The growing frequency of terrorist attacks and sporadic acts of violence based on cultural and religious differences points towards the need to rethink policies adopted by multicultural societies towards integrating diverse communities into the national fabric. Indeed, creating a sense of belonging amongst individuals from different cultures has always been a challenge for multicultural societies. In order to achieve this end, many European countries have sought to erase markers of cultural identity from the public domain. For instance, in a recent move, France has banned the use of all religious symbols in its schools. Field research in two children’s rehabilitation homes in Bangalore suggests that efforts to create homogeneity exist at the microcosmic level, parallel to forces seeking to mask identity at the level of the nation State. Does the policy of ‘masking’ differences in identity in order to create a single, homogenous identity, which is at work in different ways in both India and France, meet the challenge of forging a sense of belonging in multicultural societies? Is it an effective means of ensuring the peaceful coexistence of distinct cultural groups within a nation State? Theories of cultural pluralism and assimilationist liberalism answer these questions in divergent ways. This paper seeks to analyze the process of ‘masking identity’ and to evaluate its impact within this theoretical framework.

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