Thursday, May 08, 2008

Redeemer of the Marathi maanus?

I was interested in finding out the reactions of bloggers to Raj Thackeray's onslaught on “para-prantiya” परप्रन्तिया (pronounced in Marathi) which means “people from outside the state of Maharashtra”. But to my dismay, the event seems to have been ignored or at best, given a passing mention in the blogosphere.

What Raj is doing is not new. Neither is it unique to Maharashtra alone. Awakening the linguistic identity of a populace and instilling a sense of injustice and hurt pride in them is the easiest way to get ahead in Indian politics.

About two years ago, Raj Thackeray had separated from the Shiv Sena because he saw no meaningful future for his political career in the party as Thackeray Sr had thrown his weight behind his own son, Uddhav. At that time, the tone of his politics was progressive and pragmatic. There was no rhetoric which the Sena was famous for nor was there pandering to the linguistic or religious sentiments of people. After the initial hoopla about how the emergence of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena could affect future elections, everyone seemed to forget about the man. A small local election ensued and the MNS had a poor showing. A large number of MNS workers who had come in from the Sena were contemplating a return. With his back to the wall, our hero had no other option but to take refuge in the oldest and sure-fire strategy to win a votebank for himself.

Having said this, the “Marathi maanus” propaganda is neither without basis nor has it failed to evoke strong support among the locals, particularly in the larger cities like Mumbai. The ever-increasing influx from other states is getting a bit tiresome. There is a feeling among the locals that the outsiders bring in their own alien culture and never make any attempts to harmonise themselves with the local ones. There is also the sentiment that the outsiders look at say, Mumbai, just as a place to milk and make money and then go back to their roots in their home states. These feelings are not unjustified. Particularly if you look at the UP-Biharis, who are currently the target of the MNS, these have increasingly begun to assert their presence in the state. The “chat puja” which is largely a North Indian festival may have been celebrated in Mumbai for many years. But of late, the event has started attracting huge money and hype. The celebration of the UP diwas was totally uncalled for. Worse, the UP-Biharis are finding influence with the local politicians who are finding their sheer numbers a convenient vote bank. The increasing clout is represented by the cabinet minister Kripashankar Singh, who is from UP, but now a minister in Maharashtra.

Amitabh Bachchan’s fans may cringe at the MNS chief’s diatribe against the superstar. However, Raj uses the Big B only as an example to prove his point. Despite having made a name for himself after staying in Maharashtra for so many years, the Big B has become an ambassador for UP. Which means what? That the Big B has his roots in UP! This must be true for most of the other Upites. If you have roots in one state, you will never ever want to assimilate in the ethos of your adopted state.

As Raj Thackeray in his May 3rd carefully drafted speech outlined, language chauvinists from all states are guilty of poisoning minds. Many of the arguments put forward by him are not easy to refute. He read out a statement attributed to Sonia’s partner in govt, Anbumani Ramadoss, who has warned Dravidians against Rajnikant’s attempts to come into the centerstage of TN politics. This, despite, Rajnikant (who is a Maharashtrian) has completely transformed himself into a Tamilian and is a hero to the locals there.

We know of language chauvinists in other states like Andhra, Karnataka etc.

We also know how it is difficult, nay impossible, to have a comfortable stay in capital cities of states if you cannot follow the local language – try living in Chennai without knowing Tamil or in Kolkata without knowing Bengali. The lingua franca in offices is not English, it is the local language. But in Mumbai, you need not really know Marathi. Hindi is good enough. That shows the liberal attitude of Maharashtrians. It is this liberal attitude which politicos like Raj Thackeray is trying to change for his electoral gains. You can fault him for his crudeness and foul language, but you cannot bar him legally, as Home Minister RR Patil has recently found out. Then, politicians cannot be given moral sermons too. So how does one stop him?

Not easy. In a country where states are drawn on linguistic basis (a Nehru legacy), we must be prepared for hardening of such identity differentiation. Only if you redraw the states on some other basis, will the language identity be dented. To take the poison out of Raj’s bite, we have to first take away the luxury that chauvinists from other states have.

Then, and only then, can we look at Raj Thackeray in the eye and tell him to shut up!


B Shantanu said...

Ravindra: Good post and some good counterpoints.....

Would you mind sharing them with my other readers here:

I dont mind taking excerpts from your post either - if you are OK with it.


P.S. Thanks also for including me on your blogroll.

Ravindra said...


Thanks for the comment. You are free to use the excerpts.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ravindra

Chennai, Banglore, and other states where local language is given importance because it is not a hub and has not flourished yet(I can say not with the help of migrants)the way mumbai has. Mumbai has flourished due to contribution of migrants, locals and businesses. Film industry is one of it which brings many migrants to the state particularly Mumbai. Other state has no such status what Mumbai is enjoying. So it is very simple that with status also comes responsibilities and that is sharing. One cannot claim over state by keeping millions who have helped Mumbai to reach this stage.

