Blog

Social empowerment, communalism & regionalism

Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism
The term empowerment means many things to many people. Concepts of choice, freedom, agency, capacity, participation, autonomy, and increased resources, however, are common to virtually all definitions. Consensus can therefore be found around the idea of empowerment as a means of improving quality of life and expanding the basis of human well-being. In short, empowerment can serve as a mechanism for effecting deep and broad-based social transformation.
The process of social transformation can be explored at both the personal and structural levels. At one end of the spectrum, social change is seen as an outcome of the development of individuals, achieved through education, training, access to material resources, and the like. According to this view, structural change is assumed to be an automatic result of personal change. 
Unfortunately, this rarely bears out in practice, as even those who benefit from such resources find themselves participating in oppressive social structures. At the other end of the spectrum, the human being is viewed entirely as a product of society, and change is considered impossible unless social structures—mainly those related to political power—are changed first. Yet, too often, this approach has supported the idea that ends justify the means and has resulted in conditions of injustice and oppression. 
Increasing the capacity of individuals and communities to build more just and equitable social structures requires a conception of social development that avoids these extremes. Individual and structural transformation are intimately related: the individual’s inner life shapes his or her social environment, and that environment, in turn, exerts a profound influence on one’s spiritual and psychological well-being.   
Drawing on the above ideas, individual and collective empowerment can be conceived as the expansion of vision, capacity, and volition necessary for people to act as effective agents of human well-being and prosperity.
Who are the primary actors in the processes of social transformation? Experience suggests that three are critically important: the individual, the institutions of society, and the community. In this light, empowerment can be said to involve assisting individuals to manifest constructive capacities in creative and disciplined ways, institutions to exercise authority in a manner that leads to the progress and upliftment of all, and communities to provide an environment in which culture is enriched and individual wills and capacities combine in collective action.
Raising capacity among these protagonists will require a thorough reexamination of assumptions about human nature. Notions of “us” and “them” deserve particular attention. Discourse in development circles, for example, is often rooted in notions of the “empowered” members of society assisting the “disadvantaged” or “marginalized.” The impulse to rectify social inequalities is unquestionably noble, but us/them dichotomies only perpetuate and reinforce existing divisions. Careful thought needs to be given to ways in which empowerment can be approached as a universal and shared enterprise and not something the “haves” bestow on the “have nots.”
Closely related is the question of who is empowered and who is not. Historical processes have created inequalities that must be addressed. But the development framework should be one in which every individual and group is presumed to have room for advancement. In this light, the marginalized are not without capacity, and the privileged are not all-powerful. All have capacity to develop and all have a responsibility to advance the welfare of the whole.
Finally, though empowerment denotes someone or something being invested with power, the social dynamics of power seem to have been largely ignored in discussions on development at the United Nations. That an examination of the dynamics of power has proven difficult to integrate into these discussions suggests the need for new and alternative approaches.

Prerequisites for Social Transformation
Because those without a seat at the table have little voice in decisions affecting their lives, participation in the systems and structures of society is an essential prerequisite for social transformation. To be anything more than window-dressing though, participation must be substantive and creative. It is not enough for people to be mere beneficiaries of projects, even if they have a voice in certain decisions. They must be far more involved in decision-making processes: identifying problems, devising solutions and approaches, enjoying benefits, and determining criteria for evaluation.
Participation, however, cannot be equated with empowerment—taking part in flawed systems merely perpetuates existing patterns of injustice. In order to advance the common good, individuals must possess both the capacity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing social structures and the freedom to choose between participating in those structures, working to reform them, or endeavoring to build new ones.
Building the capacity of the world’s peoples and social institutions to create a prosperous and just society will require a vast increase in access to knowledge. This will entail approaches that facilitate the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge at the local level. 
Rather than unquestioningly adopting “solutions” developed elsewhere, an emphasis on strengthening local capacity to generate, apply, and diffuse knowledge can help to put into place an ongoing process of action and reflection, one which encourages respect of the existing knowledge base of a community, raises the community’s confidence in its ability to devise, implement and assess solutions, and helps to systematize and expand local knowledge. The result is a systematic and coherent process of learning that can gradually encompass a wider range of community endeavors.
