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Home > India > News > Columnists > Tarun Vijay

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India lost in Maharashtra

September 11, 2008

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Since when has speaking in the national language become a crime that one has to apologise for it? Amitabh Bachchan [Images], instead of standing firm to save the honour of the words of his wife and his mother tongue, yielded to political pressure and apologised. What a shame!

To him the success of his film weighed more than the principle of India's nationhood. More than an individual artist or a Bollywood icon, he symbolises good things in life and people emulate him irresistibly. He hurts people deeply by acting in a film showing him in love with a girl half his age, and makes people ecstatic through a family that observes Indian traditions and shows a unique bonding that everyone dreams of -- respect for parents, loving and caring couples in the family, a UP-wallah boy marrying a Kannadiga girl happily in Maharashtra, and a joyful attitude, immense wealth with no malice.

What else does one need in life that he should be so afraid of a politician? He let us down with his unnecessary compromising attitude. It certainly is not humility.

He has to choose whether he is just a money-spinner or a concerned Indian who lives patriotism. When it benefited him personally, he became a politician and contested elections, and when silence brings more shine, he keeps mum on issues that affect the nation and her people. So when in trouble, should he expect the people to rise in unison to support him? No sir, the recent issue doesn't concern just one individual but the very concept of our nationhood.

Hence, he could have faced the ire of a few who are defying every principle of civil behaviour and pan-nationalism and the entire nation would have felt emboldened to support him. What Raj Thackeray and his ilk are doing in Maharashtra is simply anti-Shivaji and unbecoming of the great Maratha culture. They had no problem when Urdu is imposed and spoken and used from Mumbai to Vidarbha and Konkan because it is an 'unexplainable' face of secularism. They have no guts to ask maulvis to teach Marathi in madrasas, or have instructions in Marathi medium in all the schools run privately, specially by minority institutions. They attack the weak and vulnerable (not financially but conscientiously so).

Every reasonable and proud Maratha should have come forward to uphold Maratha cultural dignity and help the Bachchans as a fellow Indian. But either they are afraid or are somewhat agreeable to Raj's tactics and purpose.

It is amazing that the elements who felt brave enough to use the harshest possible language against the patriotic people of Jammu, and declared that they didn't get a flat on rent for being a Muslim, are keeping a studied silence on Raj's divisive politics that gets breathing space from the same Congress that had created Bhindranwale.

Jai Mai Maharashtra

Maharashtra belongs to Maharashtrians as much it belongs to the other Indians. Agreed, the local culture and language must not only survive but also get support, willingly and enthusiastically, from all those who live there and have made the place their second home, rather first home, second being the one from where they came in search of better pursuits.

And Mai Maharashtra gave them all a shelter and space to shine globally. They got rich, and in turn enriched Maharashtra and India. That is the story of the blessed land that never discriminated against anyone on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Hence those who benefited have a moral responsibility to share their joys and wealth with fellow Maharashtrians, as a Maharashtrian, to further strengthen the attributes of the virtuous bhoomi.

But frankly, they have failed to give a perception of belonging to the local bhoomi, hence the undercurrent of massive support from the indigenous Marathi elite and the commoner even to some of the hateful actions of Raj. I have seen it among some well-intentioned editors who otherwise are globetrotters, but when the question of Mai Marathi comes, they speak as parochial a language as Raj. They give instances that are sometimes irrefutable.

Like some of the schools with 'international' tag that have opened in Maharashtra, but in none of these schools is anything about the great Maratha culture taught, not to say Marathi language. A UP-wallah or a Bihari and a Punjabi and a Tamil contribute their cultural traits and undoubtedly enrich the Maratha stream. But they never even try to learn the local language, which is one of the greatest languages in the world, having an extraordinarily gifted galaxy of writers and litt�rateurs. It's really sinful to spend your life in Maharashtra and remain ignorant about the works of Jnaneshwar, Tukaram or Pu La Deshpande, Namdev Dhasal and Kusumagraj.

You may add Tulsidas, Valmiki or Thiruvalluvar's works to the local social memory but still, even the adopted son of the soil must pay his obeisance through a willing assimilation with the local milieu. It has to come from within. The moment one tries to impose it from the outside, it is bound to turn ugly and the resistance grows.

This is not in support of people like Raj, but just to underline a fact that explains why there was a space created that inadvertently fed divisiveness and parochialism.

Where has the pan-national vision gone?

What are the centrifugal forces that keep the nation as one? A sense of belonging to common aspirations, icons of faith, and a commitment to widely acceptable pan-national vision.

Why should a Naga boy feel comfortable in Mumbai or in Murshidabad unless he is assured in his heart that the land belongs to him and the people are his own? If Mumbai behaves in a way Raj behaves, how can one stop a Taliban [Images] in Srinagar [Images] to behave in a national way or make Naga, and Manipuri people accept a Gandhi statue installed in Kohima and Imphal?

At the sub-conscious level the smaller identities and localised regionalism have become the mainstay of not only politics but also of the media which is getting focused on village-level news and features increasingly for a circulation boost. It is impossible to know about the national happenings or news about various parts of the country in newspapers which are otherwise 'national dailies'. Even electronic channels have gone local in search of more TRP ratings and lucre.

On the face of it, the phenomenon doesn't show anything negative that should affect the social fabric. Rather, increasing levels of prosperity and literacy have made smaller identities emerge as a big decisive factor in market economy and vote bank politics. Regional parties and regional editions play a bigger role than the national ones. This looks attractive in the beginning as giving immediate dividends but in the long run, it affects the national life and dilutes the feeling of oneness, thinning the resistance of socio-cultural integration.

What Maharashtra is witnessing today was seen in Punjab in the early '50s in the form of the Punjabi Suba movement and gradually various parts of the nation experienced in making new states emerge like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh [Images], Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand [Images], Jharkhand etc.

Maharashtra itself owes its birth to a turbulent movement which saw many lives sacrificed for a cause so passionately considered by the local inhabitants as a sacred mission of their life. Those who come to Maharashtra or go any other state forget or ignore the local realities of micro-identities.

Under the pressure of economic entrepreneurship such assertions may remain subsided, but any time a small mistake is made or a sentence is spoken innocently, with no malice intended, it can become handy to fissiparous tendencies always on the lookout for such opportunities. It becomes the bounden duty of the State and leaders of society to come forward in support of centrifugal identities and a national outlook immediately, thwarting and dismissing the petty and ghettoised voices.

But sadly these days the politics of vote bank thrives on these very tendencies of sub-national assertions. When a party can encourage and appropriate the illegal influx of Bangladeshi infiltrators to facilitate its ambitions to gain political power, then it will be futile to expect the same set of politicians, belonging to whichever class and colour, to oppose parochial vulgarities.

Mumbai should have witnessed all party leaders coming out in support of Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan and raising the tricolour over the ghettoes of micro assertions. But people know Raj Thackeray has been encouraged by the Congress to oppose and reduce the Shiv Sena, which of late had become more accommodative and national in its political assertions.

In the Bhagvad Gita there is a beautiful verse that says social leaders create a path that is followed by the common people. What kind of path are these so-called leaders creating for the common people to adopt? It is a path that doesn't strengthen the feelings of oneness and harmony.

I have never seen a leader of this variety to encourage a Marathi academy of arts and culture or providing stipend to Marathi sportsmen to excel in the Olympics [Images]. They always reach for the dustbins and create more noise and filth.

That's the main source of their sustenance.

(The author is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation)

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