The Changing Politics of Identity, Diaspora and Multiculturalism:

Reflections on the Novels of Siddhartha Deb, Meena Alexander and Shashi Tharoor

Dr. M.S. Pandey
Professor of English
Department of English
Banaras Hindu University-221005
Varanasi, India
Mobile: +91 941 581 1957

The politics of identity has assumed much importance in this era of globalization. Simultaneously, the concepts of transnationalism, diaspora and multiculturalism have become problematic concerns because of the changes and transformations that the terms have undergone and the nuances that the concepts have acquired with the passage of time.  In this paper, I offer an analysis of the three novels—Siddhartha Deb’s The Point of Return, Meena Alexander’s Manhattan Music and Shashi Tharoor’s Riot—to illustrate certain contemporary aspects of identity politics, diasporic experiences and the logics of multiculturalism. The issues under consideration interact with other factors affecting power, gender, assimilation, migration and culture.
Keywords: globalization, diaspora, identity, multiculturalism, cultural heterogeneity, assimilation
One of the most discussed discourses in recent times is the one related to the politics of identity. Anna De Fina significantly opines: “Identity is an extremely complex construct and simple definitions of what the term refers to are difficult to find as there is no neutral way to characterize it” (15).  Traditionally, identity is divided into two distinct categories: Group identity and Personal identity. The first one refers to the distinguished features, practices and behaviours that a certain group of people displays. The latter one is constituted of both a person’s own individual idea about himself/herself as well as the opinions of other members of the society about him/her. The essentialists have tried to fix the notion of identity as absolute, universal and timeless. Opposing this standpoint, the feminists and cultural theorists have argued that identity is a relative term that is changeable and specific to particular times, places and situations. Identity for them is a description in language. P.W. Preston notes that “… the social construction of complex identities is accomplished in language, and identity is thus fluid, subtle and widely implicated in patterns of thought and action. Identity is not fixed, it has no essence and it does not reside in any given texts or symbols or sacred sites. It is carried in language and made and remade in routine social practice” (7).
The evolution of identity discourse came into prominence during the Renaissance when man was put at the centre of everything. During the Enlightenment movement, it was believed that the rational faculty of a human being creates his/her own identity. Later on, Romanticism gave priority to the individual over the society and celebrated individual liberty and expression of self opposing all moves to curtail a person’s freedom. But from the sociological point of view, a person’s identity is never monologic — it comes into existence and acquires meaning only through interaction with society and others. It is the society that helps a person to form his perceptions about self and identity.  Preston writes in this context: “… identity will continue to be a matter of locale (the place where people live), network (the ways in which people interact) and memory (the understanding which are sustained and re-created over time)” (167). The liberal view of identity declares that an individual has full right to choose his own identity discarding any imposition on the individual by any agency.
Various intellectual discourses have also dealt with the subject of identity from their own perspectives. The Marxists give primary importance to the collective or social identities and relegate personal identity to a secondary position. Psychoanalysts hold the view that the self is combination of conscious rational mind, social conscience and the unconscious. They further suggest that our behaviour and identity is the result of the workings of the unconscious. Feminists opine that identity is a social and discursive construct of the patriarchy created to establish its superiority to and dominance over females. Feminist discourse subverts this discursive notion and tries to establish identity based on gender equality. Linguists, on the other hand, hold the view that it is language which creates everything including identity. Human notions, perceptions and views are constructed and expressed through language. Language does not refer to any inner essence of the thing; it only suggests possibilities. Therefore, there exists no essential notion of identity.
The postcolonial discourse has introduced a wide discussion on the issue of identity regarding the colonial and national identities. According to the prominent postcolonialists, the colonial rulers, mostly of European origin, constructed the identity of themselves as well as that of the colonized subjects in order to justify their dominance over them. They posed themselves as superior and civilized while the colonized natives for them were barbaric, savage and mysterious. This helped them to establish the idea that the natives were ‘White men’s burden’ and needed to be civilized in the Western manner. But ironically, the introduction of Western education inspired the natives to understand, preserve and promote their own indigenous identity based on native culture rejecting the imposed identity of their colonial masters.
