Monday, June 13, 2005

Indian-Rajasthani-Hindu or Hindu-Rajasthani-Indian

Today's TOI contains excellent piece of writing by Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar under Swaminomics. It says:

Mahatma Gandhi once declared that those who want religion and politics to be kept separate do not understand either religion nor politics.
Some secularists still say that politics and religion should not be mixed. But, as Gandhiji pointed out, this is impossible. People define themselves in terms of group identities, including religion. People think of themselves in terms of religion, ethnicity, region, caste, class, and other such group characteristics. Politicians cannot ignore this. So secularists find they have to appeal to identity politics of some sort, and communal parties find they have to appeal to secularism of some sort.
I totally agree with Mr.Aiyer on his point that it's difficult for a politician to not mix religion, ethnicity, region, caste, class, etc. with politics. Infact this was exactly my point while discussing a similar topic with Jha few days back.

BJP and the Sangh have been playing on the hindutva line for quite a while now. Their politics reached its peak in '90s when they won elections comfortably and ruled the nation in center. The combination lost the last election because hindus were finally disillusioned from them and their government could not do enough to counter the anti-incumbency factor. Majority of the Indian population is hindu and the religion politics doesn't appeal much to the gen-next of the hindu part of the nation. The next generation appears to be more tolerant and indifferent towards religion. Infact, it's speculated that in next 100 years the population in India will get very homogeneous pertaining to inter-caste/inter-religion marriages. I'm hoping with the time, the kind of ugly mix of religion and politics which we see today, will cease to exist.

If the religion mix is going southward, another kind of "separationist" activists are getting into politics. Consider following incidents:
  • Huge agitation and controversy in Bangalore over the issue of non-Kannada students appearing in CET to get admissions in colleges in Karnataka.
  • Major controversy in Karnataka over screening of non-Kannada films in the state. The association of Kannada film producers get a rule in place which forces a moratorium of 7 weeks for non-Kannada movies.
  • Bihari applicants are beaten up by Shivsena members in a Army recruitment drive in Bombay. Few trains are looted and passengers beaten in Bihar as a repercussion.
  • North Eastern students are treated as second citizen in the capital. The girls often find themselves facing abuses.
All these cases are indicators of the uprise of regionalism. Well, it's not a new thing; Tamil Nadu witnessed a huge "Anti-Hindi" or "Pro-Tamil" movement in the 60's. With resources getting scarcer and growing "floating" population in search of better living, the number of clashes based on regional identities are likely to rise. Bangalore is taken to be among the most cosmopolitan cities in India. The question, "Whose Bangalore is it?" is being discussed on various online forums for quite some time now. This took a real face during the Kannada film controversy. Non Kannada (Tams, Mallus and Northies) were labeled as outsiders and other languages' movies were understood to be the main reason behind the dying Kannada film industry. North Indians also have some strong prejudices against south Indians (Our packer, a sturdy lad from Haryana, said "Yeh chaval jyada khate hain na, isiliye inka dimag nahi chalta" (?!!)).

It won't be long before political parties will start to cash this division. Shiv Sena is already working on this formula for quite a while now. They once launched a movement called (I think) Mi Mumbaikar, which was basically a drive to move non-marathi people out of Mumbai. Later they said that all non-mumbaikars should leave Mumbai. Now, Mumbai - the city of dreams, has a huge influx of "outsiders". Thankfully the movement backfired on Shiv Sena and it lost the power, but this bias remains close to the heart of the party.

It's quite possible that as the anticipated downfall of religious politics, the regional politics will also lose it's charm between the voters. The youth is getting over this issue also, because of the globalization and increasing opportunities to interact. But this will not happen until we finally grow out of these boundaries and start to consider us Indians first, hindu/muslim/sikh or marathi/gujrati/bengali later. It might be impossible to separate communal identities from politics, but it doesn't give any party a right to cause friction between sections of the same nation and derive benefit from it.


Reshma Sanyal said...

Errr... how about some humor?

*psst.. i don't get economics/politics at all.*

Satyajit said...

How about being human first and then Indian or some further narrow identity? I think that is very far right now!

Varun Singh said...

I was talking politics, you are talking sociology :))

Harish said...

I dont think any politician is vibrant enough to start a movement where there is no frustration. All the movements can be justified not just by the politicians but by someone who has been affected adversely by that situation.

ashish dikshit said...

let me correct u, 'mee mumbaikar' campaign was started by uddhav thackeray to bring all the mumbaikars irrespective of their languistic and religious identities (at least that's what he said), and not to "basically drive out" non-marathi speakers.
what he meant was everybody is simply a 'mumbaikar', nothing else.