“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
India, a massive country of diversity that is unparalleled and unfathomable to scale, with the winds rising from the great Himalayas to the tides gradual ebb and flow that marks that coast of the Kanyakumari, with the arid landscape of the sand worn Thar to the hillscapes of the Kanchenjunga, India bears its diversity with pride.
Much like its geographic features, diversity transcends beyond the mere superficial and finds its abode in the temperaments, culture, tradition, language and religion of the masses. Birthplace to several major religions, most significantly, Hinduism and Buddhism, India is also home to all the major religions globally with varying cultures that differentiate their being as unique.
However, as has been repeated, India’s greatest pride is also her greatest bane. The diversity that is magnified through the country has been one of the major causes of concern for the general populace and the state’s sanctity as a whole. The presence of the said diversified communities demands the representation of the said communities on the national level.
However, it has been a long forlorn truth that more the diversity of the populace, more the possibilities of nerve-racking conflict. Starting from the beginning of time, human beings have often wondered with gasped breaths and suspicious stares about how another person’s socio-cultural upbringing is different from theirs — even the ones belonging to the same community group as them.
As much as we celebrate the diversity of India’s culture, there will always be a community of people who will quiver with fear as they gaze upon another community in their society with dazed eyes due to how different both their cultures are; till the moment the fear adopts the garb of violence.
In February 2020, India witnessed the cruellest and the most dystopian political climates in the quintessential abode of religious multiculturalism and diversity — Northeast Delhi. However, the haven was not to stay for long.
“I want to tell him that till the U.S. President (Donald Trump) is in India, we are leaving the area peacefully. After that, we won’t listen to you (police) if the roads are not vacated by then…we will have to take to the streets.”
And with this speech, BJP leader, Kapil Mishra, began laying the foundation stones of the riots that resulted in the deaths of 53 Indians, of which about two-thirds were Muslim. The terror of the saffron had spread through the burning streets of Jafrabad, Seelampur and Maujpur. Houses lay in tatters while the homegrown businesses lay in flames.
The saffron terror knew neither creed nor colour, for everything that lay in their path was destroyed. In retaliation, the Muslim community of the said area took to arms and, thus, broke out the fear-inducing bloodshed between the two communities. One seeks to ask the quintessential question as to what the authorities were doing at the said time and one would be right in asking the said question. And the answer would be that they were mere bystanders, who often helped the perpetrators commit their atrocities.
Thus, we come to the point of revelation in the form of the Constitution of India. The Constitution insinuates the basic freedoms, duties, and laws to be meted out to the masses without presumptive malice. And within the holy grail of Indian democracy, minorities find their armour and shield.
These Articles beg us to ponder how far these go in ensuring the basic fundamental right to live with dignity of religious and linguistic minorities in India. Through the years of India’s independence, it has been the foreboding debate that many a minority have been left deprived of the basic right to live with dignity, starting from the infamous sterilisation drive initiated by the Indira Gandhi government to the most recent Delhi pogrom.
Coming back to the famous quote made by Dr Martin Luther King Jr with which the article began, his vision was utopian. Obviously, in a society that pits one person against another, inequality will forever be the mainstay. However, it is also true that the moment we pit a person against another owing solely based on their religion, ethnicity or native language, we lose our morality and humanity loses its speck of light by the minute.
It brings to mind the age-old debate as to whether or not these rights are sufficient to protect the interest of minorities, or has the time come for the authorities to define minorities in the Indian Constitution?
By Kushan Niyogi