[Model Answer QP2023 GS1] Discuss the impact of post liberal economy on ethnic identity and communalism.


The liberalization of the Indian economy, which began in 1991, had had wide-reaching consequences, not only on the economy itself but also on the social and cultural fabric of the country.

Impact on Ethnic Identity:

1. Revival of Ethnic and Regional Identities: The revival of traditional art forms, music, and craft as a response to globalized products. For instance, the resurgence of handloom textiles like Banarasi, Kanjeevaram, or Chanderi sarees, being marketed as unique ethnic identities in the face of fast fashion trends.

2. Migration and Identity: The increasing number of people from the North-Eastern states migrating to metropolitan cities like Bangalore or Delhi, leading to both cultural festivals showcasing their traditions and, unfortunately, instances of discrimination, emphasizing their distinct identity.  

3. Globalization and Parochialism: The “Sanskritization” movement where certain communities adopt upper-caste rituals and practices to counteract perceived Western cultural erosion.

4. Economic Inequalities and Ethnicity: The demand for separate statehood, like Gorkhaland in West Bengal, often has economic roots but gets framed in terms of ethnic identity.

Impact on Communalism:

1. Economic Inequalities and Communal Tensions: The Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 were partially rooted in economic disparities but took on a distinct communal color, leading to tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

2. Politicization of Religion: The Ayodhya dispute, especially in the post-liberalization era, has been leveraged for electoral gains, deepening communal divides.

3. Media and Communal Narratives: The portrayal of certain communities as inherently “criminal” or “terrorist” in some media outlets, perpetuating stereotypes and fostering mistrust.

4. Global Religious Movements and Local Impacts: The rise of Wahhabism, funded by oil-rich Gulf nations, influencing Muslim communities in Kerala and leading to a more conservative interpretation of Islam.

5. Consumerism and Religious Identity: The commercialization of Diwali as a major shopping festival, leading to homogenized practices. On the flip side, disputes over advertisements that aim to showcase interfaith harmony, like a popular ad showing a Hindu-Muslim couple, reflect the delicate balance of commercialization and religious sentiment.


While liberalization has steered India towards remarkable economic milestones, the undercurrents of ethnic and communal identities have been in flux, influenced by both global and local dynamics. The interplay between the market economy and cultural identity is a delicate dance, and India’s journey post-liberalization provides valuable insights into this complex relationship.

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