SHIMLA: Laying stress on the need to recognise the concept of multiple identities for any meaningful effort to find a way forward in forging national integration, senior CPI(M) leader and MP Mr. Sitaram Yechury today said communalism seeks to impose religious uniformity and failure to recognise the reality of multiple identities will only result in imploding of the society.
In his inaugural address kicking off the three-day national seminar on “National Integration and Multiple Identities: Dialectics of Inclusiveness and Exclusion in Indian Society” at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, Mr. Yechury donned his academic avatar, quoting from India’s syncretic traditions to stress that the intellectuals need to pick up the threads of these traditions and build on the bonds of commonality to preserve national integrity.
In his presidential address, Prof. Bhalchandra Mungekar, Chairman of the IIAS, Shimla and Member, Planning Commission, gave a clarion call to the intellectuals to put complete annihilation of the concept of caste on their primary agenda. “Race and caste ought to be destroyed at once. Unfortunately, except Ambedkar, Indian intellectuals never made annihilation of caste as their agenda,” Prof Mungekar said.
He said one of the reasons why the intellectuals as a class failed on this front was that mainstream intellectuals were not adversely affected by the caste system. “Identities are used and misused (but) I have got tremendous faith in the common man and woman in this country,” he said in the context of use and misuse of multiple identities in competitive power politics.
The national seminar, organised by the IIAS, Shimla in association with the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, is set to feature a galaxy of top names from the world of intellectuals, including Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Prof Rajendra Prasad, Prof Sudhir Kakar, V.Ramachandran, Prof A.C. Bhagbati, B.N.Yugandhar, Member, Planning Commission, T.V.Rao, Abid Hussain and some others.
Mr. Madhukar Sinha, Secretary of the IIAS, Shimla, who coordinated the proceedings, added a touch of humour when he referred to the fact that the seminar has pulled Mr Yechury out of numerical problems like 123, helped of course by the early adjournment of the Parliament, thus enabling the pressed-for-time politico to spend some time in exhilarating intellectual environs.
Mr. Yechury, though expressing happiness at the chance to speak on meaningful issues other than the Indo-US nuclear deal, did refer to the raging controversy over Ram Setu and pleaded with the intellectuals to help separate theology from philosophy and guard against mythology being treated as philosophy. “The process of national integration is not just a recognition of multiple identities but also granting the space for it…Modernity is equality of opportunity to all,” Mr. Yechury said.
Referring to himself, Mr. Yechury said he is a Telugu by birth, was born in an Andhra Brahman family (“I did not have a choice,” he chuckled), born in Chennai in the then Madras General Hospital, was educated in Hyderabad, a city with a matrix of Islamic culture, studied at St Stephens and JNU in Delhi and was elected from Kolkata. “This is the reality of multiple identities, but the question is not of the validity of the identities but a recognition that we have to live in the reality of multiple identities and to learn to reach a confluence rather than impose uniformity,” he said. Mr. Yechury, a key player in the coalition politics of the country, said the very concept of coalition did not signify a regression of democracy but was rather a symbol of thriving democratic tradition reflecting the reality of multiple identities.
Prof K.Ramakrishna Rao, Chairman of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, who played a key role in getting the top shots of the intellectual world to come together for the national seminar, welcomed all participants