National Integration a problem that has been considered to be of vital importance all over the world. The development of a country depends upon the amount of integration found in it. This is of special significance to our country, since there is lot of diversity in our life. Mahatma Gandhi had once said, "We have to produce a society of those people who profess different religions, but they live like brothers." In fact, this statement of Gandhiji has the essence of national integration in India. India is a vast country with a number of differences in food, clothing, languages, even in her different New Years in different communities. Besides, India has seen the mixture of various races, cultures, traditions etc. Again, there are those who are vegetarians and those who are non-vegetarians. Through all these diversities and differences there runs the invisible link of common culture, common civility, common heritage, the same form of greeting one another, the same form of respect shown to elders as well as there are common Vedas, the Bhagwad Gita, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the festivals, National symbols and finally the struggle for Independence that united the whole mass of Indian people. Thus, national integration means a feeling of oneness among the entire Indians. All our countrymen must feel emotionally integrated. We must think that we are Indians first and members of a particular religion afterwards. Whenever India has been attacked by a foreign country, it has stood as one man to meet the crisis. National integration is essential for social peace and armony too. The safety and prosperity of our country depends upon our unity. Our states are like parts of our body prosperity o different states means the progress of the whole country. The most important for us as Indians is our national feelings, because only this feeling can develop a peace-based- society, the need of the hour. India is unfortunate to some extent as she has seen many communal riots. The Godhra Carnage which took place in Gujarat is the recent example. It took many innocent lives. Such incidents are a blot on the fair name of our country. It is a matter of shame and sorrow that Hindus and Muslims, inspite of living together in the same society, hate each other to this extent. The feeling of hatred must be replaced by love and affection. All Indians must consider one another as brothers and live peacefully.We need national integration on permanent footing. This can be achieved when we enlighten our children. All the children, during their formative years, must be taught that we all are Indians belonging to the one Motherland. We must not believe in separate identities. It is the time to merge in one main stream. Unless we develop a sense of unity and leave our narrow outlook, we might loose our independence. There are some people who think that India has never existed as a unified, undivided and indivisible unit in the past. Sir John Seeley said that India was not a political name but only a geographical expression like Europe or Africa. Sir John Strachey wrote : “This is the first and the most essential thing to learn about India that there is not and never was an India or even any country of India possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social or religious. No Indian nation, no people of India’ of which we hear so much.” As late as 1930, the Simon Commission referred to India as a “conglomeration of races and religions.” It is not only foreigners but many Indian thinkers also believe that India never existed as a nation and there was no national integration in India in any period of her history. So far as foreigners are concerned, they appear to be biased against India and her peoples’ capacity for unity. And only such Indians, as havejborrowed their theories and tenets from the West, can refuse to recognise the existence of a single well-knit unit in the past. Even a general survey of Indian religion, philosophy, mythology, legends, art, literature and architecture will make it abundantly clear that India existed as a single homogeneous, well-united nation in the past. May be there are diversities, but they should not be mistaken for disunity. This diversity is a special feature of India’s unity, it provides colour to Indian life. All the discordant ‘isms’, that have no doubt succeeded in creating certain spells of unfortunate trends towards disintegration, have their origins outside India and have been imported into India by vested interests. Before that India continuedlto be the torch-bearer to entire humanity—a nation with & rich sonorous music of unity.If we look back and analyse our history, culture and heritage, the first thing that strikes us very forcibly is the underlying spirit of our fundamental unity in diversity in all times and ages. The concept of India as a well-knit, composite and homogeneous entity, transcending all her external diversities is an eloquent theme that runs throughout our literature, epics and folklore. During the Hindu period religion and language .played a pre-eminent role in fostering national and emotional integration. Religion occupied an enviable position as an agent of unity. The common devotion of the people to religion evoked affinity and sympathy for each other. The rise of new religions like Jainism and Buddhism and new sects like Shaivism and Vaishnavism created a few short intervals in the total allegiance of Indians to Hinduism. Invocation to the rivers Ganga and Jamuna as also to Krishna and Kauvery is common to the rituals performed by the Hindus all over the country. Similarly , the concept of Aasamudra Himalaya, that served as a perennial , flame of inspiration to the sages, poets and rulers alike, has been iBOther sound factor in accomplishing the task of uniting all people BtO one whole. Sanskrit and Pali as eminent languages played mrivalled roles in strengthening national integration in ancient ndlu. The barriers of caste, race, language or region did not exist br any material purpose. The Vedic sage Vasishtha was the son of a prostitute ; Valmiki was an untouchable and Kabir was brought Up in a muslim weavers’ family. These persons occupy high and ••teemed positions in our community all over India. The four Ninths established by Shankaracharya at four corners of the country, n»mely Shringeri, Puri, Dwarika and Badrinath are unshakable pillars of India’s emotional unity. It is clear that the evils of Caiteism did not exist in those days. Do the temples of Tanjore not long to every Indian ? Is every Indian not proud of Ajanta and lora paintings. The Meghadoot of Kali das brought the South and um North under one canvas.During the medieval period a new society appeared in India !