Dialectics of identity and development : A new outlook
- Part 1 -

Dr Longjam Krishnamangol *

The present article seeks to bring out some of the implications of identity and its relations with development in the context of the demand made for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in the Scheduled Tribe list under the Indian Constitution and the conflicts that arise between the CSOs of the two communities as a result of the demand made by some CSOs of the Meitei Community.

To begin with, it can pointed out that the identity of an Indian Citizen cannot be changed or disturbed without the consent of the person or communities in which he or she (i.e. the citizen) lives. In fact, in India citizens live in their own States although there is provision for free movement of the citizens or population of the country, under the Indian Constitution, and the country and the States of the country are protected under the Indian Constitution.

And, in States where there is ILP system, there is restriction or permission from outside the State for entry in the State. In fact, the domicile of any citizen of India is the State or place of the country the person lives. Thus, part III of the Indian Constitution provides certain fundamental rights in terms of various provisions, which enable any person or any Indian citizen to establish his or her identity and freedom relating to religious, cultural and other rights or practices which are given in the fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution.

Thus, Christians and Hindus or Hinduism have different identities in terms of religions and cultures. Likewise, other religious communities or groups also have different identities. In fact, in our country (India) different religions are followed or practiced by the different communities. And the mode of religious practices are also different.

Thus, the freedom of religious and cultural rights given under the fundamental rights of the Indian Constitution determine the identity of the people and their religions in the country. In fact, from the social point of view the identity of a person is closely related with the religions that he or she practices or follows that is to say religion determines the identity of a person whether he or she is a Hindu, Christian, or a Muslim.

In fact, it indicates the characteristic features of the persons in their social and cultural life. Thus, all religions are equally treated under the Indian Constitution. As India's former President Sarvepalli Dr Radhakrishnan (known as Dr S Radhakrishnan) had pointed out. "Ours has been a country where all religions are welcomed, not merely tolerated, and they are appreciated by the practitioners of other religions" (S Radhakrishnan, The Adaptive Indian : Identity and Ethos, (1976 & 2007, reprinted in 2013, pp.9 & 11).

Thus, the Indian Constitution provides full freedom for promoting, practicing and establishing our own identity. In fact, the identity crisis may emerge when there is change in the individual life status or the social status in terms of religions. To promote social order and social framework or system, the identity crisis needs to be checked.

It has also been pointed out : "Whether you are a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian, your differences related to the ways of approach or forms of address."( Ibid.P.11). Thus, in understanding the identity of a person, it is observed that there are differences in the modes of religion or the ways that he or she practices and the expression of ideas in the guest for the goal of religion.

However, he further pointed out that once the religious quest is completed when you are able to reach your goal of completing yourself, of intergrading your personality, from whatever religion you come, you feel that you belong to "one common family" (Ibid., p.11). Thus, there is the need for peaceful cooperation or peaceful co-existence of all persons who practice different religions.

And all religious berries that stand in the way of development need to be removed for promoting and transforming different religions, and protecting the identity of the people in terms of religion and culture. But, there are circumstances which force or compel a person to change his or her identity. And, in doing so, human rights should not be violated.

Having seen the relationship between the identity of a person and religion associated with culture that he or she practices, we may briefly touch on the basic aspects of the identity of a person in order to get an insight into the key issues of identity in development. In fact, there exists authorities and rules of any country to verify or check the identity of a person.

This is usually done or can be done when there is the need to do so according to the existing rules of the country. And, there are different identities of different persons within a country. Also, the identity of a foreigner is different from the identity of an Indian. As Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen has pointed out, identity is a complicated matter (Amartya Sen, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, p. XI ).

However, in the case of Indian, we have the same identity in terms of Nationality under the Indian Constitution (i.e. the Indian Citizenship). But, the difficulty arises when we ask the question : Who is really the person or what is the identity of the person ? In the case of Nationality, it is easy to answer the question. For example, he or she is an Indian. That is to say, the person is an Indian citizen or identified as Indian citizenship.

But in checking the identity of the persons, the illegal immigrants and illegal migrants are excluded or need to be excluded from entry into the country or the State of the country (as India) as per the existing rules in order to protect National and State's security, and avoid undesirable or illegal actions that may happen in the country (i.e. India) and the State (i.e. Manipur). As the international or global terrorism ( e.g. the activist of 1915) and the wars and cold wars continue to increase in many pockets or countries (e.g. war between Ukraine and Russia and its impact on other countries), it is highly imperative to tighten the implementation of the existing laws and rules of the country to check the entry of illegal foreigners.

In fact, the checking of immigrants and migrants needs to be done in a people friendly way as it is a complicated process. Thus, it is highly essential to protect and promote the identity of the people of the country and the State within the framework of the Indian Constitution.

It is further interesting to note that the term " identity" is now redefined in various ways. However, our reliance and Constitutional requirement on the identity of a person still lies on Nationality or domicile. Again, apart from concept of Indian Nationality, religion, professions etc. also play important role in identifying a person. Thus, the people of India have Indian citizenship.

It is also well known that the citizen of India may belong to any State of the country. Thus, his or her identity is Indian citizenship or Indian citizen belonging to or residing in any State of the country. Again, the Indian citizen may belong to a particular religion or a particular religious group. That is to say, the person may follow a particular religion. And, the person following or practicing a particular religion may be regarded as a person belonging to that class of religion.