Postmodernism has dismantled all the received notions of identity so far and advocates that everything including identity is fragmented and constantly experiences shifts. According to the postmodernist view, a person possesses multiple identities simultaneously, some of which may be at times contradictory also. De Fina’s opinion is worth quoting here:
Postmodern ideas about identity reject the notion of the ‘subject’ as a Cartesian unit encompassing rationality and freedom of choices. They have led to the substitution of the single term, ‘identity’ with alternative formulations, such as its plural ‘identities’ — reflecting the notion that individuals and groups have an access to a repertoire of choices socially available to them…. (16)
In the postmodern period, globalisation has problematised and at the same time has added new dimensions to the idea of identity. According to Peter Brooker, the concept of identity is in a state of “crisis” and “uncertainty” (125) and globalisation is one of the two major reasons for this uncertainty. At a time when the world seems to be a well-connected global village that is open to receive and accept new ideas and developments, one can very well say about the near expulsion and redefinition of some of the traditional notions like the notion of the nation as a geopolitical unit and identity as a homogenous and stable entity. In the wake of new developments in the world, the old idea of the nation, prevalent in the 19th century, that the nation state comprises a single culture and the population living within its geographical boundary share that culture and hold a common single identity, has become obsolete now. History is replete with examples which point to the fact that most of the countries of the world were formed as results of invasions or peaceful settlements of people from alien places. In this context, Edward Said’s words come to our mind. He significantly said, “No country on earth is made up of homogenous natives; each has its immigrants, its internal ‘Others’, and each society, very much like the world we live in, is a hybrid” (396). Though in some cases, the traces of such displacements and settlements do not exist now, in some other cases, the different groups are acutely aware of such traces in history. Nikos Papastergiadis writes in this context: “Many of the historical traces of displacement and conquest may have been forgotten, but others remain as traumatic scars…” (83).
The different ethnic groups with their unique cultural practices and languages give rise to cultural heterogeneity. Though the members of such divergent groups as law abiding citizens, live together within the same national boundary, their awareness about their cultural boundaries make them quite resilient whenever their cultural identity is in jeopardy. Globalisation has supported this cultural heterogeneity by way of in Papastergiadis’s words “promoting diversity in cultural identity” (77) and search for one’s ethnic roots. At the same time it has also paradoxically worked for the blurring of the ideas of cultural and national identities within a certain geographical boundary as in Chris Barker’s words: “national cultural identities are not coterminous with state borders” (197). This has led to the “deterritorialisation of culture” (Papastergiadis: 76) and to the creation of transnational identity. As a result of globalisation, new economic, democratic and political ideas and developments at different parts of the world have encouraged people from the marginalized cultural groups to raise claims for equality in due recognition of their identity in the public space and equal economic and political opportunities at par with the dominant groups of the society. Bhikhu Parekh points out this phenomenon in the following terms:
The cultural and political climate in contemporary multicultural society is quite different. Thanks to the dynamics of the modern economy, their constituent communities cannot lead isolated lives and are caught up in a complex pattern of interaction with each other and the wider society. And thanks to the spread of liberal and democratic ideas, they refuse to accept inferior political status and demand equal political rights including the rights to participate in and shape the cultural life of the wider society. (7)
 The mass movement of the people from one country to another, the rapid movement of capital, the growing presence of multinational companies in all the major countries in the world have led to the birth of a new diasporic community who do not hold a single national or cultural identity and allegiance. Economic liberalization and affordable transport have made people globe-trotters and in such an environment those who have the opportunity to get frequent experience of transnational movement do not usually confine their allegiance to one nation or culture or identity. Papastergiadis rightly points out in this connection: “Individuals may feel they belong to groups whose religion, language or cultural practices are no longer bound to a particular nation. The most intimate feelings and significant relations may be stretched across a number of places. The emergent sense of community may be defined more out of common interests than territorial commitments” (84).
This present trend arrests our attention to the identity of the diaspora community whose members have been increasing with the passage of everyday. Unlike the forced displacement of people from one country to another to work as bonded labours during the colonial regime, postmodern diaspora is mainly formed by voluntary migration of people, especially from the Third World countries to the developed countries of Europe and America where problems of identity arise due to the conflict between one’s loyalty towards homeland and the claims of the host land and racial and cultural discriminations against the immigrants. For different generations of diasporic members, the degree of their in-betweenness differs and along with this, their problem of identity also varies. Diaspora identity has emerged as a hybrid one that tends to dismantle traditional notions of identity like White/Coloured, native/foreigner etc. and in the process redefines the process of identity formation. Diaspora identity mainly refers to group identity that claims for recognition of all the members, yet diasporic identity is not homogenic; it is a heterogeneous group with people of different races, genders, ages, colours, languages, ethnicities. Such heterogeneity makes the concept of diasporic identity a complicated one.
