Christians attacked in a tribal district of Orissa, a hate campaign against north Indians in Maharashtra, a Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan… 2008 put a heavy strain on communal ties. But the good news is that an overwhelming majority of Indians still want to be counted as tolerant, secular and socially inclusive.
“Indian society is changing but not disintegrating. Most violent protests had a political agenda,” said Nandini Sardesai, Mumbai-based sociologist.The common man becomes a victim of petty political agenda because of distinct social circumstances, not inherent intolerance, said Aroon Tikekar, President of Asiatic Society of Mumbai. "There is no space to expand in Mumbai. It is the paucity of civic amenities that pushes the common person to agitate."
In Jammu and Kashmir, too, “it was not about the land and had little to do with intolerance,” said Amitabh Mattoo, former Vice-chancellor of Jammu University. “It displayed the alienation of Kashmir from New Delhi and of Jammu from Kashmir.”
In Orissa, where nearly 160 churches and prayer halls were attacked, the political rise of Bharatiya Janata Party is critically linked to religious conversion campaigns that thrive on widespread poverty in tribal districts.
“Poverty, fascist politics and economics of underdevelopment of western Orissa sustain what was witnessed recently,” said Biswamoy Pati, a New Delhi-based historian.
The forthcoming elections will reflect whether the allies of BJP, which now shares power in the state, have really succeeded in moving forward with their divisive agenda.
The good part is that our democracy is alive, and Indians increasingly appear to be shedding their apathy towards politics.
“Indian society is going through a major change where regional, communal and tribal identities are getting redefined. Fortunately, for the youth, old regional and communal identities aren’t of much consequence,” said Surinder S Jhodka, Professor of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University.