Raj is acting like an uneducated, illiterate man full of anger and hatred. Many Marathis and others are residing outside country. And their work has been recognoised. So why Mumbai fails to recgonise the hardship and contribution of outsiders.

Second thing, there was uproar for Gujaratis, Tamilians in the past and today it is turn of Upities and God knows who will be tomorrow.

As a welbehaved man he should first recognise the contribution of outsiders and than take a step to prevail law and order. Is this the way to drive out people by force, threatening, and killing.
What gives Raj authority to do so? Locals are enjoying the free rides given by this politicians so they praise Raj and the party.
Why "aamchi marathi" is important over "Aamchi desbandhu". Every state faces some sort of problems but you cannot claim everything in the state for locals.
And Raj is born in India he knows the problems of our country very well. He is not just woke up one day and finds out.

For an experiment forget other big multinational business just take film indusrty to some other state. And watch the result. Half of your Mumbai will be empty. So it is not the migrants who are causing problems but flourising business is the headache for Raj.

prudent indian said...

Ravindra, i agree with you on most points and believe Raj has gone nuts

However, the states , especially UP and Bihar must do a serious introspection and answers self first, why do most of migrant laborers are from these two states only? Most of migrants from UP and Bihar are engaged in menial labor works. If an educated, or a business man, or a service man migrates to another city for growth that is perfectly understandable. And I maintain that it is the
fundamental right to work any where in India, however across India barring South you see UP and Bihari migrant labors doing menial work. WHY? Because these two states fail to provide them enough to sustain themselves with some basic needs with dignity. NO developmental work in these two states is the one answer. These two state leaders and those Cow belt Politicians, who are crying 'foul' over Raj's remark should put their heads together and create opportunities for these people to make a decent living with honor and dignity.

In north there is Haryana, Punjab, Himachal, MP, Rajasthan too, where do we find migrants from these states doing 'menial' work and that too in such a huge nos?

Of course, I insist that it is fundamental right of each and every Indian to work and stay any where he/she choose to, but at the same time every Indian 'equally' has a right to earn his living with dignity in the state of his birth. Since the state of their birth have failed to provide them this opportunity so the 'States' and their leader ship are equally to blame if not 'more' than Raj for the sorry plight of migrants.
Prudent Indian

Ravindra said...


I agree with you that the prosperity of Mumbai is mainly on account of migrants, whether it is the industrialists or the labourers. Left to the locals, Mumbai would never have reached the heights it has now. I also agree that the film industry is a great employment generator and this also attracts migrants.

However, it must be remembered that Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra. Being the capital of Maharashtra, it is only natural that the local people desire to see their own culture being predominant here. That is the only point. This is true in capital cities of all other states except Maharashtra.

If somebody has the guts, let them say that we create a separate state called Mumbai and let another city, say, Pune, become the capital. Atleast here, the culture is predominantly Maharashtrian due to a lesser proportion of migrants being present. That would be a more rational way to approach the issue.

But that would create a havoc politically in Maharashtra and would only strengthen divisive forces. That’s why I said that we redraw states on administrative lines. In this process, Mumbai can be kept separate from any linguistic group. At the same time, it is not just the people of Maharashtra who are deprived of their original capital city, it could be a more holistic exercise.

Ravindra said...


As your rightly put it, the other states need to pull up their socks in providing an employment and better quality of life to their people. We all know the conditions in UP and Bihar are abysmal in almost all respects. Only when something is done about it, will we be able to stem the outflow from these states.

As regards the other states, I guess it is because the economic activity is more in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat, hence the inflow is more here.

I agree that the fundamental right to work any where in India should be upheld, but then there must be a limit so that the basic infrastructure is not put to too much stress.

socal said...

Demographics is king today! The problem Mumbai faces today is being faced on lesser scale by Bangalore too, as read on blogs here and there. Kannadigas complain of the noisy culture of North. Aside, perhaps Tamilians can match the UP Biharis in noise J/K. But, as any place grows economically, people are bound to migrate. Those with larger numbers, consequentially higher poverty will migrate more. Democracy has no solution for this problem. Eventually the weaker side will get eclipsed.

Ravindra said...


I guess you are right,but it is only natural that the locals would put up a stiff resistance. Particularly if:

a) they have been told that this city "belongs" to them

b) other cities have better local identity retention

socal said...

Resistance can postpone the inevitable at most. Funny as it may sound, the result of such movement can indeed get interesting. The UP/Bihar group will displace other city denizens. The Bangladeshis will capture UP/Bihar and displace them. Then they will move to other places where these two are newly entrenched and essentially fight the same battle but on the other side of aisle. Ultimately the fastest producing and most backward group wins. Pretty much the same thing is happening across the world on different levels.