This cultural heterogeneity, encouraged and promoted by globalisation, has also created a heightened sense of identity/identities. This in recent times has resulted in controversies and conflicts. Commenting on the complexities of culture in the period of globalization, Vertovec comments: “just like globalization, transnationalism’s constituent processes and outcomes are multiple and messy” (161). It is quite obvious that among such heterogeneous cultural groups, having different identities, some groups or cultures are dominant and some others are non-dominant or minority groups. Politics of recognition and domination come into play here. It is not that one particular group enjoys dominant or majority status everywhere. Depending on vital factors like geography, history, different groups enjoy the status of majority in different regions where other groups vie for recognition and to make their presence felt.
In the particular context of India, it has been seen from time to time that while equal recognition of the lawful rights and claims of all the cultural groups has led to peaceful coexistence in some parts of the country, non-recognition of the rights of non-dominant groups by the dominant majority in some other parts or states has led to the eruption of violence and bloodshed. It is here that we need to consider the logics of multiculturalism and it is rightfully so because multiculturalism has its roots in cultural heterogeneity. In this context Parekh rightly observes in connection with the historical basis of multiculturalism: “… the terms ‘multicultural’ and ‘multiculturalism’ and the movement associated with them first appeared in countries which found themselves faced with distinct cultural groups” (4).
The concept of multiculturalism is relatively recent one. We may say that it was after the Second World War and especially after the decolonization of several nations in the 1950s that multiculturalism came to be considered seriously. It came into prominence in the late 1960s and 1970s in connection with the debates about minority rights, and has occupied a central place in the political and cultural discourses taking place in contemporary times in different parts of the world. The theorists and policy makers of almost all the countries have devoted much attention to logics of multiculturalism and this attention has led to a “fundamental shift” (Ivison: 1) in our response to the ethnic and cultural heterogeneity of the countries of the world. We can quote here Duncan Ivison’s comment regarding the centrality of the discourse of cultural diversity in contemporary times: “One thing the ‘multicultural turn’ in political theory has done is put cultural and ethnic diversity at the centre of contemporary debates… Even more recently, multicultural ideas have spread debates over the nature of global justice and the search for global norms of human rights and redistributive justice” (1). Because of the high relevance of its logics and arguments, multiculturalism, of late, has emerged as an important global, social, political and cultural ideal. Multiculturalism as a theory encompasses all the practices, public policies and provisions that aim at equal recognition for and accommodation of the less-privileged, cultural groups of every society. Rattansi pertinently points out: “Multicultural questions are also to do with a celebration of cultural diversity and pluralism, and redressing the inequalities between majorities and minorities” (12). In the present scenario of the world, this theory not only deals with recognition and providing of space to the less-privileged groups but also probes into the nature freedom, equality, cultural liberty, opportunity to engage in democratic exercises enjoyed by the non-dominant communities.
Broadly speaking, we can talk about three principal logics multiculturalism as discussed by Ivison, that are — i) protective, ii) liberal and iii) imperial. Protective logic of multiculturalism aims at preserving or protecting the cultural practices and traditions of the ethnic or cultural groups and thereby ensuring the integrity of the group. By protecting the cultural groups, it attempts to protect the individual members of the marginalised groups. The second logic of multiculturalism advocates for diversity and promotion of liberal values like equality, toleration, equal recognition, equal respect for all the members of all cultural groups of a society. It tries to transform the prevailing social and political set ups — to be more precise, the cultural and political dimensions with a view to transforming the identities of both majority and minority groups of society. The third logic of multiculturalism probes the various power relations that operate in a society by putting power at the heart of every analysis. It questions the very definitions of categories like ‘minority’ and ‘majority’ and the perceived ‘irreconcilable differences’ between the majority and minority cultures.
