Towards Creating Liberal Minds & Pluralistic Society in India

Article Posted in: Essay

Towards Creating Liberal Minds & Pluralistic Society in India

by – Malay Patel, Vol.II, Issue.XIX – August 2016

Introduction to the Author:

Malay PatelMalay R. Patel is an Academic Associate at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad in Business policy area. Currently, he is pursuing his doctoral studies in Strategic Management from Sardar Patel University. He holds a Master degree in Paints and Polymer Technology from Sardar Patel University and a Management degree from Bangalore University. He worked in Paints and Coating industries for about three years. He also had a brief stint in academics at Indian Institute of Management, Indore and Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology, Ahmedabad before joining IIM, Ahmedabad. His research interests include community-based entrepreneurship, innovations and democracy. Apart from academics and profession, author has a passion for reading & writing from childhood and he continues to enjoy it. Author has got various articles published in leading newspaper and magazines. Most of author‟s reading & writing is regarding human emotions, eminent personalities and creative thoughts.


Towards creating Liberal minds and Pluralistic Society in India

“Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”

-Zachariah Chaffe

The above statement can be exact representation of defining boundaries of liberty regime in Indian context. There is a reason to say so, as India has always been a melting pot of stunning paradoxes, extreme diverse-cultures, religions, languages and the different modes of living. Thus, individual liberty can be granted at all fronts including all cultural aspects as well. However, one’s liberty should not essentially disturb other individual’s liberty. The phenomenon of liberty in India is bit complex, because of its sheer diversity and variety of cultures. On, the contrary the ancient land Bharat (India) has been a convention point of various cultures, civilizations and religions for more than five centuries. Therefore, liberal outlook of an individual in terms of social, economic, political and technological aspects is acting like a golden thread which can only protect the nationalism fabric of India as a united democratic nation.

Multiplicity of Viewpoints

As a nation when we categorize India, culturally it becomes complicated as India is far away from cultural homogeneity. Moreover, India has unique acclimatization of diverse ethnic groups portraying varied customs and rituals. When different cultures accord at a same place multiplicity of viewpoints are obvious situations. The multiplicity of viewpoints can be explained with an analogy of big tree which symbolizes the nation, India and the hundred cameramen (different class, creed, religions) who are taking picture of the tree from different angles. Here, no two pictures of the tree are identical even though they all represent the same tree. Thus, to say that any one picture represents the whole tree is fundamentally a wrong assumption. Similarly, to argue that India by and large is a Hindu nation is again a falsified statement. However, it happens quite often that to prove one’s superiority over other wrong statements are strongly provoked and propagated, this ultimately leads to fanaticism, a small drift towards fanaticism in thoughts in multicultural environment like India may upset the semblance and spoil the nationalism fabric, which is knitted with so much, care and consideration. Consequently, the stepping stone of creating a liberal mindset in India would necessarily start with whole hearted acceptance of multiplicity of viewpoints. The constitutional foundation of India has also adopted multiplicity of viewpoints as its underlying principle. That is the reason why India approved secular and federal structure in its constitution.

The multiple points of view can be nurtured with three main contemplations:

  1. Co-existence

There must be pairs of opposite attributes to anybody which is existent. Naming and characterization are virtually impossible without the opposites. For instance: permanent and temporary.

  1. Relativity

It can be very well observed that we are related to each other as brother/sister/mother/father/friend/coworker/neighbor etc. It can be hardly seen anything which is independent, so multiple points of view can be accommodated if relativity is taken into consideration.

  1. Reconciliation

After considering the above contemplations, two apparently different viewpoints can reconcile to become stronger view. Persistence on just one unidirectional viewpoint as the complete and absolute truth is the basis of all conflicts. Therefore, the feeling of “I only exist” vanishes and gives rise to feeling of “We exist” After considering the basis of liberal thoughts, through multiplicity of viewpoints; we need to evaluate four aspects of liberalism i.e.:- Social, economic, political and technological.