Finally, the ability to identify the root causes of injustice will be crucial to the empowerment of populations to become agents of social transformation. Regardless of the advantages a population might enjoy, if it is unable to discern the drivers of social injustice and inequity, it will remain unable to rectify them. If empowerment is to lead to social transformation, it must involve the ability to recognize the forces shaping one’s social reality, to identify the possibilities and challenges presented by that reality, and to devise initiatives for the betterment of society.

Communalism
Communalism is one of the most serious problems that India has to face after her freedom from colonial rule in the mid of 20eth Century. This problem, which has existed among the followers of two principal religious communities- Hindus and Muslims – many times raised a great challenge before the secular structure of India. In the name of religion such acts have been committed that are no doubt shameful.
Mahatma Gandhi devoted his entire life for propounding communal harmony. He whished in ‘India of his dream’, “I shall for an India, in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice; an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people; [and above all] an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony.”
But it is unfortunate that after independence to this year, i.e. up to the year 2004, there have been over five thousand communal riots in India, and most of them occurred between Hindus and Muslims. After all, why have there been riots in such a large number? In other words, what is the reason for them? Whether is it one reason or are there many reasons? What is the impact of such riots on common man? What situation is created at national-international level due to these riots? These are the questions we become curious to get an answer to. Along with this we want to know, how to get rid of this problem. 
Not only in India but also all over the world, scholars and subject-specialists have defined communalism in different manners. And, all these definitions, unfortunately, do not reveal the complete meaning or sense of communalism in clear-cut terms. However, Richard C. Lambert, who has given the definition of community according to the conditions prevailing in the country, provides us a correct picture regarding the position of communalism in India. 
According to him, “The word Community is used in India for the unequal social units.” It may be said that communalism is the negative aspect of the community. That is to say, when the people of a particular community care only for their own narrowly concerned interests, through the means of their religious faiths, old customs and conservative practices, disregarding the interests of whole society, then it may be termed as communalism. In general, following four main things can be found in a state of communalism:
1. Negativeness;
2. Narrowness;
3. Unfair means; and
4. Disregard to the interests of society.
The unfair means that are adopted in a state of communalism, neglecting the interests of society, instigation on the basis of religious sentiments is the main among them, which can be observed clearly in communal violence that occurred during the last 57 years in India.
India has a history of communal riots. The problem of communalism, especially relating to the modern age, and seeds of which were sown during the 19th century, is a gift of colonial rulers to India. In other words, the colonialists played the main role in starting communal tension in India in the 19th Century. Along with this, some people from a particular religious community were also involved in this act, who keeping aside the interests of entire Indian Society and filled with narrow-minded thoughts, joined hands with the colonialists. 
They were also in favour of bargaining with the colonialists for the benefit of their co-religionists. It was an easy task for them. India is a country of diversities, a land of different religious communities and sects. In such a country, if the government protects the people of a particular community who are ready to fulfill their own interests even by spreading communalism, what can be difficulty for them? They can do so without any fear.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was one of the great political leaders of India at that time, started “Ganesh Pooja” and “Shivaji Mahotsav” in Southern India, especially in Maharashtra and its nearby regions, with the aim of creating awakening among the masses. I hope, even today, nobody can believe that while starting “Ganesh Pooja” or “Shivaji Mahotsav” programmes, he would have contemplated about Hindu-Muslims, or there would be any thought in his mind in the interest of Hindus – his co-religionists. He was one who always thought and worked for Indians, Indian nation and Indian nationalism. The programmes related to “Ganesh Pooja” and “Shivaji Mahotsav” was not initiated to support the interests of Hindus. However, both “Ganesh” and “Shivaji” were associated with the emotions of a number of Hindus. 
A procession connected with the above programme was passing through the streets of Mumbai in the year 1893. When it reached near a place of prayer of another religious community, it was pelted with stones. The quarrel ensued between those participating in the procession and attackers, and finally resulted in a communal riot. Similarly, another incident occurred in the coming year, i.e. in 1894 at Pune. Behind both these incidents was the support of colonial rulers to the narrow-minded people involved in the acts. From here, started communalism, which was also evident on some occasions in the Gandhian era of the national liberation movement of India.
After independence there came a change in social, political and economic conditions of India, which was quite natural. There were many reasons for change in social conditions such as- provision of equality before law, equal opportunities to all to get job etc. and above all, liberalization of the ownership of land. The change in political conditions mainly depended on adopting a democratic system for which all adults [men and women] of the country got the right to choose their representatives. Similarly, there was a definite change in the economic conditions as well. The freedom of earning livelihood by fair means, without any fear or pressure, was given to everyone. And, all rich or poor, so-called high or low, became entitled to government jobs without any distinction. All these things were truly symbolic of change in economic conditions.
