The value of Pluralism does not mean free for all
[dropcap]A[/dropcap] few days ago, Prime Minister Dr Manmnohan Singh said that “pluralism is the key to India’s civilization and culture,” at the inaugural session of the conference of State Minorities Commissions in New Delhi.
For representatives of various Minorities Commissions coming together annually implies religious harmony, not mere tolerance and such is the bedrock of India’s secularism. The Constitution of India, therefore, has provisions for several rights which are intended to protect the interests and rights of all citizens including religious minorities.This in itself is a gigantic task considering that India has over a billion population comprising numerous communities speaking over 1,000 languages. The matter of pluralism comes to the fore on account of India’s history because it has mostly been invaded from the West via Afghanistan and what is now Pakistan.
Perhaps the best known invasion was by the Greek Alexander the Great who reached what is now Kashmir in 327 BC. It had taken him and his army to teach after three years of land march. When after finally defeating Porus he decide to move back home, thousands of his troops also deserted en masse. A number of these deserters stayed put in what is now northern part of Himachal Pradesh, took brides and tilled the land and their descendants still practice some of the old Greek customs. Likewise, a greater number settled in what is now Waziristan of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
Since then, a number of invasions mostly by Muslim rulers, continued over the decades and centuries from Afghanistan as also Nadir Shah of Iran (Persia). Till at last, in early 1600s came the advent of the British headed by Sir Thomas Roe and later the Parsees during the reign of Emperor Jehangir. The Mughals also tried to invade Assam but were repelled and some Sikh soldiers decided to remain behind and are still settled near Nagaon and yet not entirely losing whatever vestiges of their heritage.
As for the Nagas, Mizos, Ahoms and other tribal communities of the North-East, it is for sure they came from the east and south-east but in number of strength (population-wise) are minorities. From this it follows that India, like the United States is also a conglomeration of so many communities (perhaps even smaller nations).
To understand and appreciate the significance of pluralism is not to impose the strength of the majority population. It is sometimes unfortunate that while the Hindu majority tend to exercise their greater strength in numbers, the Muslims also have never forgotten that they ruled the country for centuries. In the process, the minority communities sometimes took the brunt of it.
Back home, whether we Nagas like it or not, even our Nagaland is now a pluralistic society. For instance, we have a sizeable population of Nepalis who were brought over by the British for tending cows, soldiering and other duties. Then we have several other communities like the Kacharis, Karbis, Kukis who are comparatively minorities in our State but the Nagaland Government does ensure provisions for them to seek Government jobs also.
It is, therefore, right and proper, that we should care for the minorities in our State while at the same time we assert our rights and privileges in all aspects including education et al as enshrined in the Constitution of the “largest Constitution” in the world.
But this does not go without saying that the role of the state to judiciously provide welfare to its population depends also on genuine and valid documentation of its population.
The current brewing issue of illegal migrants and the issuing of Electoral Photo Identity cards (EPIC) to migrant workers directly influences the welfare of the ‘minority’ population.
Before the rhetorics of ‘pluralism’ as being key to India’s civilization and culture hit the high notes on the eve of another Lok Sabha elections …political parties and governments need to wake up to the imperative vital need for ‘genuine citizens registry’ based on impartial and strict rules rather than the ‘electoral vote politics’. The consideration for this factor is endangering minority states particularly in north-east India, and in particular Nagaland as it shares its state boundaries with Assam, which has landed herself in the grip of an irreversible demographic change, with the influx of illegal migrants.
It is also to be hoped that the minorities nation-wide keep constantly in touch and remain united for their combined strength would be a sizeable vote bank in itself.
Therein, like the United States described as a “nation of nations among nations” we may also one day be a greater nation.