Political Position Beyond Social Identities


To the believers in reactionary ideologies, one’s position in life or social identity based on social background in life is the primary determinant of one’s political beliefs. This is true to some extent, but beliefs in more progressive ideologies or political beliefs can enable one to break away from this pattern is a reality. It has to do with a political position or values determined by the same. Taking a political position beyond ones social identity broadly based on humanitarian values is inconceivable for such proponents. Any position whether a pro-worker, pro-adivasi, pro-dalit, pro-minority or pro-women based on issues of justice or rights is determined by these humanitarian values and consideration of issues of justice.

The statement of the prime minister during the end ceremony of the outgoing vice-president Hamid Ansari should be seen in that light. Hamid Ansari had brought in the issue of the growing sense of fear and insecurity among the Muslim community in India. Prime Minister had stated that this was determined by Ansari’s own experiences of working in Arabic countries as a Diplomat or working with Minority commissions and the fact that he himself was a Muslim. The Prime Minister, a believer in right wing ideology had forgotten the fact that the statement was a reflection of the objective condition prevalent in the country. This issue has also been brought by other non-Muslim citizens in the country including the President (a non-Muslim). Many writers in the country (many non-Muslim) had given away their Sahitya Academy awards citing the growing culture of intolerance including against minorities.

Right wing ideologies are less able to break away from this pattern of taking a positon beyond one’s social identity. It fails to understand – why Teesta Setalvad (a non-Muslim) takes up the issues of social justice of Muslims in Gujarat riots, why BD Sharma (a non-tribal) takes up the issue of Adivasis in the country, why Shankar Guha Niyogi (a non-worker) takes up issues of workers, why Medha Patkar (who never experienced displacement takes up displacement issues) or why
non-dalits can take a position questioning discrimination based on caste or even men be critical on issues of violence against women. Issues of Rights and Justice are alien to conservative and rightwing ideologies.

Growing beyond one’s social identity and taking a political position is a challenge. Political ideologies which believe in maintenance of status-quo or reversal to a society based on inequality based on traditional hierarchies and believe less in issues of rights and justice prevents them from thinking beyond one’s position in life – caste, class, gender, religion and race. Hence organizations wedded to such conservative ideologies or its outfits retains it’s largely caste, class, gender and religious identity. This is reflected in their political position on different issues which involves a social and economic identity.

Thus Rohingya Muslims (victims of minority hatred in Myanmar) who sought refuge in India are shown as a security threat to the country. This is determined by their majoritarian Hindutva view or anti-muslim view of seeing an entire community as potential terrorists. Rohith Vemula (an emerging dalit intellectual) who awakened the nation through his suicide note against the growing insensitiveness gets depicted as a person frustrated in his life. This is in line with their denial of the social reality of Dalit discrimination. The act of attacking Dalits and Minorities in the name of Gau Raksha is determined by their majoritarian upper caste view of seeing beef eating as an impure activity and accordingly violence as justified.

The statement of the prime minister is a reality but with ideological lens upturned. Right wing ideologies never allow a person to think beyond one’s social identity, background and experiences. Hence those with exposure to right wing and conservative ideologies are never able to grow and see things beyond their religious, caste, class, race and regional background and take a political position in line with humanitarian values. Hence events which are questionable from
humanitarian and justice considerations, is a narrow and parochial approach according to such conservative ideologies, when in reality the opposite is true. A political position intended at maintaining a status quo is a parochial approach and the fascist forces aim to continue the same.

T Navin is a Writer and a Researcher. He works with an NGO. He did his M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).


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