•’With its distinct religion, customs and traditions. But the Bhakti vement preached an understanding among the people practising jrent religions and observing different customs. The great _lkti reformers like Kabir, Nanak, Chaitnya, Tukaram belonged I all. Akbar, the Great Mughal, who ruled practically the whole f India as one unit, practised toleration, L And yet it is also a fact of history that the centrifugal and Jllparous forces existed and they raised their heads again and again D disrupt our country’s unity. These forces sapped the strength of I Country and made India weak and disunited. With the establish-^_jOt of the English rule the. unity and understanding that had ,] Milted for ages, though certainly weakened by certain factors, was I Badly shaken up. We all know full well how the Britishers played ‘tM game of ‘divide and rule’. They separated the Muslims from , thi mainstream of national life and made them believe that they were ‘ distinct from the Hindus. In Hindu community itself they created • wedge between the scheduled castes and others. They pitched the English educated urban class against the rural masses. Simultaneously it was under the British rule that a number of new factors W«W introduced which were of great help in national integration. fUpld means of transport and communication, a common language, .Uniform laws, a common form of government and common cause of freedom of the country helped the growth of the nationalist movement in India, which engendered an emotional fervor tending tO strengthen the forces of national unity. It was a feat of extra Ordinary national unity that India won her independence from one Of the most powerful nations of the world.India is a land of very tolerant people, who believe in secular ideas. Tolerance, secularism and accommodation have been the most admirable characteristics of Indian culture. This explains the flowering and flourishing of all religions in our country side by side, without any interference or encroachment by one upon the other. In this true perspective of India’s cultural heritage, the Constitution of Independent India provided for a* strong Central Government to keep the divisive and disintegrating forces under firm check. The Constitution also assures equality and security to all classes of persons regardless of their caste, creed, religion, language, place of birth and domicile. It made India a secular state, guaranteeing equal freedom to all its citizens to profess, practise and propagate their religions without any interference. Safeguards and reservations were specially provided for linguistic minorities and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Our Constitution recognised Hindi as the official language of the Union. A number of other steps have been taken to promote national integration and also to check the tendencies that endangered the fundamental unity of the country. A few of them are integration of princely states, organisation of All India Services, implementation of Five-Year Plans for removing regional imbalances in development and promotion of cultural exd^pges between different regions of the country.Today India is a free country and a great deal of progress has been achieved in many directions. But it is a pity that the spirit of unity and accommodation, which had made our people think and believe that they were one family and nation appears to have evaporated. Fissiparous- forces, though held in check, repeatedly raise their ugly head in one form or the other. New forces of fanaticism threaten to destroy the cherished ideals of one country and one people. Passions are inflamed in the name of language, Regionalism and separatism are threatening to balkanise the country. Communal passions are whipped up. Loyalty to caste and community is given priority over devotion to the motherland.There are a large number of factors that militate against the efforts of national integration. The most formidable obstacles are : linguism, communalism and regionalism.India is a multi-lingual country. The language controversy started with Hindi being given the status of the official language of the Indian Union. The people of the South revolted against it and threatened to go out of the Union if Hindi was imposed upon them. The Constitution of India was amended to meet their demand. The plea of the South is that recognition of Hindi as the only official language will by implication and in effect create conditions for the domination of one linguistic group over all others. The language issue is a very sensitive one. We must not forget how passions were aroused on minor issues concerning reorganisation of states on the linguistic basis. The linguistic fanaticism is bad, but it has153i to be tamed with love, understanding and accommodation, not adopting rigid attitudes and postures. Some solution to the Sblem which may be acceptable to all linguistic groups must be Dived. Imposition of any language by force will only worsen the itlon.Communalism is onother serious problem, that needs a perma-It solution. There have been communal riots in the country ‘”"B and even after the partition of India. It is a poison that has roots in our polity. India cannot make any headway in lleving the goal of national integration if communalism is allowed i raise its head again and again without any check. It will need long and sustained effort to eradicate the evil of communalism. I WOuld be wishful thinking to suppose that pious resolutions of I National Integration Council will restore communal amity. It llential to strike against the forces that sustain the poisonous of communalism. Apart from removing all misgivings