The post-liberalization era, beginning in the 1990s, saw India opening its doors to the global economy. This transformative period, while ushering in rapid economic growth, also impacted the socio-cultural landscape, including the dynamics of ethnic identity and communalism.
Impact on Ethnic Identity:
- Rise of Regionalism: The economic growth post-liberalization wasn’t uniform across India. Certain regions benefited more than others, leading to assertions of regional identities. For instance, states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra saw heightened regional pride, partly driven by the perception of contributing more to the national economy.
- Migration and Identity: Economic opportunities in urban centers attracted a vast migrant population. This influx sometimes led to ethnic tensions, as seen in periodic skirmishes against migrants in cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.
- Revival of Traditional Crafts: The global market’s interest in indigenous crafts provided certain ethnic groups with renewed economic and cultural vigor. The recognition and monetary benefits strengthened their ethnic identity.
Impact on Communalism:
- Economic Insecurities: The initial years of liberalization led to the closure of several traditional industries. These economic insecurities were sometimes channeled into communal sentiments, with communities blaming ‘the other’ for their woes.
- Global Religious Trends: The global resurgence of religious identities, especially post the 9/11 world, had its echo in India too. The rise of radical religious ideologies worldwide had repercussions in India, with increased communal tensions in some areas.
- Media and Communalism: The liberalized era saw the rise of private news channels and later, social media platforms. While they democratized information, they also sometimes played roles in fanning communal sentiments, as seen in the spread of misinformation leading to communal riots.
- Politicization of Identity: Post-liberalization politics often leveraged both ethnic and religious identities for vote-bank politics. The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue in the early 1990s is a significant example of how religion was central to political mobilization in the post-liberalization era.
In conclusion, while the post-liberalization era presented a multitude of economic opportunities, it also surfaced latent tensions and catalyzed new dynamics around ethnic identity and communalism. The intricate dance between economy and identity in a diverse nation like India remains a subject of ongoing study and introspection