Social Scientist. v 24, no. 272-74 (Jan-Mar 1996) p. 30.

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Unity in Diversity

Introduction ,

One has heard so much about India being an outstanding example of a society which exemplifies the value of unity in diversity that one begins to take it for granted and to assert that this is in fact a true representation of the historic experience of our society. Yet what we see to be happening contemporaneously in our society—whether in Kashmir or in the Punjab or in the north-eastern states or in Ayodhya—cannot easily be reconciled with these claims. One sees life to be full of contention and%dissention, of conflict and violence, of insurgency and terrorism. j

So one wonders what Exactly oijie has in mind when one speaks of 'our glorious tradition and our ability to forge unity out of diversity'. Is there really such a tradition or is it only a rosy reconstruction of a historical experience dictated by the needs of the present? I have no doubt that the salve of reconciliation and the establishment of harmony is urgently needed in our present predicament.

What follows is an effort to examine our experience in one area of life—relationships between religious communities—to see how far it can help us. Obviously, one doesn't expect to achieve a society which has no conflicts. There is none such. What one is looking for is to understand the process through which conflicts have been resolved over time in the past and new syntheses achieved.

Diversity, Differentiation, Stratification:

All large societies are heterogeneous or plural in their composition. The lines of plurality may be drawn along one or more of several factors such as race, religion, caste/class, language, nationality, sub-regional differentiation etc. The significance of the basis of differentiation often lies not in the factor of differentiation itself as in the historical

Eminent Sociologist/formerly Vice-Chancellor of Bombay Univeristy, Bombay. The Zakir Hussain Memorial Lecture, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 1995.

Social Scientist, Vol. 24, Nos. 1-3, January-March 1996

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