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Year 2001, No 3
Limbs of No Body
indifference to the Afghan tragedy
Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf's account of a journey
By Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Hunger and Democracy
Political Economy of Food in Adivasi Societies
By Archana Prasad
Globalization and Politics of Identity
By Ram Puniyani
The Relevance of Taslima Nasrin
By I K Shukla
'With us or against us' Crisis
Media's hunt for liberal Muslims
By Anjali Mody
Clash of Stereotypes
By Amar Farooqui
In the Name of Right to Education
NAFRE statement
More Quotes from the 'Civilised World'
The people of Afghanistan do not accept domination of the Northern Alliance!
(RAWA) appeal
The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
a history of bio-chemical weapons
By Zoltan Grossman
War Is Peace
By Arundhati Roy
Hypocrisy, Hatred and the War on Terror
By Robert Fisk
The Coming Apocalypse
By Geov Parrish
The Disinformation Campaign
By Phillip Knightley
There is no war on terrorism
By John Pilger
Globalization and Politics of Identity

Last decade and a half has been one of the most turbulent phases of our society. This phase has been marked on one side by the phenomenon popularly called as globalization and by the resurgence of Identity politics or Religion based nationalism on the other. Globalization is the ongoing process of the development of Capitalism-Industrialization and is its logical extension in time. Industrial process is by its very nature global and during last fifteen years adverse effects of the higher phase of this process on poor strata of society have become glaringly obvious.

Collapse of Socialist States

One of the reasons for the heightened nature of this phenomenon is also collapse of 'socialist' states. These states, which came up in early and middle parts of Twentieth century were basically trying to usher in an Industrial society, were trying to bring in Nationalism and breaking the hold of colonial powers in their countries. As most of these countries had colonial set ups, the process of Industrialization and land reforms was riddled with too many obstacles. In these countries 'collective National bureaucracy' had to substitute the functions of the Industrialists by bringing up the state sponsored industrialization. In this, the free play of market forces was not there and due to the absence of market as the regulating mechanism for the production process the systems developed serious flaws which were not compatible with their survival in the capitalist world order.

Decline of United Nations

Meanwhile the Industrialized countries, where the free market was the regulating mechanism, kept competing with the Socialist economies and this competition was manifest at political level in the form of Cold war. With the collapse of Socialist states cold war came to an end. Also it signaled a new era where the leader of 'Free World' America, took over as the sole power determining the policies of the world. This also swirled back the gains of the experiment of United Nations coming up as the World Government in embryo. The world in a sense has become uni-polar, with US calling the shots and determining the world policies most of, which are in tune with expansion of its economic interests at the cost of the interests of the other smaller powers.

It is during this period that the notion of clash of interests between the rich and poor people, rich and poor Nations got replaced by the propping up of Identities, especially Religious one's, determining the goals and policies of the Nations and people. In a way as we argue this is an attempt to hide the basic contradiction between the worldly interests of the people and Nations of different economic strata.

Indian Scenario

To begin with in our own country the politics till early eighties was based on the issues related to survival, bread, shelter and clothing and employment. From the middle part of 80s the religiosity of the section of affluent-upper caste started taking shape in the form of increased projection of jagarata, pilgrimage to Vasishno Devi and different sorts of campaigns around Holy Yatras etc. This was a period when the early effects of globalization were becoming apparent in the society and the restlessness amongst deprived sections was rising. The quest for gender and social justice also started making its impact on the social scene. The assertion of the sections supporting religion-based politics started going up and reached its peak with the events related to religion-based issues. Religion started being projected in a central issue and concern. In Indian context, on one side we saw the rise in religiosity of the affluent Hindu sections and on the other the Muslims in the grip of orthodox Mullahs made Shah Bano judgment as the rallying point for mobilizing the broad sections of Muslims. This forced the Govt. to amend the law regarding main tense of Muslim divorcees. Also the pressure of groups basing their politics on Hindutva forced the govt. to open the gate of Babri Masjid and perform Shilanyas for the building of Ram Temple. The heightened passions arouse around temple led to the Rath Yatra, leaving behind it a trail of blood, demolition of Babri Masjid and the post demolition riots all over the country. The reaction of this spill-over in neighboring countries was quite severe. Bangla Desh and Pakistan both witnessed communal actions in the aftermath of demolition of Babri Masjid. The formulation that we want a Hindu Rashtra came up in a strong way and for the first time the concept of Secular democracy, the concept, which was the product of Freedom struggle and the basis of our Constitution, came under the shadow of doubt and criticism. The major issues hovering on the social psyche remained the issues as to when to build the temple, how to protect the mosque, how it is important to uphold the religious traditions etc.

Education-In reverse Gear

Meanwhile the educational system came for a severe overhaul. Plans are afoot to introduce the faith based knowledge systems like astrology, Karmakand (Brahminical rituals) and many a similar courses in the Universities in the name of traditions. In education also so far the trend was to strive towards rationalization as far as possible. Now that effort has been totally jeopardized and the journey in reverse gear seems to be on. In the context of the country, while the majoritarian tendency is trying to project the 'preservation' and introduction of Hindu values as National values, the minority seems to be under threat and rather than concentrating on the issues of this world, its religious leaders have been imposing the retrograde norms and practices on the minority community.

