Perhaps the British were clever; or, may be, they were wise; or just indifferent, but when they set up demarcating the land they had conquered, they did so in a composite way. The presidencies that they carved out were multi-lingual. The old Bombay Presidency, for instance, included Sind, Gujarat, a large part of present Maharashtra and part of present-day Karnataka. Much the same was true of the old Madras Presidency which took in four Kannada-speaking, one Malayalam-speaking, a couple of Telugu-speaking districts in addition to Tamil districts which were the heart of the Presidency. Neither in then Bombay nor in then Madras was any body considered an ?outsider?. Like the Presidencies, they were multi-lingual.
The Congress, in its zeal to fight the British promoted linguistic proto-nationalism and formed Committees based strictly on language such as the Gujarat (Karnataka) Provincial Congress Committees, in good faith. The leaders then could not have dreamt that linguistic states could promote sub-nationalism of the kind that the Shiv Sena sought to promote that was detrimental to national unity. This is what precisely is happening today with champions of chauvinism hogging the headlines.
Even when the issue of establishing linguistic states was under active consideration there was a great deal of side-talk on the wisdom of setting up then Bombay as a City State. The idea had to be given up in the face of hostility from Maharashtrian leaders. From the very start Bombay'sprogress and prosperity was the result of contributory efforts from a wide source of ethnic people. In its early years, Parsis were the major contributors to Bombay'sgrowth Gujarati capital helped initiate the city'srapid industrialisation. Konkan provided the necessary mill labour. Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam educated middle class came in to cater to the managerial infra-structure.
Long after, beginning some time in the sixties, the Tuluvas from Kanara practically took over the restaurant trade. The contribution of Andhra labour to the construction of roads and buildings can only be described as monumental. Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal chipped in to make what Bollywood today is. Massive has been the contribution of ethnic non-Maharashtrians in the making of Mumbai, a fact conveniently forgotten by the small-minded Maharashtrian lumpen. Truth to say, were they to leave Mumbai in hordes, the city will become a shadow of itself, sans power, sans glory. It will be a dead city. Mumbai'sstrength is its all-pervasive multi-culturism, which should, under no circumstances, be disturbed.
What is shocking is that, barring a few exceptions, leading opinion-makers among Maharashtrians are not standing up to the sick antics of the Thackeray Clan and disowning their lunacy. It is as if Maharashtrians, by and large, are silently supporting the terrorism practiced by mindless hoodlums. Today, the target of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are the Biharis. Tomorrow it may be someone else. In the first place this has already begun to give Maharashtra a bad name. In the second place if this virus is not killed immediately, it may spread causing immense damage to inter-ethnic relations, nation wide. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena must be warned that if it continues on its wayward ways, the time may come when Maharashtrians travelling in other parts of India may get beaten up as unwanted guests. The MNS is playing with fire and it should be told so in unmistakable terms. Parts of Bihar are showing their concern, with students setting fire to railway coaches. It is a signal for worse things to come.
The very concept of One India One People is in mortal danger and the UPA government cannot ignore it or just be content with sending ?Advisories? to the Congress-led government in Maharashtra. Non-Maharashtrians are flocking to Mumbai because it is a city of opportunities. Andy citizen of India has every right to migrate to Mumbai in search of earning a livelihood. If the MNS lumpen thinks that it alone can provide all the amenities needed in a growing city like Mumbai it is going to be in for a surprise. But what all concerned Indians must contemplate on is the growing tendency among ethic groups to be self-centred.
In Tamil Nadu, ADMK leader Vaiko'ssupport to the LTTE on grounds that he is helping the cause of Tamils in Sri Lanka is symbolic of that disease. And this is a matter for deep introspection for all political parties irrespective of their ideology. The politicians seems to take the MNS revolt lightly. From what little appears in the media it is clear that the MNS probably represents the thinking of a wide but as yet unquantified section of Maharashtrians society. If there is any truth in that assessment, it is time for a lot of fresh thinking. There is an immediate need for an all-party conference to be held right in Mumbai to study the issue in all its ramifications.
In the sixties, it may be remembered the Shiv Sena'starget were ?Madrassis?, a vague term to describe a whole range of ethinic groups like Tamils, Andhras and Malayalis. Then, for a time Muslims became the target of Shiv Sena angst. Now it seems to be the turn of the Biharis, though a good percentage of taxi-drivers in Mumbai are Sikhs. No sociologist has taken the trouble to understand the psyche of the Maharashtrian lumpen which forms the mainstay of both the Shiv Sena and its current rival, the MNS. How come Kolkattans are at peace with themselves? It is said that there are more Tamil-speaking people in Bangalore than native Kannadigas. Are Maharashtrians lacking in initiative and entrepreneurial spirit? Have they lost a sense of derring-do?
Places like Dubai are thronging with people from Kerala who are doing very well there and their remittances home amount to millions of dollars every year. Kerala it is sometime said half in jest that it is surviving on the Money Order Economy. The angst of the MNS suggests a deep sense of inferiority complex, which needs to be attended to. Sentencing the MNS leader to a few days in Jail does not meet the larger issue of repairing a mental mind-set that wants ready-made jobs without the talent to created them. Better things are achieved not by counter-offensives but through analysis and understanding of a given ethos and why a given society behaves in particular way. Solutions arebalways available if problems are understood in their context. The Shive Sena and the MNS merely reflect the frustrations of a society in transit. These needs to be attended to for the formulation of constructive solution. And the time is now.
Today, the target of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are the Biharis. Tomorrow it may be someone else. In the first place this has already begun to give Maharashtra a bad name. In the second place if this virus is not killed immediately, it may spread causing immense damage to inter-ethnic relations, nation wide.