The marginalised and minority groups vary from place to place and country to country. The indigenous native people, the ethnic tribal groups, the linguistic minority, the religious minority, the refugees, the dalits or apartheids and even the immigrants — all have become marginalised at different places under different circumstances. These groups have suffered from the ignominy of lack of recognition or misrecognition at the hands of those who form the majority or those who are the dominant. For example, indigenous inhabitants of North and South Americas and Australia have almost become extinct as consequences of the inhuman atrocities inflicted upon them by the European settlers. In Africa, the native people have been enslaved by the powerful Whites. In Germany, during the Second World War, the Jewish minority population was killed in the name of maintaining ethnic purity during the Nazi regime. Besides physical violence, as a result of the lack of recognition of the cultural rights, the members of the non-dominant or marginalised groups become prone to suffer from psychological damage and distortion. Charles Taylor significantly observes in this context:
…our identity is partly shaped by recognition or its absence, often by the misrecognition of others, and so a person or a group of people can suffer real damage, real distortion, if the people or society around them mirror back to them a confining or demeaning or contemptible picture of themselves. Nonrecognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being. (25)
In the context of India, multiculturalism assumes special significance as ours is a country where the different types of marginalised or minority groups are found within its geopolitical boundary. These marginalised groups have struggled from time to time for due recognition and equal treatment as can be understood from their disgruntled voices. India by nature is a plural country where every community has the right to practice and maintain its cultural and religious traditions. The very constitution of India bears the mark of plurality as it pledges to offer equal opportunity to all the citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, language, religion, culture, ethnicity. But since the Independence, it has been seen that India’s secular and plural image has been marred by frequent eruptions of violent clashes between groups in the names of religion, language, ethnicity etc. India has at times failed to uphold its characteristic of unity in diversity due to such violent clashes. As a consequence, several marginalised cultural groups have been unable to find their identity properly recognised and respected by the dominant groups.
The situation is effectively portrayed in the narratives of our literature both regional and English. There are numerous examples of such identity crisis faced by minority groups in the novels written by Indian English authors both of the past and of the contemporary times. Some of these authors have depicted the problems faced by the marginalised groups within India while some others have preferred to depict the problems faced by immigrant Indians in the diaspora. In the following pages, I shall take up three novels, namely Siddhartha Deb’s The Point of Return (2002), Meena Alexander’s Manhattan Music (1997) and Shashi Tharoor’s Riot (2001) which are in my opinion of much relevance to explain the failure of the logics of multiculturalism.
Siddhartha Deb in his first novel The Point of Return deals with the issues of identity politics and recognition faced by the immigrant Bengali community in the newly created hill state Meghalaya dominated by tribal people. This 20th state of India was carved out of the state of Assam on tribal lines where the Khasi, Jaiantia and Garo tribes mainly dwell. Though Deb has not clearly mentioned the name of the city of Shillong, former capital of Assam, there are enough evidences to point that the “hill town” referred to in the novel is no other town than Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. In this beautiful hill town, immigrant Bengali people who crossed over from East Pakistan to the Indian side of the border settled down as once it was “the one place in the region that was not fractured by ethnic divisions and insurgency” (PR, 40) and “there was amity between the tribal leaders and the immigrant settlers” (PR, 41). But later, this very town that played a peaceful and amiable host to the immigrants became a site of hostility that denied recognition to the Bengali settlers pushing them into a state of crisis of identity and belonging. The turn of events in the hill town lead them to a situation where they are deprived of living a dignified life. This situation can be explained by taking into account the experiences of Dr. Dam and his son Babu in the novel.
Dr. Dam was posted in the hill town when Meghalaya was created out of Assam in 1972 and he became an employee of the new state. He devoted himself for the development of the downtrodden tribal people of the state and rose to the position of director of the veterinary and dairy department. But the treatment meted out to him by his tribal bosses indicates that the majority in the state did not recognize his rights and culture. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Meghalaya’s attaining statehood many politicians, bureaucrats and local dignitaries came to attend the celebration in the hall of Dr. Dam’s office. Dr. Dam was aware of the “subtle distinctions” and “hierarchies operating in the room” (PR, 74) that divided the gathering. As the novelist puts it:
There were rules of rank and privilege that separated the politicians from the bureaucrats, the Indian Administrative Service officers from those working for the state government, while within the state government there was subtle distinction between tribal officers and those who, like him, were immigrants. (PR, 74)
 In such celebrations the presence of ‘outsiders’ like Dr. Dam and Mr. Bora, the director of the agriculture department, becomes quite insignificant. The minister of his department ill-behaves him when he refuses to fulfill the illogical and unjustified demand of supplying additional 50kgs of chicken in the late evening. The next day in office, he even threatens to kill him pointing a gun at him. The minister grudgingly expresses before his uncle his anger regarding this incident in this way: “An outsider. A foreigner. Should have some respect” (PR, 96). The minister’s uncle Leapingstone also insults and humiliates Dr. Dam by dismissing his plans about milk supply and talking about getting the scheme scrapped by government.