Social Liberalism

After the independence of India, first prime minister of the country Nehru spoke about freedom; he suggested freedom not only from British rule but also from the traditional thoughts on social stratification which was prevalent from Vedic era. (Varna System). His grand vision of India was devoid of inequality of any kind predominantly based on religion, caste, gender etc. Removal of class based stratification was also very high on his priorities. However, India has a very poor record in social symmetry. Therefore, the founding fathers of India envisaged the achievement of social equality by striking a cord at constitutional level. The preamble of the Indian constitution thus contains the phrase: “Equality – Social, Political and Economic.” Social equality is the most important goal. The goal of equality will be achieved only when everyone will be on an equal footing. To induce such equal footings in social structure of India the act of re-launching people of a certain caste, religion, class, gender who are essentially unrepresented and underprivileged from years together were recommended for reservation in Government services and education institutes in Mandal commission which was implemented during 1989.Nevertheless, in contemporary time of fierce competition, critics of reservation argue that such quotas are gradually becoming counterproductive, accentuating on the very imbalance of the society which was otherwise presumed to support and rectify social inequalities. Taking legality as a tool to keep a check on social equality based on caste, gender and religion cannot be a sustainable way for development in a multicultural environment as in India, many critics confront on this scheme of reservations. Thus, how the concessions provided by the reservation policy will address the crucial objective of equality is still very dubious. The answer to this disputed question can probably come through liberal self-regulated behavior; it is about holistically keeping larger issue of building a strong nation in front of you. So, it can be deduced that people with advantageous social position come forward and help other backward classes to merge with the mainstream society. The psychology of self-regulated liberal behavior can be very well exemplified with recent LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas- used for domestic cooking) subsidy in India; when India’s present prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi called upon economically well-to do masses to give up their subsidy, so that trodden and underprivileged people in the country can get access to cooking gas cylinders, more than 139 million consumers joined this voluntary scheme of LPG subsidy.

Economic Liberalism

“The Test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”

– US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

After post-independence in India, the economic vision of first prime minister of India Nehru was tilted towards socialism, he overtly stated in 1958 that : “ Socialism to some people means two things distribution, which means cutting off the pockets of the people who have too much money, and nationalization. Both these are desirable objectives.” However, this mentality of mixed economy tilted towards socialism lacked one component that is freedom-economic freedom. The deficiency of economic freedom was largely responsible for slow rate of growth in India from 1950 to 1980. On the contrary, poverty rates stayed the same during those 30 years; there was enormous population growth which gulped up almost all the income growth in the country. The importance of economic freedom came late to Indian policy makers thus; economic reforms in early 1990s were initiated however, economic liberation of 90‟s did not bring economic freedom to a majority of the population. Scenario in post-liberalization indeed, opened up new avenues in global front in terms of products and processes, there was also rise seen in land and property prices, significant increment was also observed in foreign direct investments, subsequently, impacting rise in the stock market. There are number of activities post liberalization in areas of construction, commercials complexes, shopping malls and corporate offices which boosted up. Urban markets are sparkling and there is all-round elation. For rich and affluent society India in economic fronts was shining. However, one should bear in his mind that what glitters may not be gold. Confining, one-self in corridors of metropolitan Indian cities like Mumbai or Delhi, the stark realities and plight of its rural dwellers cannot be measured appropriately. Illiteracy and backwardness are haunting Indian rural masses. The rich-poor divide is widening at a lightning pace. More than 68.8%of population in India still lives in rural areas. Thus, economic growth of handful of people in urban areas in India cannot be termed as growth in real sense, many welfare economists have attributed this current economic growth by various adjectives like jobless growth, ruthless growth, voiceless growth, rootless growth and futureless growth. According to the world development report in 1996 “The development that perpetuates today’s inequalities is neither sustainable nor worth sustaining”. This statement can be very well compared with Indian economy which emphasized more on developmental economics in contrast to welfare economics. The economic liberalization in India can be brought through inclusive income enhancement of the poorest of the poor. For, such liberalization to foster Mahatma Gandhi‟s ideas on industries and economics can be useful. Gandhi advocated trusteeship model for the employers were employers can act as true trustees of the social wealth, this approach presumes the peaceful and co-existence of capital and labour. Gandhi‟s economic approach tilted towards equal wealth distribution which is again more related to present welfare economic theories. Gandhi emphasized on “Village Reconstruction in India” he said “Reconstructing our villages is not possible until we reach a point when they are no more exploited. Large scale production and commercialization only gives way to competition and rigorous marketing leaching rural public at the end. So, we must look into the ways of making villages self-sustained”. Thus, the logical economic form of an industry in this populous country, India should ideally be devised on social significance rather than mere profitability, the principle of economic viability for bigger units might be lucrative. However, if social cost is considered in terms of sustainability and suitability bigger units can never be viable. Finally, the economic liberalization in India is more closely linked with creating self-sustained society equipped all basic amenities. These self-sustained societies can be largely shaped through greedless and moderate profit-oriented economic system essentially pillared on principles of welfare economics not just be a state, but also by an individual.

