National integration implies the spirit of one nation despite diversity of castes, creeds, religions, languages and regions. The feeling of unity and harmony among societies and communities is essential for the strength and progress of any country. It deepens mutual relations among all the people of living in a country. In fact, national integration strengthens the identity of a nation.
National integration is very important for a vast and diverse country like India. To make people aware about the importance of national unity, National integration Week or Qaumi Ekta Week is celebrated every year from November 19 to November 25. Moreover, November 19 which is also the birthday of India’s first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, is also celebrated as National Integration Day.
India is a country where people of different religions, cultures, traditions, and creeds live together. So because of these variations, differences among the people over some issues are likely to emerge. National integration works as a thread which ties the people in oneness despite all such differences. It the beauty of this country that a festival related to any religion is celebrated together with all the communities participating in it. The people visit each other’s places to meet, greet and congratulate them on religious occasions. This is why India is known as a country with unity in diversity.
Problems and Challenges to National Integration in India
India is a country of immense diversity comprising various languages, religions and castes, etc. Groups of people in India differ from each other on the basis of all these features. Moreover, castes are further divided into sub-castes and the languages are divided into dialects and most importantly religions are also divided into sub-religions.
Thus, it is natural that India presents an endless variety of cultural patterns because it’s a vast country with a large population. But at the same time, it is also true that unity amidst diversity is also visible in India. The major problems and issues impacting national integration are as following:
- Ethnic diversity
India is made of a number of diverse groups and so its diversity poses a latent threat to the unity of the country. The Indian society has always been divided in terms of caste, creed and religions and languages. The British had also benefited out of these in their intention of dividing the country. The divisive tendencies were manifested sharply during the nationalist movement for freedom which, ultimately, resulted into throwing out of the British from India, only because of the efforts of national leaders such Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Vallabh Bahi Patel and many more towards national integration.
Narrow attitudes prevailing over diverse religious identities are among major threats to the national integration. Politics in our country is the prime reason why people become prisoners of different regional identities. Even in our country some of the states have also been formed on the basis of different languages connected to some particular religions. Communalism fans the differences among people on the basis of religions. Though our country is a secular county and treats all the religions equally, still sometimes communal conflicts erupt leading to tragic loss of lives and properties.
- Cultural differences
Cultural differences sometimes also become a major bottleneck in the path of national integration. It is already visible in the form of differences between the northern states and southern states which often foster mutual discord and animosity among people. Leading to agitations and protests.
Regionalism or provincialism is also a major obstacle in the path of national integration. Notably, after the attainment of independence in our country, the ‘States Reorganisation Commission had divided the country into fourteen states in the context of the various features of the administration and the public. Ill-consequences of that division results are visible even today with new states formed on provincial grounds and the rising demand for more such states. The narrow sense of provincialism in different states of the country is increasing leading to social disharmony among people.
- Linguistic Differences
India is a vast country where different languages are spoken. Though there is nothing wrong with having the diversity of languages but obsession with one’s own language and intolerance towards other languages creates an obstacle in the path of national integration. It is a fact that the people come close to the other only through language, which necessitates a link or national language which can tie the whole country together. Unfortunately, so far we do not have a single language that can serve as a medium of communication throughout the country from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Casteism has already been considered as a social evil; still the people remain divided over their caste identities. Caste continues to play a decisive role in politics. Even though the reservation of seats in government jobs and educational institutions has been given to pull the disadvantaged people into mainstream, but it has sometimes also resulted into conflicts and agitations on the basis of castes, posing a threat to national integration.
We also see that during elections, people generally gives their votes in view of the religion and caste of the candidate, and not based on the person’s the ability and qualification. After the election, when political power is in the hands of a particular class, it tries to benefit people of that class or own religion, to the detriment of others.
- Economic disparity
Along with social diversity, economic disparity is also found in our country. While the rich who are not in a large number are getting richer, the majority of poor people are finding it increasingly difficult to make both ends meet. This rising gap between the rich and the poor is leading to mutual animosity among them. All this lack of brotherhood and harmony does not allow the feelings of national integration to take roots.
- Lack of leadership
Right kind of leadership is essential for fostering the spirit of national integration among all sections of society. But to fulfil their vested interests, social and political leaders stir up feelings of ethnicity, provincialism and sectarianism. Shiv Sena in Maharashtra seeks to promote its political agenda by taking up the interests of only Marathi-speaking people and instigating the residents of the state against people migrating from the states of their origin. This apart, we have very few leaders who command pan-India respect with an ability to unify the people of the whole country.