Indian society was always divided by caste, religion, language and many other categories. However, the identity of a united nation is something we have been proud of since our childhood.
While growing up in a middle-class family, we did not feel the presence of tension, besides political tension, which was manifested mainly through the media and newspapers. All the political parties during the elections were eager to draft their manifesto with promises to eliminate poverty and offered sops for the people at the lowest rung of Indian society, also officially called the Scheduled Caste, comprising 16% of India’s population (200 million people).
|Jaipur, India – Carrying water home – Ibrahim Rifath|
Soon after its independence in 1947, India introduced a reservation system to enhance the ability of Scheduled Caste people to have political representation and to obtain government jobs and education while caste-based discrimination was prohibited and untouchability was abolished by the Constitution of India. In the quest to provide a better tomorrow to all its citizens, the state took many lofty steps, but their implementation lagged, creating tension among various ethnic groups. During the first three decades after independence, India had the “Hindu rate of growth,” a term referring to the low annual growth rate of the planned economy of India, which stagnated around 3.5%. Many economists pointed out that the “Hindu rate of growth” was a result of socialist policies implemented by governments.
The country wanted to improve the lives of millions of people who were deprived of education, health and basic amenities.
|Kolkata, India – In the city of joy – Loren Joseph|
The rich and middle class has a responsibility to these people. And the government tried to correct mistakes by creating reservations and taking other affirmative action. Some people were and are still apprehensive that these actions are creating divisions among people, but the fact that multiple governments of different political parties that ruled the country always tried to keep the reservation system in place, indicates that the job of moving millions of poor people into the mainstream had not yet been finished.
Independence has raised the aspirations of the oppressed people. But the more the oppressed people asserted themselves, the more resistance they faced from people in other higher classes.
|Pune, India – At night – Atharva Tulsi|
Then came the great Indian pro-market reforms in 1990. All of a sudden, talking about welfare took a back seat. The country opened up, bringing opportunities and risks, reducing the welfare provided by the government and becoming integrated into the global trade system. The net result is that there was a huge expansion of the economy, growth of the middle class and all-round progress. Did that progress reach the lowest rung of society? Has there been a reduction in the amount of division that kept poor people deprived of all the benefits? The question people asked is how inclusive this growth process has been.
The fall of the USSR discredited the very idea of centralized planning, with the state as the guarantor of equality and social welfare. The government started to reduce subsidies and benefits for the marginalized parts of society, citing competition in the laissez-faire economy. As the Indian economy opened up and became liberalized, global socialism turned into a bad word and capitalist jargon was heard much more frequently.
|Kolkata, India – Lost on a train – Braden Barwich|
Nonetheless, let us face the fact: Indian society today is polarized. This polarization is not simply bi- or tri-polar, with one or two or three groups or sections or communities or states. The country is polarized on various planes – religious, economic, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, caste, rural/urban and many others. Polarization creates an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. A polarized society is often prone to take extremist positions.
Polarization is closely connected with conflict. An unequal or polarized Indian society thus became a victim of that conflict. Splinter political groups leaned towards left extremism and joined armed struggles with the government, and over the years they expanded their base in various states of India. Various economic, linguistic, social, religious and ethnic groups started taking extreme positions on a number of issues.
|Ahmedabad, India – In the window – Pop & Zebra|
The multidimensional polarization was accentuated by many instances of division: caste, rural-urban, state, region, religion, etc. The emergence of computer technology added a digital dimension to these divisions, with its associated benefits and pitfalls. Electronic and print media is increasingly facilitating extreme positions in social and political debates. In the quest for higher ratings, media companies are leaving no stone unturned to attract attention in 24×7 broadcasting, even often at the cost of social harmony. Saner debates are becoming things of the past. Taking sides is the order of the day.
Social scientists have referred to this as identification alienation. Individuals belonging to one particular group identify with each other and are alienated from those belonging to another group. The advent of social media has enabled similar groups to connect and act on a real-time basis across various geographic locations. Various agitation programs pursued by diverse groups can easily bring thousands of people to the street at short notice thanks to Whatsapp, Facebook and other internet media. At the same time, pictures of social agitation, discontent and extremist actions are beamed through televisions into our homes as and when they happen. Individual anger is channeled into group agitation.
|India – On the street – Elle|
Polarization is a group phenomenon and will increase if there is stronger identification among people within a group or if alienation among groups becomes more intense. The latter applies to India’s socio-political climate today where groups are no longer tolerant of other ideas and paths.
My country is at the crossroads today.
Snapshot 1: Idar, India – Over the golden water – Vivek Doshi (Unsplash)
Snapshot 2: Jaipur, India – Carrying water home – Ibrahim Rifath (Unsplash)
Snapshot 3: Kolkata, India – In the city of joy – Loren Joseph (Unsplash)
Snapshot 4: Pune, India – At night – Atharva Tulsi (Unsplash)
Snapshot 5: Kolkata, India – Lost on a train – Braden Barwich (Unsplash)
Snapshot 6: Ahmedabad, India – In the window – Pop & Zebra (Unsplash)
Snapshot 7: India – On the street – Elle (Unsplash)
Cinemblem voiceover: Nathan Jackson
Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel
The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes
Ahmed, Amina. Growing up with Abuse: A Life of Extremes – Lebanon. April 2019.
Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.
Awdejuk, Pawel. Pole-arization – Poland. June 2019.
Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.
Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.
Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.
Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.
Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.
Dastan, S.A. Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Turkey. August 2019.
Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.
Gomez, Javier. The Canyon Inside Us – Argentina. July 2019.
Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019
Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.
Julber, Lillian. Difficult to Understand – Uruguay. July 2019.
Kanunova, Nigina. Role of Polarization in the Life of an Individual and Society – Tajikistan. July 2019.
Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.
Protić, Aleksandar. Linguistic Balkanization as a Means of Polarization – The Balkans. June 2019.
Ranaldo, Mary. Social Polarization – Italy. April 2019.
Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.
Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.
Sekulić, Jelena. The Polarizacija of Serbian Culture – Serbia. June 2019.
Sem, Sebastião. Brandos Costumes – Portugal. July 2019.
Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.
Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.
Skobic, Alexandar. The Loss of Identity – The Balkans. April 2019.
Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.
Spirito, Julieta. A Thought about Polarized Insecurity – Argentina. April 2019.
Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children – Peru. April 2019.
Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019
Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.
Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.
CW 33 – Russia – Anastasiya Zakharova
CW 34 – Canada – Maha Husseini
CW 35 – Spain – Virginia Sanmartin Lopez
CW 36 – Turkey – Peren Cakir
CW 37 – Armenia – Hayk Antonyan
CW 38 – Italy – Sara Deiana
CW 39 – Montenegro – Nikolina Pavicevic
CW 40 – Columbia – Christian Escobar
CW 41 – Kenya – Kenn Mwangi
CW 42 – Pakistan – Muhammad Kashif Shahid
CW 43 – Tunisia – Sarah Turki
CW 44 – Estonia – Margot Arula
CW 45 – Ghana/Nigeria – Ekua Ortsin
CW 46 – Dominican Republic – Aura De Los Santos
CW 47 – Montenegro – Nikolina Pavicevic
CW 48 – America – ???
CW 49 – Philippines – Kristian Uusitalo
CW 50 – Hungary – Zoltan Monar
CW 51 – Syria/UAE/Egypt – Ahmed Ibrahim
CW 52 – Nigeria – Ethelbert Umeh
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed