India isfacing lot of communal-ethnic strife where the place of origin and religion ofpeople is the marker due to which they are attacked. Many a retrogradepolitical ideologies are based on the ‘first comer’ assertions. The deeperproblems related to social resources, economic deprivations and socio-politicalinequalities are being presented as problems related region or religion ofpeople. In Mumbai, one can see this in its extreme form, in the politics ofShiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Both these outfits have aregional-religious chauvinist agenda. They switch from region to religion atthe drop of the hat. They also keep combining the two in the aggressive streetpolitics.
The risingstar of this sectarian politics, Raj Thackeray, has been in the news for allthe wrong reasons, threatening ‘others’ with his usual ‘methods’ of ‘directaction’. Why the state lets the ‘direct action’ of these sectarian outfits gounpunished, is another side of the coin of the story. Recently (Sept 2012) whenthe Bihar official wrote to Maharashtra police authority that Maharashtrapolice should have informed the Bihar police before arresting the two criminalswho had broken Amar Jawan Jyoti in August 11, 2012 violence, Raj Thackerayretaliated by saying that MNS will declare all the Biharis as infiltrators. Assuch what Bihar police was asking was a mere routine followed by police of onestate while acting in the other state. Thackeray, in order to bake hispolitical bread made it an issue.
While he wastalking in this language, an interesting point came up. Congress GeneralSecretary Mr. Digvijaya Singh dug out some history from the writings ofgrandfather of Raj Thackeray and father of Bal Thackeray, Mr. PrabodhankarThackeray (?Thakre). Incidentally the spelling Thakre was changed to Thackeraynot too far back in History. Singh quoted Thakre senior’s collected works,Prabodhankar Thackeray Samagra Vangmay: Khand (Volume) 5, published by theMaharashtra Rajya Sahitya Ani Sanskritik Mandal when BJP-Shiv Sena was rulingthe state. This quote is about the geographical background of the communityfrom which Thackeray’s come, Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP). Singh quotedpage no. 45 of the volume 5, which says that Magadha’s corrupt Kshatriya kingMahapadmanand was persecuting his subjects by levying various taxes on them.Many a families from CKP community left Magadha to escape the persecution andgreed of Kshtriya ruler and left for Nepal, Kashmir and Bhopal.
The same bookmentions that out of those who left Magadh (now Bihar), around 80 familiessettled in Taal Bhopal and Prabodhankar’s family was one amongst them. As perSingh, Prabodhankar mentions that the Muslim ruler of Bhopal was very kind andwas great help to the Thackeray family. This Thackeray family later migrated toMumbai. Uddhav Thackeray, cousin of Rajand son of Bal Thackeray, said his grandfather is generally talking about theCKP and not his family in particular. Still Uddhav did not give the alternateversion of their families past. Interestingly Parabodhankar’s account breaksanother myth. Today his descendents and the practitioners of sectarian politicspropagate that the medieval period was a dark period of India as there weremany Muslim kings and Nawabs, who were doing atrocities on Hindus. Theirversion also glorifies Hindu Kings in general. Here in Prabodhankar’s account,a Khstriya (Hindu, warrior caste) king is tyrannical forcing the subjects toleave his kingdom while the Muslim Nawab is helpful for Thackeray family.Stereotyping the kings as per their religion, communal historiography hasplayed a very negative role in the history of our society. In Pakistan and Indiaboth, even today such perceptions are part of popular understanding. There is aneed to learn from what Thackeray senior writes in his book.
How do wejudge citizenship today? Do we have a right to go from one state to another ornot? Theoretically it will be accepted by all that it is legally correct. Stillin various places and more particularly in Mumbai, Shiv Sena and its clone MNShave been creating havoc on this issue. Their sectarianism is not restrictedonly to region, but also to religion. In both matters their basic understandingis also totally fabricated and far from truth. As migrants have been takingplace in to Metros, big cities, depending on survival opportunities. In preindependence times major migration took place amongst other places to Kolkatain particular. In Mumbai in the decade of 1960s to 1980s, when industrialproduction was booming here major migrations took place. And the majormigrations to Mumbai did not take place from outside Maharashtra. They werefrom mainly Konkan region of Maharashtra. Even today the migration is takingplace, the major migration is to Delhi and Punjab, Mumbai is third on the list.The latest Tata Institute of Social Sciences report tells us that 70% ofimmigrants to Mumbai are from within Maharashtra itself. In these migrationsemployment is the reason only for 15% of those coming here to Mumbai. The majorreasons for coming to Mumbai are related to such migration being a postmarriage relocation and education.
CurrentlyThackeray family, the original inhabitants from Bihar in the past, are pursuingtheir spewing of venom against Biharis in particular. Their targets have beenchanging. The Shiv Sena was propped up by the Mumbai industrialists to breakthe strength of workers unions. Shiv Sena was then subtly helped by the rulingCongress. Shiv Sena initially attacked the South Indians, with the slogan‘Uthao Lungi Bajao Pungi’ (Beat up the lungiwallahs, South Indians). Then theirtargets shifted to Gujarati’s for time being. In between Shiv Sena also postitoneditself on the bandwagon of Hindutva politics of RSS, and took the lead in 92-93Mumbai violence with slogans like ‘Muslaman ka Do hi Stan: Pakistan yaKabristan’ (Muslims can have only two abodes: Pakistan or graveyard). Theydemonized the Muslims, all this has come out in the Srikrishna report, which isyet to be implemented in letter and spirit.
Lately, NorthIndians are the major targets of the politics of regionalism. This ShivSena-MNS politics is totally against the norms of our Constitution. Theaggressive politicians also need to present the reality in an honest manner. If70% of immigrant to Mumbai are from Maharashtra are Marathi Manoos,(Marathispeaking people) what do you do with them? There are problems. But the problemsare not with Biharis or Nepalis coming here to explore survival options. Thewhole concept of development and the state polices need to be organized in away where some areas don’t get burdened by the pressure of population. Thevictims of politics based on region and religion are the poorer lot, while inlater case the poor rich divide has been abolished during last two decades.
At anotherlevel, religion, nation state, and regions are concepts which should help thehumanity grow. Spencer Wells has shown that genetic lineage of the human racegoes to Africa! Nation state is the concepts, which came to overcome thetyranny of the kingdoms. Nation states have a contribution for human society,only in so far as they bring in democratization of society and do away with feudalvalues. Regions in a nation state are meant to provide mechanisms for regionalgrowth and barring that they should be fluid and inclusive in all sense of theword. The ilk of Thackeray needs to learn the moral of story from theirlineage. It will do us good if they can also learn a bit from Tagore’suniversalism and Spencer Wells theories about migrations of human race.