to growth of cities and economic opportunities have led to migration to these cities from neighbouring areas, especially from West Bengal, Bihar and even Bangladesh. Tribals see this numerical input into “their State” as a threat to their territorial and political space and they also feel economically and socially threatened. This has led to increasing communal violence against whom they perceive as “outsiders”. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has emerged as the political voice of these demands of the ethnic communities of Assam. Today, these demands are being politicized by local leaders, who are inciting fear and hatred of “the other” and also emphasizing a single basis for identity-ethnicity.

22 SOCIAL ACTION VOL. 60 JANUARY – MARCH 2010 d. Maharashtra Movements of “ethnic cleansing” can also be seen in Maharashtra today, as expressed by the Shiv Sena and its offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), who are demanding greater economic opportunities to the “sons of the soil”. After the recent debacle of Uddhav Thackeray at the recent Assembly elections in October 2009, he has promised that the Shiv Sena will not be found lacking in forcefully expressing the demands protecting the interests of Maharashtrians. The internal feud between the Shiv Sena and the MNS may soon spill out onto the streets, causing increased communal violence in Maharashtra. The Shivaji festival which was started by B.G. Tilak in 1895, sought to portray Shivaji as a liberator of Maharashtra and a protector of Hinduism (Majumdar,1965:579). This move by Tilak did not meet with much success during his lifetime, but in recent years it was appropriated by Mr. Bal Thackery, founder of the Shiv Sena in 1966. In the initial years, much hatred was directed to the South Indians in Mumbai, who, Mr. Bal Thackeray claimed, were taking away jobs from the ‘natives’. According to Anupama Katakam, Shiv Sena never had any lofty ideology and was made up mostly of lumpen elements. It went from strength to strength by propagating communal hate. Now the MNS has stolen its ‘ideology’ and operates in much the same manner (Katakam,2009:16). Search for Identity These and other expressions of communal violence like the recent struggle between the Mina and Gujjar communities in Rajasthan, seem to be an expression of a crisis of identity in a period we can call “beyond modernization”– the period overlaps with the period of globalisation. As the old bases of community in traditional India – joint family, caste, village Panchayat – are being replaced by new bases of identity in an industrialized, urbanized context, the previous homogenous, stable identities of a traditional society are being replaced by pluralistic, flexible, even conflicting identities in the modern context. The search for identity is a natural phenomenon for any individual community, nation. It is the basis of self-understanding based on distinct characteristics that separates one from the other. Identity is the basis of existence, of bonding together in a feeling of belongingness, of sense of community, which is essential for the building up of self, community, nation. The symbols of the national flag, the national anthem, the

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