India is a symbol of unity in diversity. The diversity of India has, no doubt, given richness and variety to its culture and tradition, but it has also been accompanied by patterns of social and cultural fragmentation. A country so variegated as India, has almost every known social division based on religion, sect, language, caste, region, etc. To combat these division and parochial tendencies, national integration is of paramount importance.
National Integration implies a condition of unity in diversity in which all the components are equally valued, where interdependence binds the people of a country into one unified relationship. It is a basic condition for political development of any state and no country in modern times can achieve either internal stability or external success without it.
The concept of national integration in India is based on the ideal of ‘unity in diversity’. Here, unity means integration. It is basically a socio-psychological condition which connotes a sense of oneness, a sense of common “We”. It stands for the bonds that hold together the members of diverse ascriptive status in society together. The unity is not based on uniformity. Unity, in fact, demands integration. And integration does not mean absence of differences. Rather, it stands for the ties that bind the diverse group with one another.
In a vast country like India, the problem of national integration is related to the discovery of one’s identity in a multi-lingual, multi-caste, multi-regional, multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. In such a state, the sub-national communities are too strong to remain associated with a common loyalty of one national identity. The problem of national integration is thus, concerned with the balance between social identity and national integration. The paradox of the reality is that we, on the one hand, are surrounded by the institutions of a traditional society, on the other, have modem institutions of the political system. Apparently, there is no compatibility between the two. Therefore, the integration of heterogeneous communities into the mainstream of a harmonious national life is not a simple task in a country like India. Thus, the issues involved in the problem of integration have been agitating the minds of the political executives, legislators, planners, administrators and intellectuals alike.
There are many dimensions of the problems of National Integration of India, such as political, economic, social, cultural, psychological and administrative etc., and therefore, the solution of the problem of National Integration should be looked into from all its different dimensions.
However, linguism, communalism, social and economic inequalities and regional disparities or regionalism are some of the factors, which more often, have been raised to threaten the ideal of national integration in India. Here the phenomena of regionalism and communalism assume more significance as they have adversely affected the politics in India.
In the wake of the Chinese aggression against India, Prime Minister Pandit Nehru constituted a National Integration Council to invite several people from various streams of life to devise a common strategy to strengthen India’s national unity and decide measures to combat the divisive forces, such as communalism, casteism and regionalism.
But all the Integration Councils constituted so far, have been mainly deliberative bodies which discussed on the issue of national integration during their periodic meetings and finally dispersed, without taking concrete steps to implement the measures devised and hence defeated the very purpose. Therefore, inspite of the existence of the National Integration Council, threat or threats to India’s unity is more serious than ever.
The first council, constituted in 1962, was charged with the responsibility of “reviewing all matters pertaining to national integration and making recommendations thereon”. Yet, it did not meet again until 1968. In fact, it met only when, according to an official note, “emergence of disruptive and fissiparous tendencies in the shape of communal riots provided the Council another opportunity to reiterate its concern for the principle enunciated earlier in 1962.
Some good work was done in 1968. The Council adopted a “Declaration of Objectives” which, among other things, reiterated its faith in “unity in diversity, freedom of religion, secularism, equality, justice – social, economic and political and fraternity among all communities”. It also noted “the concern with the increase in communal incidents in different parts of the country over the last few years” and condemned the “tendencies that strike at the root of national solidarity”. Simultaneously, the Council adopted “a series of measures, including preventive and punitive, for dealing with riotous situations aimed at disrupting communal harmony and thereby weakening the national fabric”. Importantly, the Council and its Committees again went into hibernation until 1976, when a working Group of the Council reiterated the same principles and “suggested a series of concrete measures which could be implemented in a riot situation at the ground level. ”
Little, however, came to be done or happened until 1980, when Indira Gandhi reconstituted the Council on being swept back to power. The Council then got down to some work through its Committees. Attempts were made to draw up a “Code of Ethics for Political Parties” in the context of communal and caste harmony as well as a set of “DOs” and “Don’ts”. The Draft Code of Ethics provided among other things; (1) political leaders should not patronise communal organisations; (2) political parties should not hold meeting at religious places, and educational institutions; (3) political parties should weed out communally minded persons from their ranks; (4) political leaders should refrain from making inflammatory speeches when visiting communally disturbed areas; (5) no Minister should participate in functions, meeting or processions which give rise to communal controversy. The first “Do” enjoined was: Speak kindly and appreciatively of the common points in various religious meetings and the features which unite all Indians. The first “Don’t” enjoined was: Do not criticise or belittle or ridicule the tenets or observances of other religions. But nothing came out of the exercise.