Indian nationalleadership was awareeven beforeindependence thatintegration andunification is a longongoing process and isbeset with challenges.
The biggest challengecame in form ofpartition. Even ifphysical and territorialintegration is achieved, in words of Nehru, ‘psychological and emotional integration remain thebiggest challenge’, given the enormous diversity of India. There were more than 1,500languages and dialects out of which 14 major ones were recognized by constitution in 8thSchedule. There were tribes, there were minorities in terms of language and religion and so on.
Challenge for India was to utilize this diversity in a manner that India can leverage upon that andturn it into ‘unity in diversity’.Broad strategy for consolidation was a multi-pronged one involving political and territorialintegration, secularism and anti-communalism, mobilisation of political and institutionalresources, economic development and adoption of such policies which promote social justice in society. Constitutional and political structure was made conducive for the demands of diversityas well as need for unity in diversity. Decentralisation was distinguished from disintegration.Various means of positive discrimination were provided and a promise of free and fair electionserved as a gurantee of participation of everyone.
Parlimanet acted as a unfying force.Political parties of all hues and ideology – whether Socialist Party, CPI, Jan Sangha or SwantantraParty –were mainly all-India in character and promoted bigger goal of natinoal integration aswell. Congress also had people of all hues in it and it itself accomdated diverse ideologies fromrightists to socialists. Most of the national leaders – whether from Congress or outside – were aproduct of national movement and were not tied to any narrow regional ideology.Indian Army and administrative services were also agents of national integration. They weremerit based and had a pan-Indian outlook. All India recruitment free from caste, color, regionand religion bias and common training inculcated a common national character in theseservices.Similarly, in field of economy as well Industrialization was carried out in all parts of nation andwere even taken to rural and backward areas.
Big industries became a symbol of nationalendeavor and unity. Economic development was seen as necessary for national consolidationand planned development was pursued.Center state relations were also aptly handled and there were fewer occassions ofconfrontations. Center adopted an accomodative approach and Congress rule in both centerand state helped this cause.An independent, non-aligned foreign policy also supported consolidation process as it freedIndia from an ideological bias.
In social sphere, steps were tken to minimize inequalities and disparity through various activesteps like positive discrimination for weaker sections, lan reforms, community developmentprogram, integrated rural development and so on. However, caste and other social evils weremost inadequately addressed and it was on the social front that integration agenda laggedbehind the most and as a result caste discrimination continued unabated and also took form ofcasteism or mobilisation of caste identities for electoral gains.