Political Liberalism

The political liberalism in India is much more crucial as it connects the economic as well as social liberalism. Political liberalism as philosophy is centered on two major principles these are individualism and liberty. At a first place political liberalism places the individual at the center stage and argues that the highest value of societal order can be built around the individual. The secondary purpose, here is of a society which allow individuals to reach their full potential if they want to, and the greatest way to do this is to give the individuals as much liberty as possible. Political liberalism in any sense does not mean total individual liberty without accountability and conscience. In fact, the moment any individual’s way of pursuing happiness collides with the interests of other individuals, the state should, and must, interfere to sort out the matter. Having done that it should get out of the scene and monitor the situation as protector of everyone’s freedom. The ideal political liberalism in India can only be achieved if larger issue of crafting individual freedom towards nationalism is addressed aptly. However, given India’s ethnic and regional diversity, none of the centralized leadership for long time succeeds within a democratic framework. Increasing decentralization and regional forces threaten the center by loosening its hold over the states and regional clusters. In these types of situations were regional powers or communal power rises; armed forces can keep Indian states integration intact for a while, but the coercion between civilian and military is not a long term solution in eyes of liberals. To keep democracy alive in such multicultural environment political liberalism essentially means keeping national interest first, here individual needs to rationalize with an open mind, and to respect or at-least tolerate differing opinions. If appeasement practices of vote bank politics in India by appealing to one particular region/ caste or community is abandoned the political liberalism is achieved in true sense. If political liberalism is seen in terms of more nationalistic view individual can achieve contentment through appropriate economic and social actions without unnecessary restrictions from the state.

Technological Liberalism

The technological liberalism is more closely linked to economic liberalization. Indian political leader and social activist Mahatma Gandhi is often referred to as the „Believer‟ of the appropriate technology, this technology is predominantly based on small, local and village –based technology which can ideally be suited for country like India to become self-reliant . Gandhi disagreed with the idea of technology that benefited only a minority at the expense of the majority or which put people out of work to increase profit. In this context of Technology Gandhi quoted “Some talk about machines which could spare man power when thousands of people are thrown jobless on the streets. Yes, I want the human toil and time to be spared, not just for a sect of people but for humanity.” Thus, technology liberalism in Indian context means to develop frugal technology which can be afforded and can be accessed by the common masses. Any efforts to replace human by machine generally cannot be a feasible solution in a long run.



The democratic framework of India can only be sustained if diversity is valued, respected and above all it is celebrated. The values of caring, sharing, service and sacrifice can certainly act as a manure to nurture the liberal mindsets in India, which can protect the nationalism fabric retaining their free space. Moreover, the human problems all over the world can only be classified under four broad categories:-

  • Scarcity- eg- Scarcity of love, Scarcity of food, Scarcity of money etc.
  • Injustice eg- Injustice to farmers, Injustice to women, Injustice to poor, violation of human rights, etc.
  • Ignorance eg- one side thinking, fundamentalism etc.
  • Selfishness eg- self-centered thinking, profiteering, greed etc.


India is having the same problems are mentioned above in broad four categories. These four categories are the also the same forces which distort the nationalism fabric of this country, further, these forces have a detrimental effect on the liberality sentiments of an individual, if these forces are not addressed with apt self-discipline and conscience.

One-sided attitude especially in India complicates problems rather solving them. It never gives solution to crucial question on “determinism” and “freedom of will”. As stated above in multiplicity of viewpoints the liberality in India fundamentally can only be accommodated if mutual consensus of interdependence and non-absolutism is understood by the common masses. Thus, the liberal’s in India are the ones who necessarily mean to give freedom and dignity not for the particular class but they do grant personal freedom and dignity for the masses as well. For the liberality to flourish in India, anyone who restricts or bans different ideas which are yet to be rationalized be majority of people is surely harming liberality regime because of one sided view. On the contrary, in multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious nation like India liberality can only be implemented if virtues of acceptance, tolerance and sacrifice among the common masses are fostered and adopted. On a closing note, India can afford to give restrained freedom, but can never allow a self-willed individual to act according to his own whim, understanding and intellect. “A free bull cannot be just allowed to roam in a crowded street”.

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