Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Study of Anthropology—an Indian Urgency

Anthropology as a discipline inheres huge potentials that can contribute to betterment of the entire human race. For, the term indicates its area—mankind. As an anthropologist observes analyses and tries to come to a conclusion regarding the laws of cultural, transmission, cultural exchange and cultural variation, s/he can diagnose and predict the social trend with astonishing precision in scientific method. S/he understands the psychological attributes of the people along with the values of culture and can suggest a solution to any problem that threatens the fabric of the society. Anthropologists can ensure the elevation of a primitive society to a modern by bringing about the desired changes in the society. They can help maintain social equilibrium and resist the extinction of any endangered tribe. Again, physical anthropologists are involved with various tasks like designing the garments and equipment, sports activities, criminology and penology, medico-legal aspects, health-hygiene and diseases, genetic counselling, eugenics, medicine and public welfare, education, race-relation etc. Anthropologists also deal with minority problems, community development, economic projects etc.
Now we should count them upon some of the problems that the Indian nation encounters:
· Pluralism is the dominant principle of the Indian society. This applies to all the contexts—religion, culture, ethnicity, religion, social practices etc. But several critical factors very often endanger the very fabric of this unique pluralistic society. Infiltration, which may be good on proper grounds, has been going on from the neighbouring countries with destructive intentions. Religious conversions, irrespective of any community, are often creating social tension and anger. Provincialism, caste-ism etc. are eating into the core of the pluralistic heart of the Indian union. Economic and physical exploitations of the scheduled tribes often make newspaper headlines but find no proper solution. Reservation for them is there, but there is no sincere attempt to make them understand the situation they are in.

· The Hindu Muslim communal enmity is a historical fact, and the leaders of the country wrongly advise people to keep restraint and remain ignorant of the causes. They come up with misleading policies which do not address the basic issues and throw ashes on fire, thus keeping the enmity dormant.

· The tribal people, who are equally human, feel their culture, customs and properties are endangered. Health, education, infrastructure and basic amenities elude them. A few days back every body knows what happened with them in Assam.

· The value of cultural identities and rich heritage of the South Indian people was ignored at the time of creating the nation. So some leaders emerged with the banners encouraging people to look upon the Northerns as the torch-bearers of the anti-Dravid Aryan culture and detest Hindi. Thus came an anti-Hindi agitation, which would not have arisen, had the centre had the foresight to anticipate the consequences of imposing a monolithic culture on others.

· Demands for separate states have long been lingering in the minds of the people of certain area, who justly feel deprived of the benign blessing of Mother India in terms of economic packages. Separatist terrorists take heavy toll of lives in the North-East, Tripura and Kashmir. Having no other quick solution to many basic problems, the youths join ultra-leftist groups, who have been given the pejorative epithet ‘Maobadi’, in spite of the fact that the groups have specific names. Gorkhaland Movement has been followed by Kamtapur Movement in the North Bengal (a phrase coined in pejorative sense, eliciting a distance from the centre, Kolkata, which is, of course, a psychological centre, not geographical). All these point to a prevalent anger against the establishment which, if not tackled properly, can tear the entire Indian union into pieces. So time is ripe for anthropology, which can be an effective means to tackling these problems on humanitarian ground.
· First of all, basic anthropology should be made compulsory in schools to disperse the fog of cultural superiority from the tender minds. Anthropology offers a rich understanding about the biological foundation of culture and human living. It will help the children to locate their origin in this world, look at religion from scientific angle and break the myth of racism and cultural superiority.

· While creating new states, anthropologists should be consulted to see that all the necessities are duly fulfilled. Social moods and demands should be strictly calculated upon. Furthermore, tribal areas should be given special care. Anthropologists, who conducted researches or are aware of the ethnic originality, should be consulted to ensure the desired changes among them to make them a modern community with endangering their customs, cultures and values.

· Anthropologists should be called to ensure proper distribution of natural resources and economic upliftment, poverty alleviation, guarantee basic amenities of life. It is a pity that we think our economists (especially the foreign ones) the only persons who should be given the charge.
In fine, we can say that the central government and the state governments should seek to anthropologists’ help to ensure that the underdeveloped communities become developed culturally and economically and, that they don’t feel deprived or neglected by the so-called machinery. The government must ensure with the help of the anthropologists that all communities live happily in co-existence and preach the greatness of the great country—India.
(I have written this keeping in mind the Indian context. But I think this applies to all the countries of the world. Additions on the part of the readers are welcome, for I want to modify this writing.)

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