The political system in India has recognised and allowed the celebration of different identities, symbols and marks, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said here on Saturday.

“We have been able to weave the fabric of a composite Indian culture and society, and the national identity of the country reflects different shades and colours,” he said.

Addressing the 35th All-India Sociological Conference on ‘Identity, Development and Nation-Building’ at Kashmir University, Mr. Abdullah said the parliamentary democratic system of India had heightened the expectations of people with different social and cultural identities. “It equally provides the opportunities for their satisfaction,” he said.

“Identity and nation-building has been the perennial theme of post-colonial independent states of the world. During the colonial rule, right of assertion of identity along with other rights of the people were suppressed and subjugated.

The efforts of the colonial masters were to confront the identities against each other instead of providing them the opportunities of maintaining a harmonious level. In most of the cases, the colonisers had little comprehension of the dynamics of identities,” Mr. Abdullah said. He added that in India’s post-Independence phase, identities were provided enough opportunities through democratic processes and institutions to assert and satisfy their urges.

On nation-building

The Chief Minister said nation-building was a concept which involved the process of constructing a national identity using different resources. “The objective of this process is the unity of the people to ensure political stability and national development.”

He said the developmental strategies and processes were crucial for forging national unity and achieving the objective of nation-building.

“It is important to note that the assertion of identity should not hamper the process of development and nation-building. In some cases, over-assertion of identities leads to the violation of constitutional boundaries. This process ultimately results in confrontation and instabilities in societies.”

No sociologist

“I do not claim to be a sociologist. However, as a practitioner in politics, my empirical experience provides me important insights to comprehend the structure and system of our society,” Mr. Abdullah said. He added that the Indian social system comprised aspects of caste, kinship, religion, tribe and languages that made it a complex and elaborated one.

‘Big achievement’

He said: “It is our big achievement that in spite of multiple challenges posed by the assertion of identities based on various variables, we have been marching ahead on the path of development and nation-building.”

Identity assertions and mobilisation in most of cases had helped elites belonging to a particular identity group reap the political and economic benefits, leaving the majority as have-nots, Mr. Abdullah said. “Therefore, the need of the hour is to unite people towards the path of development, economic progress and nation-building.”

‘Pluralistic society’

The Chief Minister said Jammu and Kashmir symbolised multi-culturalism and that it provided “an illustration of amity and harmony.” The State comprised the three different geographical regions of Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu, representing different cultures, religions and languages.

Jammu and Kashmir represented a pluralistic society and multifaceted cultural identities living in harmony, Mr. Abdullah said. “We have provided for equal growth and developments of all cultures and ethnic groups.”