India was never as fragmented along cultural lines as she is today. Ironically, most Indians take the multicultural nature of India for granted. They do not think twice about India sustaining a federation of culturally distinct states, which would be, in other countries, extremely difficult. Perhaps no other country on the globe is as culturally diverse as India. Yet, compared to 50 years ago, the various cultural entities of India feel even more separated from each other. The reason for this is the lack of a single unifying, overriding ideology/identity/vision. We do have a feeling of nation-statehood. But we do not have an equally strong feeling of fellow-citizenship. At the macro level, nationality is a strong uniter. But at the micro level, cultural differences are strong dividers-which gives rise to a lot of bad blood and debilitating conflicts.
Paradoxically, foreign imperialism was the original catalyst for Indian unification. The British commercial motives had the favourable side-effect of centralised administration of the entire sub-continent, which actually bound whole of India in a unifying system. It would be very difficult to predict what would have happened to India if the British had not come. Would have India become the federal nation state that she is today? Or would have she become a conglomeration of nations like the European Union? There were other unifiers before the British-the Mauryas, the Slaves, the Mughals. Would have the Mughals moved towards social and scientific reforms like the Europeans? Would have India invented democracy before the west? All this is difficult to answer. But we can start from the fact that most Indian rulers were lulled into complacency by their own prosperity and the sense of security afforded by the sea and mountain bound subcontinent.
Today it is a brand new world and India\’s cycle of civilisation, that started with the Indus Valley Civilisation, has come a full circle. We are the first and the best, thanks to serendipity and some visionary leadership, in a growing global trend – multiculturalism – and that is the way the world\’s going. Multiculturalism has its hiccups but we are far ahead of others in deriving a working system of society that resolves the differences and the clash of cultures. If political prudence prevails, then politicians of the day will see the merit is promoting the feeling of cultural fraternity even at the micro level. And it should work because no one likes to fight, quarrel or kill. Everyone wants to get on with his life with peace, freedom and security.