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How Indian assimilation and secularism is better than French?

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Effects of Globalization on Indian Society/ Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism


Source: IE

 Context: After the police killed a teenager (Nahel) of Algerian descent in Nanterre (France), violent protests spread across France.

France’s ethnic composition:

  • France is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse countries in Europe.
  • At least 32% of France’s population under 60 has at least one immigrant ancestor → trace their origins to countries outside Europe, especially Africa.

The French African colonies:

  • The formal French presence in Africa began with the capture of Madagascar in 1642 and the establishment of a port at Saint-Louis (present-day Senegal) in 1659.
  • This was primarily fuelled by France’s desire to secure access to commodities such as gum Arabic and groundnuts, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
  • A second phase of French colonisation began with the invasion of Algiers in 1830.
  • By the early years of the 20th century, France held present-day Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger.
  • However, almost all of France’s African colonies achieved independence by 1962.


The root cause behind the killing:

  • Systemic racism in French policing: Young men who are Black/ of North African descent, are 20 times more likely to be subjected to police identity checks than the rest of the population.
  • The Continuing France’s Sphere of Influence and Migration:
    • Critics say France’s exploitative relationship (Neocolonialism/ Last Stage of Imperialism) with its former colonies still continues.
    • This includes repeatedly intervening in political affairs, having a considerable military presence and several economically extractive processes.
    • An outcome of this situation – Africa’s continued impoverishment and the allure of European riches and quality of life – has been extensive migration from Africa to Europe.
    • For former French countries, France has been the preferred destination, where minimum wages and workers’ rights are assured.
  • The failure of assimilation:
    • After World War II, France suffered from massive labour shortages and actively lured cheap labour from its colonies.
    • Over the decades, this led to a thriving African population in France, many of whom are today naturalised citizens.
    • However, France’s uniqueness lies in the “physical presence and conceptual absence of cultural difference” – as it does not see itself as a pluralist or multicultural society.
    • The French state has focussed on “assimilating” its diverse population into the “French ideal” by strictly adhering to political egalitarianism.
    • Yet, this attempt at assimilation has remained incomplete, leading to deep tensions in French society.


  • Discrimination: African immigrants are among the poorest in the country → lowest levels of education, the highest levels of unemployment → highest rates of crime → bear the brunt of police violence, accentuated by ingrained racial attitudes.


Lessons to be learnt from India:

  • Secularism:

  • Unity in diversity:
    • It relates to the state of togetherness or integrity despite the presence of infinite diversity.
    • In India, it can be seen through national integration, growth and development, global recognition and peaceful coexistence.


Conclusion: In the era of globalisation and increased migration, governments should prefer a ‘salad bowl’ (an intercultural society can integrate different cultures while maintaining their separate identities) rather than a ‘melting pot’ (monoculture) metaphor.


Insta Links:

Strengthen secularism, save the republic


Mains Links

What can France learn from the Indian Constitution’s approach to secularism? (10 Marks)