India is a multicultural country with predominantly ethnic Indo-Aryans (72%) and a large Dravidian population (25%). The remaining 3% are composed of Mongoloid and other ethnic minorities (CIA Factbook 2021). India’s diversity stems from ethnic interaction over its long history, unique geography, wide and diverse demographic populations. This has resulted in super-diverse society with numerous subcultures and several social stratifications and restrictions, including the notable ‘castes’ or jātis within the country.
India’s political history since decolonization has shown a high level of flexibility in accommodating institutional needs of diversity. The Indian Constitution affirms the rights of citizens in terms of religion and language usage. The state cannot impose language usage and education on any cultural minority and has the responsibility to provide adequate facilities in the mother-tong of minority groups. In addition to constitutional rights that protect diversity and cultural heritage, elaborate enforcement mechanisms have been set in place such as the “National Commission for Minorities Act of 1992) which is tasked with monitoring and preventing acts of discrimination against any citizen on the basis of religion, race, caste or language (Rex and Singh 2003). State-run institutions are also required to provide quotas for minorities to provide cultural minorities with sufficient opportunities. However, and despite the constitutional ban on discrimination based on caste, discriminatory societal attitudes persist towards historically marginalized groups (Gosh 2018). Furthermore, the rise of pro-Hindu ideology in the 1990s and over recent periods has affected the rights of cultural and religious minorities. These frictions often deter the promotion of intercultural dialogue and interaction amongst communities.
India has achieved an overall ICDI score of 0.42. India has attained average scores for most components which make up the overall ICDI score. A score of 0.53 in the component of inclusion signals an average level of minority representation. A score of 0.50 in the component of anti-discrimination indicates the presence of anti-discrimination acts and policies in the country. A score of 0.18 in the component of access to communication signals that there is little access to modern communication. A score of 0.22 in the component of socioeconomic inequality reflects low levels of intergenerational social mobility and lower levels of educational attainment.
Current Situation and Outlook
India has near average scores for its legislative and opportunities dimension. A lower score in its structural dimension can be attributed to lower-than-average scores in the components of fractionalisation, socioeconomic (in)equality and access to communication. India can strengthen its structural dimension by widening mobile telephone and internet access to increase access to communication. It can also strengthen its opportunities dimension by mitigating racist attitudes amongst different communities.