Ethnicity to the Fore

It is interesting that during this time as the socialist economies collapsed many a Nation states disintegrated and the ethnicity based Nations came in to being giving rise to the massacre of minority ethnic groups in Bosnia and Chechnya. The Palestinians, who have been deprived of their home and hearth to form the state called Israel, have been the most dissatisfied group in the world. Their aspirations as people and a group have been floored in front of the might of Israel, duly supported by United States. The aggression on Iraq a decade ago has left five million Iraqi's in the grip of poverty hunger and disease. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was opposed by encouraging the religious identity of Afghans rather than their National secular identity and that's what gave birth to Osama Bin Laden's and the cult of terrorist violence.

Is the correlation between the rise of identity politics in our own country and in different parts of the world a mere coincidence? The two major trends, which can be discerned are that with the rise of Nation states the problems related to 'this world', came to the fore. Concept of Secular and welfarist state came into being. The events if seen in totality show the deeper linkage and chronological order between the decline of state controlled economies, intensification of adverse effects of globalization, rise of America as the lone super power of the world, decline of the authority of United Nations, decline of Non-Aligned movement, rise of Fascist-Fundamentalist politics in our own country and worsening of the problems of the poor and deprived. The concept of Human rights is being undermined to project the norms of religious communities where the language of rights has no meaning at all.

Changing Paradigms

The change in the paradigm of the world politics is quite significant and its impact on the affairs of the world is going to be profound. The thesis of Samuel Huntington of clash between civilizations is appealing at the surface; but it cannot stand the scrutiny of the deeper social dynamics. It ignores that the social and political interests of different section in the same civilization are not the same. The politics of the world and state and society is not conducted based on the culture and civilizations. It is the material interests of the rulers and ruling sections, which take cover of religion or civilization to further their material interests. At the global scenario United States and other powerful Nations want to continue to maintain their hold on the areas which are rich in oil. It is because of that, that a loyal state, Israel, was created out of the land and resources of Palestinians. It was because of that that the Talibans were created and supported through the conduit of Pakistan. Had it been the clash between the Western (please mark here that by and large the ideologues of the affluent states use Geographic, Western terminology for their own self, so it is Western and not Christian, while for others the religion based terminology is used) and Islamic civilization then why all so called Muslim countries are nor supporting Osama and the Taliban? Taliban came to power by fighting against the forces of King's forces. Iran and Iraq were engaged in a long bloody battle in which America was fuelling the war by supporting Iraq. Why all Christians are not supporting the present aggression of US? In our own context it is projected as if it is a clash between Hindus and Muslims. And the facts can never be more flawed than in this case. With the party supposed to be doing its moves for protection of Hindus who are more 85% of the population, can not get beyond 24% of votes even at the best of times?

Politics behind Projecting Clash of Civilizations

In Indian context the process of social transformation and the turmoil caused due to the adverse effects of globalization was picking up from mid 80s, it was also the period when the effects of lopsided industrialization resulted in the rise of a affluent upper caste section which suffered existential anxiety and was deeply scared of its interests being affected adversely due to the process of social transformation. This section wanted to impose a type of status quo vis-a-vis the social relationships. It resorted to the politics based on Hindutva. Incidentally the politics supposed to be based religion is generally based on the hatred if the followers of other's religion or on the repression of weaker sections of society like women and dalits. It creates a hysterical atmosphere in the passion of which the real issues of society are put under the carpet.

At global level one can say that this identity politics is a construct of the superpowers, which want to conceal the adverse effects of globalization and want to further consolidate and expand their hold on the smaller Nations, especially in the oil rich zones. The current terms of globalization are very much against the weaker Nations and weaker people. Also it is a lop sided globalization in the sense that while economy is being globalized the polity is becoming more restricted, exclusive and centered around some Western powers, more particularly the US. Globalization of economy has to be an accompaniment of the democratization and political integration of the world in to a single global village if one may say so. But de facto since some powers are controlling the economy and they want to enhance their economic and political hold over different small Nations. It is this goal of theirs', which makes them use the Identity politics as a cover for their expansionist designs. While the capital from powerful nation can mop up the profits from the weaker nations the labor remains chained in the visa system controlled by powerful nation states. While the economy is globalizing the world democratic system is stifled in the form of emasculation of the potential world government, the United Nations. While economy is globalized the power is centralized in the hands of few or even the sole power nation of the world. And it is this context that control over oil resources becomes crucial in the calculations of the United States. And so the democratic debate is scuttled, not possible and we see the monopoly of power rising on the grave of the multi-polar world and the demise of the clout of world body, the Unite Nations. We see the decline of the democratic norms and the projection of identity politics as the cause of the present turmoil. Identity politics is a propped up phenomenon serving the cause of the rich and powerful people, rich and powerful nation states. And this is done at the cost of the poor nations and deprived people in theses countries. This gets passed off as the major issue of the day.

What should be Done?

The present scene is very dismal and requires serious consideration on the part of all the thinking and concerned people of the world. It is imperative that issues of this world need to be brought to the fore. It is necessary that the retrograde base of politics be opposed tooth and nail to restore the democratic ethos on an unshakable ground of the need and THIS world. It is easier d=said than done. But it is the only option if we want to save the world from the precipice on which it is standing. A worldwide non-violent movement fro World Democracy, a United Nations which is powerful and democratic expressing the aspirations of all the World is the only way which can protect us from the unwarranted wars and to eliminate the causes, which breeds terrorism, which breed poverty, hunger and disease.

(The writer teaches at IIT Mumbai and is also Secretary of EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity)

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