One of India’s greatest strengths lies in its ability to be enriched by its diversity rather than being destroyed by it.
Maintaining this diversity of language, culture, religion, and geography is the state’s and citizen’s joint and collective responsibility.
Over the past decade, we have increasingly seen an attack on religious and linguistic diversity and an overwhelming attempt on behalf of the state to homogenize. Unfortunately, this state endeavor has found favor with a significant percentage of the Indian population, emboldening the state further.
Seeking similarity and homogeneity is not a new phenomenon.
As a society, it’s relatively simpler and easier to live amidst people who share similar beliefs, speak a familiar language, and have a similar way of living and expressing themselves. Living in a homogeneous society calls upon us less often to recognize and acknowledge our fears arising from religious and cultural differences and complex racial issues.
We don’t have to step out of our comfort zones or attempt to question generations of conditioning and communal or racial hatred. We can continue living with the same mindset and ideas of the other that are borrowed from our ancestors.
As a government, it’s easier to control a group of people who are similar in their beliefs and whose response to situations can be predicted. Governing a diverse group of people potentially comes with a greater threat to the power structure and status quo that has been in place for years.
Over a period of time, a homogenized society begins to stagnate, and any divergence or deviation is seen as an affront and will not be tolerated.
It affects not only the manner in which the state and citizens interact but also the manner in which the citizens interact with each other. Our tolerance levels slowly but surely decrease, and when confronted with people with ideas, beliefs, and a way of life, minutely or drastically different from ours, we struggle.
Eliminating such differences and people seems the easier path. It is far more complex and challenging to recognize the possibility that what has been known to us for years may not be the only way of doing things.
Diversity forces us to step out of ourselves and all that is known to us and open ourselves to the unknown.
It causes us to grow individually and as a society. The enrichment and potential for growth that diversity brings for people, individually and collectively, cannot be overstated. It causes us to stretch and expand our thinking and way of being in ways we never imagined possible.
Unity in diversity will only come when we fully realize the value of diversity and believe that it’s worth fighting for. Unity comes from embracing one another’s differences with or without integrating those differences in our own lives. It comes from being inclusive and opening ourselves more fully.
It is not a one-time endeavor but something that needs to be nurtured, valued, protected, and fought for every single day, generation after generation.