With these unprecedented changes, the best atmosphere of communal harmony should have been created in India and according to the expectation of Mahatma Gandhi this country should have become an example in this direction. But this did not happen. 
The reasons for the problem of communalism in India are mainly two – silent and apparent. Side by side, there is also a third different reason that can be observed in several other countries of the world.
Among these reasons is the large number of unemployed youths, which comprise nearly ten per cent of the total population, illiteracy and poverty is the main. Also in the entire country 26 per cent people live below the poverty line.
Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment create a lot of compulsions, especially before younger generation. That is why, many from younger generation, because of lack of right thinking, remain unemployed and in a state of poverty, get involved in the evil like communalism The efforts being made for uprooting poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are not as fruitful as they should be.
With reference to communalism whatever apparent reasons are discussed generally, among them the first one is religious, and the second one is political. Third one is socio-economic and the fourth one is international. In the first, i.e. religious, its fundamentalism should be considered responsible for communalism. Malevolence like reactionary attitude, traditional bourgeois and conservative approaches etc. are mainly behind fundamentalism.
After all ‘Our belief alone is true’ and ‘rest is untrue or incomplete’, we find this kind of mentality of fundamentalists. As per this mentality, when the followers of any religious community, sect or sub-sect indulge in their activities, they certainly come in conflict with others. Reason is quite evident. They do not have tolerance, which is absolutely necessary for a country like India–a land of different religious communities. They become the cause of confrontation, malice and struggle.
Politicians also have played a villainous role in creating serious communal situations in India. There was politics at the root of painful division of India in 1947 in the name of a particular religious community. But even after paying a heavy price in the form of partition, in many riots provoked thereafter, we can find the involvement directly or indirectly, of political parties or their supporters. Along with this for the sake of vote bank, the policy of appeasement, selection of candidates on the basis of community, sect, sub-sect and caste, and flaring up religious sentiments at the time of elections, led to the rise of communalism. These practices are still continued and the country is bearing heavy loss because of it. We can witness many adverse results of these practices.
Economic and social reasons can be found mainly in competition among the people living at lower and lower-medium levels and in the involvement of professional hooligans, speculators and the anti-social elements in communal riots. This involvement is, purely for economic gains and to attain overwhelming influence on society. 
External elements also have a role in worsening the problem of communalism, and making it serious. I may not mention the name of any particular country in this regard but scholars and those who think on this problem from time to time are quite aware of this fact. The main reasons for involvement of external elements or their role in riots are as follows:
1. To create an atmosphere of instability, so that it becomes socially weak;
2. To hope for gaining sympathy from minorities;
3. To try to weaken the economic structure of a foreign country; and
4. With the aim to conceal their own incompetence.
Besides above-mentioned facts there can be more – silent or apparent – reasons in all areas, which create communalism or enhance it, or make it serious. There are also some such reasons that rise instantaneously and result in communal disturbances or in riots of serious nature.
Other that silent and apparent, the third reasons, that I have mentioned earlier, will come before us in brief in remedial suggestions by me, and I do hope that we will understand it.
In India, since the year 1947 up to the year 2002, the amount of property that has been lost in communal riots, with that, if not more, at least 2 crores and fifty lacs people could easily be given employment; the problem of housing and education of the same number of people could be solved.
Due to the communal outbursts the occupational activities were affected, and that would be considered as national loss. With this loss the day-to-day problems of crores of people could be solved and their life could be made happier and more peaceful. 
But it is unfortunate that wealth and property, lost in riots, was burnt without any aim in a country like India in which crores of people are under poverty line. What should be done so that such situations are not faced? I once again appeal that if at all three levels-individual, community and government – something in a concrete manner is done stage by stage, the country would be free of communalism.
Each and everyone have to make a balance between his or her own religious community and national interests, he or she has to unite with nationalism, and then should move forward. The teachings of a religious community may be great, but the followers of the community concerned should understand that nationalism is greater. If they do not become familiar with this fact, they will be away from national stream; they will suffer. This fact relates not only to India but also to many other countries of the world.
Each and every religious community has been founded on the basis of certain values that were best and necessary for circumstances of the country and times. Goodness like adjustment with others, or co-operation, or consistency can be found in their teachings. 
