Making the Sense of 'Citizenship' by Shibsankar Jena SignUp
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Making the Sense of 'Citizenship'
by Shibsankar Jena Bookmark and Share

After getting independence our constitution framers adopted the modern values like Equality, Liberty and Fraternity which was born from French Revolution as the basic principles of the nation-building process. But the postcolonial Indian society has shown a different kind of reality.

To quote Indian sociologist T.K Oommen, there is a 'praxiological gap' in Indian society where these value remain within the theory and in practice we are experiencing something different. Day to day religious fundamentalism and the process of social exclusion is increasing. Though the caste system is gradually weakening but the caste identity becomes more rigid.

In colonial India there was a process of 'fission', in which certain lower caste community was claiming higher caste status by imitating the rites, rituals and the life style of higher twice born caste. This process of social mobility has conceptualized by sociologist M.N Srinivas as 'sankritisation' process. But if you look at to the post independent India, we can find there is a process of 'fusion' where certain caste group having the same ritual status claiming same identity for the concerted social and political action. The former refers to the process of social mobility whereas the latter is a process in which people become more rigid with their own identity for the social, political and economic gain.

As Andre Beteille notices whereas in the past, caste with most humble antecedents sought to register themselves as Kshatriya, now politically dominant caste will vie with each other to be classified as backward, more backward and most backward. Thus the entire population in present India is now continuously categorizing themselves into different segments in which caste and religion is playing as a defining role of this categorizing processes.  

Some social scientists recognizes this modern cultural crisis in Indian society is due to our blindly acceptance of the western product of 'secularism'. As Ashis Nandy argues secularism is a 'gift of Christianity', which is the product of western mind. To him, this instrumental rationality and manipulative technocratic-managerial ethos is responsible for the cultural crisis in postcolonial India. This western secularism has transformed the religion into a ready-made packaged form and the development of 'Hindutva' discourse in Indian politics is a readymade packaged form which suppresses the value of our traditional 'Hinduism' where mutual reciprocity between different religious faiths was the major principle.

But, it is also true that, Indian society is now a mix of both traditional and modern elements. By synthesis of these two cultural elements, the traditional beliefs and custom has taken a new form, which is neither traditional nor modern. Thus it is very difficult to go back to our past but still we can have a hope for a better future by recognizing the modern principles which were adopted by our constitution. We can materialize these values into practice, if we properly make sense the notion of citizenship.

We always emphasized the role of state at the macro level for a solution towards this social pathology and neglect the role of individual in micro level for the functioning of a proper democracy. The state can only provide the identity of citizenship, which is above the identity based on primordial affinity. But to materialize this identity into reality, it absolutely depends on individual's morality and without this morality, the value of citizenship in everyday life is an illusion. That is why now Indian society is living in a 'praxiological gap' situation.

In order to make the sense of citizenship from micro level, here we have to recall what Emile Durkhiem had said. According to this French Sociologist, in modern society the sacred symbols are Equality, Liberty and Fraternity and the internalization of theses values leads to development of the moral part of human nature where individual first recognizes his duty towards society rather than what is his right first.

Today due to the aspiration for social status, economical gain and political power, we are now more right demanding citizen than duty performing citizen. As a result, our moral part has been colonized by the egoistic nature of market principle. Only through internalizing these modern values and socializing these values in to our coming generation, we can realize citizenship in our everyday life.

It was Gandhi who emphasized men's duties as opposed to their rights. To him, duties were prior to and the source of rights. Each one of us has an obligation to make a particular contribution to the physical, social, mental or spiritual welfare of the whole. Gandhi had said, 'Unrestricted individualism is the law of beast of the jungle. We have to learn to strike the mean between individual freedom and social restraint'. This would lead for creating inter-subjective process where the relationship between individual is based on mutual understanding, not through caste, religion, or sex.

The modern cultural crisis can be solved if the individual and society are not seen as conflicting entities. At the end I would like to conclude by quoting Georg Hegel, as he had said, 'The true courage of civilized nations is readiness for sacrifice in the service of the state, so that the individual counts as only one amongst many. The important thing here is not personal mettle but aligning oneself with the universal'. 

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