This attitude of hatred for the ‘outsiders’ displayed by the seniors affects the young tribals too. The hostility of the leaders of the student union is a case in point. During a curfew in “a protest against the presence of foreigners” (PR, 227) called by the student union Dr. Dam was severely beaten by the tribal youths.  Babu puts it as follows:
… the sudden appearance of the men from the direction of Police Bazaar did not register with either of us. They must have been spots on the horizon, half a dozen blobs that magically doubled into a dozen hands enclosing us, jabbing at my father, the air turning solid with their curses and blows, a series of curiously flat sounds produced by their open hands as they struck him in the face, chest and stomach. (PR, 227)
The malevolence behind the call for the curfew can be understood from the fact that it was not announced earlier as Dr. Dam says “I heard no announcement on the radio last night” (PR, 227).
Like his father, Babu too experiences the bitterness and hostility of the tribal students. He along with his friend was attacked by Hitler and his followers during a rock concert at St. Anthony’s College. The very adoption of German names like Adolf Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels etc. by the tribal student leaders and the contamination of the previously peaceful atmosphere of the hill town with their ‘rise’ works as a reminiscent of Hitler’s atrocities on the Jews during the Second World War. Babu’s reflections in the wake of such events are quite significant:
The acts that came with rise of Adolf sealed us in forcing us to read the landscape of our everyday lives in terms of a new lexicon of outrage and fear sweeping through the town — strikes, demonstrations, public curfews, rallies, extortion, assault — dividing people into insiders and outsiders, laying down the rules of existence. Meetings held by the student union ended with demands and exhortations, with outcries of rage against the foreigners who had settled in the state, an exhilarating flow of political action that hurled itself in successive waves on anything perceived as alien outgrowths on native soil. (PR, 234)
 Hatred and discrimination against the Bengali minority settlers can be clearly discerned in the behavior of the common tribal people also. The old tribal pensioner whom Dr. Dam and Babu met outside the pension office is an example in this context. He scornfully comments on seeing Babu and his father as: “Bengalis… no use for Bengalis, always coming over the border” (PR, 22). Such discrimination and violence against the ‘outsiders’ establish that multicultural ethos remain a far cry in the state. In a review of the novel Blair Mahoney aptly comments: “… Dr. Dam and other displaced East Bengalis cannot find a place within the large agglomeration that is India, thrust from of their adopted home by tribals who wish to demarcate their own homeland and expel those who would contaminate their isolationist purity”.
Meena Alexander’s Manhattan Music deals with the identity of the diasporic community. The narrative, set in America, portrays the lives of the migrants who strive to establish their identities in a land which is the abode of multiracial and multiethnic cultures. They undergo various obstacles in the process of identity formation as the host society is not warm enough to welcome the people who have come from different parts of the globe. We meet a wide range of characters in the novel — Sandhya Rosenblum, the protagonist, her friend Draupadi who is the second generation of West Indian diaspora of Indian origin, Sandhya’s cousins Jay and Sakhi, Rashid, the Egyptian scholar and others whose views and experiences help to construct a clear idea about the challenging process of identity creation in America. In the early chapters of the novel, Alexander gives us the idea that people generally nurture about America as a land of plenty, liberty and endless opportunity. But in the later chapters, we find how the characters struggle to find their identity respected and recognized by the mainstream Americans.