Thus, religion has a class character, which is generally conflicting. And, if all religions are harmonious, it will be no conflicts. Here, it may further be pointed out that Nationality or the domicile and religion are among other things the two indicators that determine the identity of a person. And, this type of identity may be interpreted as individual identity or National identity of the citizen or the person.

Again, there are other indicators of identity of a person, such as caste, profession, skills, knowledge, etc. that also determine the extra identity of the person. Again, the individual identity may share with other persons of a particular group.

Amartya Sen has concepualised this idea of sharing an identity with others of a particular group as "Social identity". Thus, the emergence of the concept of social identity increases complexity in the society, State and the country. In fact, the social identity exists at different levels or categories. It is found at the political levels, social levels (at the state level or society as a whole), community levels and other different groups or classes.

There may be the practice of membership of a particular group or class. And, all members belonging to a particular group or class may be treated as having the essential feature of a particular social identity or group identity. Thus, a particular identity or individual identity may be a member within the group or class. In this case a person's only identity or singular identity will merge into the same group or class, which fulfils the idea of social identity or group identity.

But there may be a large number of persons, who are not members of this group or class. And, they may belong to other groups, parties or associations which may be treated as a different social groups or classes. Thus, there are always conflicts among different social groups or social identities. In fact an individual or singular identity belonging to a social identity may not like the ideology or objectives of another social identity.

Naturally, the conflict arises between the two groups or classes. And, the conflict may also arise between one social identity and the identities of the different groups ( class ) or the public at large.

As Amartya Sen has clearly pointed out, "Indeed, many contemporary political and social issues revolved around conflicting claims of disparate identities involving different groups, since the conception of identity influences, in different ways, our thoughts and actions " (Amartya Sen, Ibid., p. XII ).

Thus, it is found that the different political and social organizations or groups have different objectives or perspectives that attract our attention on these issues, (i.e. political and social issues ) which involve frustration of or discouragement of the identities of different peoples, and that the existence of their identities may influence the policy decisions of the Government or the State (ie the policy of the Government representing the State). And, the political and social policy that may be adopted on the basis of the pressure groups of disparate identities may be conflicting in different directions.

In such a situation, there be peaceful atmosphere for promoting overall economic development and social harmony among the different social identities. In fact, there may be conflict and violence among the social groups due to the differences in the ideologies and perspectives (i.e. the social objectives ) or the background/history of civilizations of the different groups. And, it is also found that there are religious and cultural divisions or partitions, which isolate social identity of different groups. Indeed, religions and cultures constitute a basic social institution of human civilization.

As Amartya Sen further stated, "Indeed, the world is increasingly seen, if only implicitly, as a federation of religions or of civilizations, thereby ignoring all other ways in which people see themselves ( Ibid. p. XII )." This suggests that the world is considered as a union of religions and groups of civilizations and that religion per se cannot fulfill all other aspect of life or all other aspects of civilizations and development.

Thus, there are different social identities or social groups, which lead to a "Solitarist" approach to religion and civilization. And, according to Marxists, there is a class of idealists (ie those who believe in " idealism" or spiritual way of life ) whose doctrines or principles are different from the philosophy of materialism or the materialist idea of history (ie. as against the doctrines or the ideas of productive forces and production relations of the economy and society ).Thus, the concept of materialism or historical materialism reveals the class relations and class conflicts in the development of the society.

Here, it can be pointed out that Marx did not mean history as human and material account only. In fact Marx stated that " the history of human society is the history of class struggles ". Thus, according to Marx the concept of "history" implies class conflicts and believed in the changes in the mode of production relations (ie the production relation between capitalist and workers ) in the development process of the capitalist society.

Here, it can be pointed out that Marx uses the term "history" here (ie in the context of the history of nature and the history of people ) not to refer to the human account (history of people ) production process or relations.

In fact, Marxism deals with the process of capitalist development in which there is full of contradictions between the capitalist and workers. And, Marxism believes in the changes in the mode of production in the various stages of development and replacement of one exploitation system or study of the history of nature/matter or society, but to the development or change (ie economic and social changes) in the (ie to process in nature, society and economy)-(cf. Karen Haydock, EPW September 16, 2017, p. 85).

In fact, in the development process Marx believes in the dialetics (laws of Principles or relationship) of unity between men and conflicting relationship nature (i.e. the people/human beings and environment).

Thus, throughout the development processes in the context of different socio-economic formations/systems, the "historical identities" of the people or individual identity have been transformed or changed in different categories or classes in the society. Again, it can be emphasised here that the human account or individual account/individual identity and the nature or environment cannot be neglected in the study of the relationship between identity of the people and development.

Thus, different groups or social identities and individual identity have important roles to play in the development process of the society and economy within the constitution of the country or within the framework of the Indian constitution. In fact, according to Amartya Sen, there is also the "Plural identities" which imply that the concept of "identity" of a person has different characteristic features or the same person may have different identities.

To be continued....

* Dr Longjam Krishnamangol wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is the author of several books on Development Economics. He was formerly a teacher of Economics .
This article was webcasted on March 11 2023.

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