Professor Anwar Alam, a visiting academic from India presented an optimistic view of modern Indian identity politics at the special lunchtime conversation hosted by Affinity Intercultural Foundation on Wednesday 25 July in Sydney.
Professor Alam is currently a Senior Fellow with Policy Perspectives Foundation, New Delhi having served as a Professor in the Department of International Relations, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Science, Zirve University, Gaziantep, Turkey.
Earlier he was a Professor and Director of the Centre for West Asian Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Associate Professor at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi and Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.
In a conversation facilitated by Professor Devleena Ghosh from the University of Technology Sydney, Professor Alam shared his optimistic outlook on the way identity politics has evolved in India.
“If we look at the trajectory of the last 20 years of Indian politics, the Hindu-Muslim conflict is epidemic. Now is not the first time we have seen conflict between different groups in Indian society,” he said.
“The only difference now is that minorities are standing up and asserting themselves and coming into the mainstream.”
Professor Alam reiterated his point by stating that India as a nation is founded on the diversity of its people.
“A person in India by default knows several languages in their infancy and relates to several subcultures because of diversity,” he said.
“In India, every caste group is a minority. India as a state is successful in negotiating with every minority group. It’s a country of minorities.”
He further asserted that in modern India, there is no discrimination due to one’s cultural or religious beliefs.
“I do not subscribe to the idea that Muslims in India are culturally marginalised. I believe that they are in a position to communicate and assert their rights,” he said.
“Identity politics has enriched democracy, rather than obstructed its development in India.”
Professor Alam concluded by stating the ways that secularism has enriched religious diversity in the nation.
“Secularism in India operates in a way that welcomes different religious groups, rather than restricting them or showing preference to one religious group over another.”
“Religion cannot be used for the purpose of humiliating others or mobilising political goals,” he said.