The unpleasant experiences of Draupadi clearly indicate that racial discrimination and prejudice are very deep rooted in the minds of the white Americans. The experiences always make her conscious of her mixed origin that can be traced to various countries and of her blood that carries the legacy of several cultures. But at the face of all discriminations she takes pride in the fact of her mixed heritage as she herself declares: “I was born in Gingee, most part Indian, part African descended from slaves, pride of Kala Pani, sister to the Middle Passage. Also part Asian-American, from Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino blood: railroads in the West, the pineapple and sugarcane fields” (MM, 47). Sandhya too initially had the idea that “The gates of America are wide open” (MM, 7). But her subsequent experiences made her conscious of her coloured identity that even the green card of citizenship cannot remove from her mind. It cannot solve the problems that she faces due to her “dark femaleness” (MM, 39) in the American society. Sakhi, who has accepted America as her home, is also conscious of the restlessness of immigrant life as she thinks:
“Immigrants always had their problems. Travelling places was hard, staying was harder. You had to open your suitcase, lay out the little bits and pieces into ready-made niches. Smooth out the sari, exchange it for a skirt, have your hair trimmed a little differently. Sometimes the air hurt to breathe, but often times it worked well enough and lungs could swell with a slow inspiration. Then you tucked the suitcase under the bed and forgot about it, started accumulating the brick-a-brack that made you part of the streets around. If you were lucky, you had a garden, with a picket fence, a plot of earth you could plant, a patch of mint”. (MM, 207)
According to her, for the immigrants, getting a peaceful life in a foreign land is a matter of luck. In the views of Rashid, immigrants need each other to survive and that can form an identity for them as he tells Sandhya referring to the story of Frankenstein and the monster he created: “Our spiritual flesh scooped up from here and there. All our memories sizzling. But we need another. Another for the electricity. So we can live” (MM, 154).
Assimilation with the mainstream American society is not so easy for the diasporic community. American society questions the immigrants’ identity and behaves in unfriendly manner. Draupadi was not allowed to love the Irish boy in her young age because of her being a “Paki staff” (MM, 92). Her father’s Soda Shop in Gingee was ransacked and spilled with garbage by the skinheads. Sakhi too was attacked by five youths in the marketplace calling her “Paki” and “Hindu”. Strangely enough, Sakhi was neither a Pakistani nor a Hindu. It was a “moral shock” (MM, 135) for her who had embraced America as her own land.
Alexander highlights the fact that ethnic violence and racial discrimination has been the root causes of instability and disturbance in several parts of the contemporary world. In the chapter “Jay’s Journal”, Jay’s contemplations and experiences quoted as under reveal the turbulent scenario of the times and their effects on the lives of the people:
People kill for land. Who has the right to live in a place? Muslims must be pushed out of India, they say. Next it will be Christians, Buddhists, Parsis, Jews. Only Hindus are true sons of the soil. The fierce bled turned at surrounding flesh. Ethnic cleansing, they call it.
The terror in Jaffna,… The horrors in Bosnia. Rapes, unbelievable cruelty. (MM, 160)
The above discussion of the narrative points to the fact that the diasporic identity is a complicated one on the ground that the politics of recognition and domination operate in the structure of such formation of identity in the immigrant context.
Shashi Tharoor’s Riot presents a fictional account of a riot. We hear the multiple viewpoints of people from the cross sections of the society. The novel brings forth the polyphonic voices of the administrator, police officer, Hindu religious leader, Muslim intellectual etc. that point to their comprehension of community identity, national identity, causes of the violence and the division of the society. The unconventional structure of the novel (report, interviews, personal diary, letters, poems, conversation) makes it convenient for Tharoor to present the widely different views that appear like deliberations on opposing views of identity.  In the words of Tabish Khair, in Riot, “… Tharoor confronts one of the issues central to contemporary India: sectarian or ‘communal’ riots between mostly, but not only, Hindus and Muslims in India” (305). This riot claims the lives of eight people in Zalilgarh, though the circumstance in which the eighth victim lost life is mysterious. The viewpoints expressed by several characters in the novel about the history of the country, its politics and politicians, religious faiths, popular beliefs and traditions clearly bring before us the different perceptions of identity by the people of different communities and classes. Communal riot, to use Khair’s words again, “is the most ‘irrational’ manifestations of postcolonial India” (309) that poses a threat to the very “idea of humanity and humanness” (309). A consideration of the views and opinions of Ram Charan Gupta, a local Hindu leader and Mahammed Sarwar, a professor of history, clarify the causes and sentiments that leads to violence between the Hindus and Muslims in Zalilgarh.
Gupta in his interview to Randy Diggs, the American journalist, talks about Lord Ram, about Ayodhya, about “a great temple” (Riot, 52) there and Babar who “knocked it down” (Riot, 52) to build Babri Masjid in that very place and the helplessness of the Hindus who according to him suffered “For hundreds of years… under the Muslim yoke” (Riot, 53). He explains about the miraculous emergence of an idol of Ram in the courtyard of Babri Masjid which according to him was a “… clear sign from God. His temple had to be rebuilt on that sacred spot” (Riot, 53). Gupta briefs about the further developments and the resolution of the ‘people’ to rebuild the temple:
But would the court listen? They are all atheists and communists in power in our country, people who have lost their roots. They forgot that the English had left. It was English law they upheld, not Indian justice. They said no, neither Hindus nor Muslims could worship there. They refused to believe the idol had emerged spontaneously; they claimed someone had put it there. They put a padlock on the gates of the mosque. I ask you, is this fair? Do we Hindus have no rights in our country?
