The Politics Behind Your Identity

Do you know there are political stances based on the interests and outlooks of social groups with which you identify? Do you know that politics is shaped by the facets of your identity and identities with which you identify?

Take any example. The social establishments based on age, class, caste, culture, dialect, disability, education, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender, occupation, profession, religion, sexual orientation, etc. All these in some way or the other, depict something and that’s nothing but Identity Politics.

One intention of this, has been for those feeling oppressed. It helps them to articulate about their oppression. Some social groups are oppressed and folks belonging to these groups are, by virtue of their identity, more susceptible to forms of oppression. That is why especially during the late 20th century, Identity Politics rose and became very eminent. It was associated with a new wave of social activism.

In a democracy like India, where everyone is a stake holder in the formation of the government, it is evident that until fairly recently, some forms of personal identity, historically, had enjoyed more privilege above all others. People, who belong to groups that have been generally and usually discriminated against, and that persist in facing systemic disparity, know that identity controls advantages and disadvantages, with both economic and social values.

This raises the question that what is this Identity Politics? How much do we understand it and is it innately that bad?

Well, for some it’s undeniably needed. If we didn’t have identity politics, some of us couldn’t be politically upheld and engaged at all.

If diversity is significant politically, it is perhaps because it helps as a baseline for the accomplishment of other political profits. Most condemnation of identity politics centres on its inherently divisive nature, how it ruptures social unity, hints to the rise of extremist identities.

These criticisms are all true but it’s even severer than that. Identity politics by nature dehumanises and brutalises people. It breaks downs one’s morality to treat humans as humans. However, some progressive people had grown uncomfortable with this idea and been then accused to have embraced the popularity of the ‘Left’.

Historically speaking, Identity Politics has remained deep rooted, internally crafted and driven in India. It was the identity of Swadeshi Movement and the Fight for Freedom that gripped the nation during the Pre-Independence Gandhian era of politics.

It was the identity of Hindu Rashtra and religion as the supreme commandment that RSS and other right-wing politics emerged. It was the identity of many castes who felt they have remained out of getting any benefits from the democracy when the Caste politics rose in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

And it was the identity of language and culture that linguistic politics gave rise to the DMK in Tamil Nadu, where the obligation of Hindi as the national language was seen as a threat to the local language and culture.

Well, in the contemporary times, the identity politics is embodied by individuals who stand for the politics of/for development and earn themselves the political offices in India.

But, on the other hand, it can also be used as a movement to create awareness through social movements about the matters that affect a particular subgroup of people. The LGBTQ movement and Black Lives Matter are just couple of the eminent examples. It can be used in embracing divisions to a wholesome society in many ways.

The constructive side of identity politics is that it can also get sensible. For example, the conjecture that a female politician would support the concerns of women is truthful.

Moreover, the inclination of some ethnic or religious groups to ally mainly with fellow members of the same ethnic group, excluding others also comes under Identity Politics. Many groups, mostly those who have been most discriminated against, or who are rarely given access to something of value like scholarships, jobs or political power, often band together, seek support, understanding and collaboration among like-minded individuals.

Anyways, the manifestation of class identity and politics does not lead to the abolition of the already existing aboriginal identities. Class and community are real in the social life of the people and society and the nature of identity politics can hardly be read without taking into account class-community connection.

A community is a cooperative of classes in which the interests of the dominant class prevail and identity politics does not signify the interest of the community as a whole, as often asserted, but only of a class within it. Hence in a democracy like India, its commitment to the rule of law shall always remain on the test.