Including Cultural Diversity

- By Aryaki Sethi

Since time immemorial India has been seen as a wonderful blend of cultures, languages, religions, ethnicities, food, and much more. Have you ever wondered what aspect of the Indian psyche promotes this diversity and inclusivity? How have beliefs of both the majority and the minority flourished in our nation? With over 19,500 languages, 2000 ethnic groups, over 30 different regional cuisines, 29 states, 9 recognized religions, 6 classical dance forms- this is Including Diversity, the Indian way.

In 1994, Sinha and Tripathi found that the Indian orientation is a combination of both individualistic (focussed on oneself) and collectivistic (focussed on others) ideas and thus, ideal for diverse communities to thrive simultaneously. This way of thought allows Indians to protect values unique to their culture while maintaining a respectful understanding of other cultures. When this unity baffled scholars all around the world, Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian Mathematician set out to find the ‘Indian way of thinking’.He concluded that while many onlookers believed that the Indian thought is merely primitive, it uniquely “imprints and patterns all things that enter the continent; it is inescapable, and it is Bigger Than All of Us.”

Dealing with modern diversity that has expanded way beyond cultural differences to include race, gender, sex, etc. is a challenge to all nations alike. This has resulted in the following three major approaches to explain diversity as an ideological concern:

  1. The Melting Pot: This view holds that diversity should be encouraged, accepted, and understood to blend all ideals into a single social and cultural way of life. In such a society, people are willing to forgo conflicts of individual differences if all are aligned with the ideals of the nation such as working hard and being a good citizen. The USA has built its democracy on ‘the melting pot’ ideology.

  2. Colour-Blindness: Advocates of colour-blindness believe this ideology prevents the race of a person from mattering in they are treated and decisions regarding merit should be taken on factors other than race. While critics argue that such a world is unachievable and persistence of historical racial discrimination causes certain communities to lack equal opportunities.

  3. Multiculturalism: Multiculturalism can be best described as a patchwork quilt! Different perspectives are sewn together into a large social philosophy. They make a colourful quilt without losing their identity in the process. This view promotes harmony, values unity while retaining the unique social differences of all groups.

The Indian perspective has largely been influenced by multiculturalism due to the extensive diversity, however, it has managed to include advantages of all three ideologies. The reservation for EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) shows sensitivity to colour- blindness concerns and the federal structure in politics, economy, and justice delivery bring forth melting-pot ideals. The coming together of princely states to form the union of India pre-independence is a classic example of multiculturalism. Scholars argue that the survival of the Indian state is because the Indian Constitution is a largely multicultural document that has guided all political action post-independence. The classification of states according to languages helped promote regional values and appointment of Tribal District Councils catered to smaller ethnic communities. Thus, political actions promote social harmony in our nation.

In conclusion, it is the perfect balance of advocating togetherness and encouraging uniqueness that has resulted in our nation, where through sensitivity we have retained internal diversity. Working as a member of international groups like ASEAN, BRICS, UN, and more, India has managed to bring its love for diversity to the global sphere!


About the Author

Aryaki Sethi is a content writer and mental health advocate. She is currently pursuing Bachelor of Applied Science , Psychology and Health Sciences from the University of Toronto Scarborough.