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HomeCampus VoiceBinary mode is not the best way to understand India's political landscape

Binary mode is not the best way to understand India’s political landscape

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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What is order and chaos? Why do humans appreciate classifying everything into groups and always applying a simplified version? I’ll tell you why—it’s simple and efficient. It’s a strange question to ask when the headline suggests something else. But it has a lot of relevance, and I’ll hopefully be able to weave a web soon.

Our conceived notion of thinking in binaries is both our fault and gift. In most countries, especially the Western world, there are two distinctive political groups — majority and minority, black and white, settlers and refugees, you will find parallels. But is India a country to which the model can be applied? In simple words, NO.

India is not a country of two different groups or two different identities. So, our notion that India is a classic binary division between two religious groups, one being the majority and oppressor and the other being a minority and oppressed, is wrong.

India has many groups across religion, race, ethnicity, language, socio-economic status, and many other categories. But Indian political world is seen through a binary lens. This is a product of our tendency to hijack Western principles to replace our laziness or ineptitude. Our opinions are divided on the party we support but are not issue-based and do not encourage discussion but rather promote distancing from people with other opinions.

Some may argue that this binary mode started after 2014. I beg to differ. As ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta often says, “What was divided by caste and a nitpicking of different groups, got glued together and is now divided by religion.” I will however add to his line that the boundaries are very permeable and not at all rigid. Every community needs its leaders and every leader and political group has a base vote. But does that mean the leader of a group is not a leader for India? No.

But it brings us to the question, who is the main culprit? Is it the media that likes to be sensational rather than be sensible? Or leaders and public figures who have been fast enough to pick their sides? Or are the Indian people inherently like this? While blaming the media, our leaders or people is a very juicy option, it’s the abstraction of true history of us, from us and by us that’s the culprit.

When India became independent in 1947, it broke many shackles but few remained. One I am talking about today is the deep set of identity crisis, or in simpler words, what is it to be Indian. But why can’t we talk only about future prospects during the elections in India and why can’t we move on? I found the answer in a Walk the Talk episode with the late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. For more than 4,000 years, India has been one of the most influencing regions across the world. In such a scenario, it is not possible for us to ignore the past.

Hiding the fact and pushing for a fairy tale story that everything was fine before the British came is not the correct way to tackle this. But that’s what India did by hiding the past since Independence in its paranoia that communal tensions would rise. I am talking only about the costly Left turn of India because most governments since Independence had a Left leaning. History may be a winner’s tale but not the only tale that needs to be heard.

Santhosh is a student at IISC, Bengaluru. Views are personal.

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