But by not moving according to the teachings of their religious community those who depend upon fundamentalism and conservative practices, or those who use their co-religionists taking advantage of their poverty, illiteracy or innocence, are dishonest towards their own self, their co-religionists and also towards those great leaders who founded the religious community. Everyone must understand this fact also. Along with this, leaders of all communities, by knowing it, must come forward for an atmosphere surcharged with harmony, in which lies their welfare too.
Policies like appeasement, fun and frolic with the sentiments of people for individual and party interests, and selection of candidates on the basis of religious community or sect by keeping aside the qualifications, one, certainly, does the things against national interest or nationalism; are reflections of lower national thinking. That is why; these kinds of acts should be stopped at government level and also at the level of political parties.
There is a great need to work towards eradicating the problem of unemployment among the youths, illiteracy and poverty and that too with honesty and without any discrimination. This will help in solving many problems, and will create awakening. The result will be in checking on communalism to a great extent. That is why it is expected that a lot of work have to be done at government level in this direction.
Thus, in order to get rid of the problem of communalism in India, there is a need of collective efforts. All will have to discharge their duties. If we do so, definitely harmony will prevail. 

Regionalism
Regionalism is defined as a feeling of loyalty to a particular part of a country and a wish for it to be more politically independent.
It is not just a territorial unit but a culmination of socio-economic and political factors. Regionalism can be defined in connotations both positive and negative.
Positive regionalism means love towards one’s culture, region, language etc whereas negative regionalism is an excessive attachment to one’s regions in preference to the country of the state. Positive regionalism helps to build Brotherhood and commonness on the basis of common language, religion or historical background and it helps a particular regional group to maintain their independent identity. It gives self-determination to people and empowers them to feel happy. Negative regionalism may pose a threat to the unity and integrity of the country. in the Indian context generally the term regionalism has been used in the negative sense.
Regionalism can ride both within and outside the nation. within a nation the rise of sub-state actors becoming more powerful is evident. the transnational cooperation between different countries like forming off the South East Asian organization or the European Union which have come together for pursuing a common goal is termed as a regionalism outside a nation. In India regionalism evolved through various forms during the pre-Independence era, the British had promoted the regionalism so that they can maintain their hold over the India during the ‘national movement’
After Independence, the Congress had tried to promote nationalism through the concept of 1 single Nation and also by giving single citizenship apart from unified Judiciary, all India services, and a strong central government. In spite of the efforts of the Congress to stop regionalism, the vastness and the diversity of the cultures within our country prevented it.
Different forms of regionalism In India broadly regionalism can be defined in two forms one the demand for state autonomy and to secessions from the Union.

Demand for state autonomy
This is a demand by the states for Greater autonomy from the center this may be because of an increasing interference by the center in the affairs of the state that led to the regional feelings.The demand for the state it autonomy has also been raised by the regions within some states of the Indian Federation Secession from the union.
This is it the dangerous form of regionalism. It emerges when States demand separation from the center and try to establish an independent identity of their own.
1.    Regionalism evolved when the national government tries to impose a particular ideology may be language or culture pattern over a particular state. This is evident from the Anti- Hindi movement in the South Indian states as well as the Anti-foreigner Movement in Assam both were launched in order to protect their own culture.
2.    The continuous neglect of an area or Reason by the ruling party and concentration of Administration and political party has also given rise to the demand for decentralization of authority and bifurcation of and unilingual States.
3.    The low rate of economic growth investment infrastructure and social expenditure by the state on health education and sanitation can also be a reason for the development of-of regionalism
4.    The ‘sons of the soil’ doctrine which after 1950 in competition between local youth and migrants for employment has led to the development of regionalism not only in rural areas but also in cities.
5.    The desire of the various units of the Indian federal system to maintain the subcultural regions and greater degree of self-government has promoted regionalism and giving rise to demand for Greater autonomy.
6.    The ambition of regional Elite to capture power, for example, the DMK, AIDMK Telugu Desam have encouraged regionalism to capture power.   The dispute between the states over the sharing of river water primacy given by the states to the language of the majority and the people of their own state in a job opportunity with growing awareness among the people of backward areas that they are being discriminated against has also promoted the feeling of regionalism. What can be done to correct regional imbalances.
