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Home > India > News > Columnists > Tarun Vijay

Is being Indian not enough?

February 15, 2008

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I thought being an Indian is enough till I saw people being killed and ousted for not being Maharashtrian and contributing 'appropriately' for the cause of Maratha culture.

But how do I convert to their version of a good citizenship so that my existence in Mumbai and Nashik is not under threat?

First it's difficult to explain to which state I really belong. My father hailed from Punjab and my mother came from Rajasthan. They settled down in a city, which was, then under UP, but has now become the capital of a newly created hill state.

I was born and brought up there, so by birth I can be a UPwallah Bhaiya though now I shall be called a Garhwali. My brother married a UP girl; my sister was married in a Haryana village. One niece married a Tam-Bram -- I hope you understand Tamil Brahmin. The other married a Telugu boy and my nephew fell in love with a Bengali girl.

That's my family. I worked as a tribal activist in Maharashtra and Gujarat and learnt Marathi with my friends, all of whom were pucca Maharashtrians.

I loved Marathi food, read and spoke Marathi and being in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh almost all of us colleagues had a great reverence for Maharashtra. RSS founder Dr Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was a Maharashtrian. So was Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was a Maharashtrian and, of course, the great Shivaji, who elevated the sense of being an Indian like our other heroes such as Guru Govind Singh and Raja Raja Chola.

I never felt that being a Maratha was an overwhelming identity for a warrior like Shivaji till I saw a huge billboard of Shivaji's picture in Nagpur on the way to the airport.

It said -- salutations to the 'Great Kurmi Mahapurush of Maharashtra'. I saw it twice to ensure that the eulogy was written for the hero whom I thought was a great Indian icon. Yes, Shivaji was Kurmi and the Kurmi Mahasangh was celebrating their caste hero. I was perplexed, if Shivaji is a Kurmi hero, how could I feel proud of him because I am not a Kurmi?

In fact long back I had removed the caste tag from my name under the influence of some old pracharaks of the Sangh, who held an archaic belief that caste identities are of no significance in our society and we must assert our identity as Hindus only.

I think they were wrong because after having spent so many decades in Delhi I have found that caste is the only identity that matters in today's vibrant, dynamic and futuristic India.

I married a girl who hails from Garhwal, a Bisht, and it was certainly an inter-caste marriage with everyone's consent. Till then we had held the belief that being an Indian is enough, that caste and provincial marks belong to a bygone era. To be modern and forward looking means to show your acumen and win a place of honour through merit.

Enough?

Not exactly. You have to prove that you have done enough for upholding the cause of the state where you are trying your luck. Most states have this provision. The law of Bhumiputra -- or the son of the soil principle -- is applied everywhere. Beginning from Jammu and Kashmir [Images], where no Indian can buy land or get admission in a professional college unless s/he has a state residentship certificate. Thanks to the constitutional provision of Article 370, J&K is bestowed another special privilege, a separate red flag with a plough. It is hoisted along side the national tricolour.

If any woman of the state marries an Indian who is not a citizen of J&K, she loses her state subject status and their children lose the right to admission in any state run/ aided college. It's a punishment for being an Indian rather than being just a Kashmiri.

Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee was a Bengali, he was also the youngest-ever vice-chancellor of Calcutta University. But he chose to agitate for removing the ominous provisions of two flags, two constitutions and two heads of state for Kashmir. He died mysteriously in Sheikh Abdullah's jail in Srinagar [Images] and not even a magisterial enquiry was conducted.

And with that ended the unification efforts.

If you try to enter a northeastern state like Nagaland or Arunachal Pradesh, you will be required to obtain an Inner line Permit, started by the British to strengthen the isolation of NEFA (North Eastern Frontier Agency) areas. We continue with that and one has to state before a prescribed authority for how many days one is visiting the state, the purpose, where will he stay. Then there has to be a guarantor who is required to sign that within the stipulated period the person applying for permission to enter the state will go back.

This much for the national integration through government routes. But nothing of this applies to Bangladeshi infiltrators or jihadis. They are welcomed and given ration cards and enlisted as Indian citizens. The last time when I was in Nagaland, the then home minister said the state had approximately 75,000 illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators, who had entered the state without inner line permits obviously.

Being an infiltrator doesn't bother anyone, but North Indians in Mumbai, mostly Hindus, have to be targeted for vote bank politics.

In India, to be an Indian alone is a deficiency factor. You have to be a Jat, Gujjar, SC or ST or Yadav, or Muslim to live with political support and get state protection and aid.

The less your Indian-ness is pronounced, and more micro-identities are projected the chances to move forward and benefit brighten up.

So like the Haj subsidy, Andhra's Christian chief minister has announced subsidies for Christians going to Israel for pilgrimage. He hasn't uttered a word about Kailas Manasarovar pilgrims who go to Tibet for pilgrimage.

Definitely in politics a pan Indian outlook and belonging to a majority is a Ghate ka sauda -- a matter of loss.

Therefore, I find that to live a secured and politically correct life in India, it is better to have a provincial identity than just be an Indian.

Kindly get me a proselytiser who can certifiably convert me to be a Maratha or a Maharashtrian. At least I will belong to someone who would consider me his own. My broader Rashtra is lost in a shrunk Maharashtra.

Tarun Vijay is Editor, Panchjanya, the RSS weekly.


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