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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Identities- Musings on Reasonings and Choices


The Oxford English Dictionary refers identity as the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. There can be vast variations as to how a person perceives or identifies himself as. Identity can be a very complicated matter if we take social norms to considerations. Especially when we take up the case in a vast country like India.

In India, a country where so many myriad communities and sections have sprang up in course of history, has huge differences on the basis of identities. Over the course of history, various ethnic groups and communities have sprung up. Most of the population of this country are descendents of races who migrated from outside. Most of these races have intermingled with each other to such an extent that most identities have merged with one another or have given birth to newer identities as well.

Recognising identities is not an easy fair. If we look into the matter then we find that the rulers who ruled this vast country from time to time have always given much importance to the recognition of identities to stay in power. Recognition of identities has often meant various benefits and privileges to the groups concerned. An example of it can be sited in regards to the prestige and honour received by the Rajputs in the Mughal court. The British were the ones who started to take note of identities on a more concrete basis than any previous power. While conducting surveys, they perhaps made the first real accounts of the various identities that existed in India. Although all this was done for strictly administrative purpose, it surely served the tide of people becoming conscious of their respective identities.

In today’s Indian society, identity is a very important issue. The issues of caste and reservation have made people all the more conscious about their respective identities. The Hindu caste system and the subsequent entry of the Muslims on Indian soil have given rise to various identities that divides the Indian society on a large scale. Now the question arises as to how we should go about in the process of recognising identities in today’s modern world. In the post-independence era, the questions of identities have given rise to various issues and movements. An example of it can be the age old Naga liberation movement which hinges on to the theory of a separate identity from that of the Indian diaspora. The question of reservations is an entire display of the politics of caste identities. The Kashmiri separatist movement is also based on the idea of a separate identity. And then again, when we move down South, we find among the Tamils the idea of rejection of everything North Indian because of their theory of the Dravidian identity.

The ways of reasoning and choice are a part of the argumentative system to arrive at a conclusion. By reasoning we mean to give opinions and reasons to substantiate a point. Reasoning can be a very important tool in the overall process of recognising identities. This society has many divisions. And often it becomes important to ascertain reasons as to why a particular identity should be given to a group. An example of it can be the Gujjar stir in Rajasthan as regards to the demand of SC status by them. Here a set of proper reasoning has to be ascertained so as to come to the conclusion of whether they should be given the SC status or not. A set of reasons regarding their economic and social status can help us in arriving to the point of their status as a Scheduled Tribe.

The use of choice may be another way to come to the basis of an identity. Choice is a way by which the power of decision is vested in the concerned person or group to choose his or their identity. This sense of choice can give us a direction in their thoughts regarding themselves and also as to what has been the cause of their mental makeup regarding the question of their own identities. This is a very intricate way in which we get closer to the subject and learn about their overall socio-political makeup leading to their present choice of identity. An example in this case can be sited of the Tibetans who regard themselves separate from the Chinese who occupy Tibet. Even though the Chinese occupy Tibet and propagate various theories to project Tibet as a part of China. But the Tibetans still hold on to the theory of them as a separate nation and maintain the idea of Tibetan independence.

So we find that reasoning and choice play very important roles in recognition of identities. Identity may be a very complicated issue when we get to the ground realities and issues. But we can always look to various ways to decode identity and arrive at cohesive conclusions to help it deconstruct our socio-political structure.

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