 7.   The dispute between the states over the sharing of river water primacy given by the states to the language of the majority and the people of their own state in a job opportunity with growing awareness among the people of backward areas that they are being discriminated against has also promoted the feeling of regionalism. What can be done to correct regional imbalances

Regionalism is an important aspect of Indian politics sometimes it has posed threats unity and integrity of the country. Therefore it is necessary to take steps to reduce such tendencies.
Some of the measures can be:
1. That should be balanced regional development in formulating the economic policies of the state so as to avoid the economic negligence of a particular region
2. The excessive interference of the central Government in the affairs of the state should be minimized unless if it is unavoidable for National interest.
3. That should be a friendly relationship between the center and the states with the national education system so that it would help to overcome the regional feelings and develops an attachment towards Nation.
4. The problems of the people must be solved in a peaceful and constitutional manner .politicians must not be allowed to misuse the use of power for their own benefit.
The need of the hour is to develop a realistic perception of regionalism at the conceptual level focusing on righteousness and judicial outlook on the path of the political parties.If this objective is achieved then the regionalism of the idea of different communities speaking the diverse language and is linked with particular cultural expression thinking globally acting globally and seeing human unity in diversity in practical terms too would become a distinct possibility.

Regionalism in India
 Regionalism is a kind of feeling or loyalty towards the interest of their own region and it is an ideology among a section of people residing in a same particular geographical area. This regionalism is also more of a mindset that one develops over the time, even nationalism is no different.
This kind of ‘isms’ just restrict one’s horizon it gives one a limited armory to choose from. It originates in many ways, for example, this is being united by unique language, culture, language traditions etc. Regionalism can also rise with development wherein religion and cultural attitude of people are brought together and Unity and Diversity are created and so there arise many cultures linguistic diversity and in the particular region of a developing area. In a negative sense, they were creating a particular kind of divisions in a way of separate religion, language, customs, traditions, etc.
Regionalism comes in people in many ways, for example, its origin is traced in following ways
1) When people ask for a state of their own within a union of a state or example within the Union of and India.
2) When states or regions with a particular cultural identity ask for the power equally with that of center.
3) The people who ask for the separate state would be on the basis of linguistic, cultural identity in a city or regional development basis.
 4) The fourth one which is the most dangerous for an integrity and Unity of nation is secession where a particular geographical union wants to segregate from the Union of India or any other country with an autonomous self-power.
When looking back at the British period there is a slight origin of regionalism in the back British Colonial rule in the way of presidencies and Diversity which brings about all the regional language and cultural people together and there arises a positive and negative changes of the differences between these people as stated earlier and also British attitude towards princely states and those of presidencies deferred a lot which created a kind of regionalist feeling between these princely states and that of Presidencies where on the criteria of developmental basis. 
Even though the princely states were given the autonomous power and authority to take care of their development process, the British attitude to develop these presidencies created a kind of differences between these two and a emerged a feeling of regionalism to their own region for the interest of seeking development in princely states.
Regionalism in a way creates a positive sense to a nation wherein it seeks for the developmental process in the particular region in order to protect their interest in that region and also it promotes the welfare of the state and the people.
Many political parties arise in the due course of this regionalism where it promotes a kind of feeling in people by using a puppet of regionalist feeling towards them. This regionalism is slowly turning from non-violent means to violent means to achieve their goals. Even regionalism in contemporary India is readily used for political gains by petty politicians and socialist organizations and economic reasons are exploited for political divisions.
In India there are many cases which exhibit the kind of nationalistic feeling which also led to many revolt like actions. For example, the death of Potti Sri Ramulu and his Revolt for the separate state of Telugu- speaking people became a launchpad for the dawn of political regionalism in India that would in course of time alter the landscape of India.
This also marked a beginning of a kind of nationalistic feeling in South India and also after this many princely states and other states also started asking for a separate state which resulted in a formation of States Reorganization Committee with Faisal Ali as its head which recommended a formation of 16 states and 3 union territories based on language.
Regionalism in India is only a shortcut to meet the political ambitions especially by emotionally exploiting the sentiment of people. India also gave a kind of Federal states which gives autonomous powers and a kind of special support from the center to the states to rule for the development and economic interest which reduces the doubts of people of their own interest.
For every Indian, it is an identity of an Indian first with outside the India and then comes to a regional identity. In a positive sense, many Regional parties which were formed with the regionalist feeling of people make a positive sense when they come for the regional development without discriminating against outsiders.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *