oppn parties Politics of Religion, Caste, Creed, Region and Language

News Snippets

  • Flipkart assures employees that there will be no job or salary cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Although it was obvious, but the government still clarifies that there is no need to switch off appliances and only lights need to be switched off on April 5 at 9pm after confusion in the minds of some people
  • PM Modi and President Trump decide "to deploy full strength of (Indo-US) partnership" to fight against COVID-19
  • 17 states have reported 1023 cases of coronavirus linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, which translates to 30% of all positive cases in India
  • The government says people should not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before lighting diyas or candles on April 5
  • The railways say there is no certainty yet when services will resume after the lockdown and a final decision will be taken in the next few days
  • As coronavirus cases multiply in Assam, six north-east states seal their borders with the state
  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd. (POCOSO) putting all systems and protocols in place at war-footing to ensure there is no grid failure due to reduction in demand on April 5 at 9 pm
  • Power ministry scotches rumours that the power grid might fail due to the 9-minute blackout called by PM Modi on Sunday, April 5
  • Centre asks people to wear home-made masks if it is absolutely essential for them to step out of homes
  • Centre asks states to allow licensed street vendors to sell essential items
  • 8000 samples were tested across India on April 2, but the government said that testing will be need-based and will not be used as a confidence-boosting measure
  • Air India operating special flights to fly passengers stuck in India since the lockdown
  • For the first time in history, Darjeeling loses first flush tea due to suspension of garden work for Covid-19 outbreak
  • Supreme Court asks journalists to be responsible and publish only the official version of news after it was brought to its notice that migrant exodus started after the 'fake' news that the lockdown will be extended to three months
Total count stands ar 3082 as India records 16 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in a single day
oppn parties
Politics of Religion, Caste, Creed, Region and Language

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2017-01-06 07:38:00

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
There are many different strands that can be debated in the issue of separating politics from religion, caste, creed, region and language based identities. The divided bench in the Supreme Court took up two prominent strands and debated them with felicity. That they decided on the problem at hand by a wafer thin majority of 4-3 to outlaw appeals for votes based on both the candidates and the voters’ identity affiliations just goes on to prove that this is a very complex issue not given to easy solutions and certainly not solutions via judicial intervention.

The first strand relates to the need to provide political space to the requirements of the groups belonging to particular religion, caste, creed and region or speaking a particular language who have been historically oppressed for that reason and balance it with the need to have fair electoral practices that do not divide people along such sectarian lines.

While the first need is necessary because political parties often acquire an all-India presence but not a character to go with it. For example, the Congress party historically won most state elections in the North-East till recently. But since its policies where decided through fiat from the so-called high command and local satraps had no power, it only managed to alienate entire populations, giving rise to regional aspirations that were peculiar to the region. This in turn gave birth to mainstream political parties (as distinct from ultras) in those regions that unabashedly appealed to the regional identity of the population to win elections. If we are to agree with the Supreme Court verdict in the above case, do we leave these people to continue to suffer at the hands of politicians far removed from the realities of the region or even local politicians of such parties whose hands are tied since the parties they belong to that are indifferent to local grievances? Will such a path not be hugely oppressive at one level and highly discriminatory at another?

There can be no argument that India needs to do away with sectarian politics that divide its people along religious, casteist, regional and linguistic lines. By allowing this to continue, we are creating several mini-India’s that have the possibility of becoming ghettos, imbibing all the bad qualities associated with them. We are also allowing self-serving leaders to hijack the agenda of the people and profit from their fears. We are also dangerously allowing such mini-India’s to work at cross purposes and defeat the efforts to have a national identity for our people. Hence, we have parties fighting for the so-called Marathi manoos, the Biharis or the Tamils or the Muslims but none fighting for Indians. The common Indian man has lost his identity and has been given such tags as found fit by politicians claiming to represent him.

The need is to balance the two. But this cannot be done by judicial intervention. While one cannot fault the Supreme Court on this as it has just interpreted and given a wider interpretation to section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act, this is one area where society has to take the lead in discussing ways to eliminate sectarian politics and get relevant laws passed by the legislature. This is the second strand. Justice D Y Chandrachud, while writing the dissenting judgment, correctly said that “discussion on caste, creed, religion is constitutionally protected within and outside elections and this cannot be restricted,” while adding that “it is a matter of free speech and through this legitimate concerns of the society are addressed.” Going by this majority judgment, if we are to do away with appeals for votes based on religion, caste, creed or language, should we also do away with reservation of legislative seats for scheduled caste and tribes? For, if asking for votes on parochial basis is illegal, then surely standing for election on a seat reserved on that basis is also wrong. This is a much wider debate that cannot be settled through court orders.