For years we have tried everything to undo this injustice. The courts will not listen. The government does nothing. My party leaders finally said, we have had enough. It is the people’s wish that the birthplace of Ram must be suitably honored. If the government will not do what is necessary, the people will. We will rebuild the temple. (Riot, 53)
The Hindu leader goes on to accuse the Muslims of disloyalty to India when he says “these Muslims are evil people… They are more loyal to a foreign religion Islam, than to India” (Riot, 54). He levels allegations that Muslims are not peace-loving. He says: “Muslims are fanatics and terrorists; they only understand the language of force. Where are Muslims in power where they are not oppressing other people? And wherever these Muslims are, they fight with others. Violence against non-Muslims is in their blood…” (Riot, 57).
Contrary to Gupta’s views, professor Sarwar presents an entirely different perception of the Hindu-Muslim communal misunderstandings and conflicts in his interview. Initially he mentions “… reminding people that tolerance is also a tradition in India…” (Riot, 64). He talks about the views of Moulana Azad and Mohammed Ali Jinnah and criticizes the Partition on religious lines saying, “Pakistan was created by ‘bad’ Muslims…” (Riot, 109). He further dwells on the pains of the Indian Muslims as a result of Partition. He says, “Indian Muslims know what they have lost, what burdens they have to bear as the result of the Jinnah defection, the conversion of brothers into foreigners” (Riot, 109).
The attitude of the Professor undergoes a change when he talks of the experiences of the Muslims in India. He says about prejudices against Muslims in India and comments: “Indian Muslims suffer disadvantages, even discrimination, in a hundred different ways…” (Riot, 112). In a charged tone, he says that Hindus refer to Indian Muslims as “pampered” (Riot, 113). On the one hand, professor Sarwar criticises the Hindu chauvinist leaders, and on the other, he is also critical about the “minority” status given to the Muslims in India and also questions the very notions of majority and minority. Professor Sarwar says:
What makes me a minority?... mathematically Muslims are always a minority in India, before Partition, even in the mediaeval Muslim period… But when the Great Mughals ruled on the throne of Delhi, were the Muslims a ‘minority’ then? Mathematically no doubt, but no Indian Muslim thought of himself as a minority. Brahmins are only ten percent of the population of India today — do they see themselves as a minority? No, minorityhood is a state of mind… I refuse to let others define me that way. I tell my fellow Muslims: No one can make you a minority without your consent. (Riot, 114-5)
Such views of professor Sarwar are in consonance with the third logic of multiculturalism that is “imperial” logic as proposed by Duncan Ivison, which unfortunately fails in terms of equality and recognition.  The views and opinions of the two representatives of the Hindu and Muslim communities reveal that people of both the communities perceive their counterparts differently. Such differences in perceptions accompanied with a feeling of suspicion fuel hatred among them that culminates in violent riots. Tharoor’s description in the novel significantly points to a lack of proper recognition of religious identity.
The discussion of the three novels in the above pages depicts the problems faced by the marginalised cultural groups in the context of India and also in the context of diaspora. These narratives prompt the readers to ponder over the doubts raised by the minority and the diasporic communities in terms of politics of recognition and domination. The three logics of multiculturalism — protective, liberal and imperial — that aim at equality and recognition of the marginalised minority groups seem to be in jeopardy. The voices raised by Dr. Dam and his son Babu in The Point of Return, professor Sarwar in Riot or Sandhya and Draupadi in Manhattan Music indicate towards the fact that society is still away from endorsing the logics of  multiculturalism.
Works cited:
Alexander, Meena. Manhattan Music. San Francisco: Mercury House, 1997. Print. (Herein referred to as MM in the text).
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage Publications, 2000. Print.
Brooker, Peter. Cultural Theory: A Glossary. London: Arnold, 1999. Print.
Deb, Siddhartha. The Point of Return. New York: Ecco, 2003. Print. (Herein referred to as PR in the text).
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M.S.Pandey is professor of English at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. His areas of interest include diasporic writings, contemporary literature and theory, poetry and English language teaching. He has over thirty years of postgraduate teaching experience.

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