among minority community regarding their language, a law should be ‘ id to ban all propaganda that fosters the spread of communa-The legislation banning communal propaganda should also je for severe penalties for publication or dissemination in any manner, of false reports calculated to rouse communal IS.Casteism is another evil that stands in the way of complete “~»1 integration. The most shameful feature of the caste system existence of untouchability, practised against the people of led castes. The social oppression to which the people g to scheduled castes are subjected is one of the blackest |! the fair name of India. Our Constitution abolished un-lility and the Untouchability (Offences) Act was passed in “.king the practice of untouchability a penal offence. But tice still persists in our society in several shapes and forms. ;|Uch a vast section of our population is forced to live in rrible conditions of virtual ‘apartheid’, one can very well i how ironic and meaningless the talk of national integration JOUnd to the so-called untouchables. A hard struggle lies I, for those who seek to integrate these poor and unfortunate I into the main body of Indian society. T^ie ultimate solution pernicious and inhuman problem of casteism lies in the out of the radical agrarian reforms in the interests of the , which would ‘eliminate all vestiges of feudalism, rapid ialjsation of both the urban and rural areas and spread of (B scientific education.Regionalism is another obstacle in the way of national integra-Aggressive regionalism has gravely undermined the feeling of Of the people. It creates a parochial outlook and narrow-It is primarily a socio-economic problem, related to ‘Wnoval of the obstacles in the development of the people “to their own genius and culture. The extremely uneven economic development of the different regions of India has created tensions and jealousy between the states as to which should get priority in the matter of new projects and industries. These tensions have their origin in genuine grievances of the regions and states that have deen denied fair shares of projects and industries in the overall structure of development. The only way to do away with this imbalance in the development is to reduce and eliminate these disparities gradually. The National Integration Conference in its September-October 1961 meeting expressed the following opinion on this issue. “The Conference recognised the importance of regional balance in economic development as a positive factor for promoting national integration.” “The Conference felt, therefore, that the rapid development of economically backward regions in any state should be given priority in national and state plans at least to the extent that a minimum level of development is reached for all states within a stated period.” While this problem is not only an economic one, there is no doubt that a rapid and balanced economic development calculated to wipe out regional disparities would go a long way towards promoting national integration.Our leadership has been fully aware of the need and urgency of national integration as well as the factors hindering the advance towards this goal. The great national leader and first Prime Minister of India Shri Jawaharlal Nehru asked our people as early as in October 1955 not to “become parochial, narrow-minded, provincial, communal and caste-minded.” He referred to these tendencies as petty attachments and termed them great obstacles which stood in the way of national integration. With a view to furthering the cause of national integration, a National Integration Conference was first called by the then Prime Minister Shri Nehru in 1961. The Conference set up a National Integration Council to review all matters pertaining to this vital question and to make recommendations thereon. A statement of the National Integration Conference said, “India’s unity in the midst of diversity was stressed. In the course of a long history, people of different races, religions and languages made their own contribution to the building up of India. But in spite of this diversity, India had always had a basic unity and a peculiar and distinctive identity. Even though the achievement of political unity and freedom have confirmed this unity, various fissiparous and disruptive tendencies, such as com-munalism, casteism, regionalism and linguism, tend to disrupt the solidarity of the people. These disruptive tendencies have to be controlled and countered. While certain group loyalties on a religious, regional and linguistic basis may continue, these should be subordinated to the national interest.”The National Integration Council was constituted in 1968 against the background of communal riots and regional tensions. The Council held a meeting in June 1968 in Srinagar. Apart from adopting a Declaration of Objectives the Council made certain specific recommendations to strengthen the forces of integration.level Integration Councils were set up to give effect to the laration of the Objectives. Although the Council has not met since |8, the Standing Committee and other committees set up by the ttncil held several meetings from time to time. A Steering Cpm-Ittee constiituted under the chairmanship of the then Prime Minister it In August 1973 to consider among other things the future role id task of the National Integration Council.
The challenge before us now is how do we consolidate the • Progress made so far in this direction to forge strong and durable i link! to cement national unity and integration. The problem is I Wflous and tinkering with it will not do. Though efforts to remove 1 the obstacles have succeeded in a certain measure, much more f ^required to be done. The need of the hour is to take all possible asures in all seriousness to eliminate the obstacles that come in way. If this is neglected or not done, the consequences may be paiiasterous.
It must be taught that national integration is not a mere !dea, but a valuable concept, a significant part of the process of development of life in all its varied aspects. This education in National integration should bequeath to posterity a wold of integration, integrity and enlightened human values.