Friday, December 16, 2005

India: a nation or a country?

Few events occurring in India in the last month or so are enough to indicate that we still have a long way to go to have an identity as a nation, even after over 58 years of independence. It may be or may not be right to drop our ex-captain from Cricket team so unceremoniously, but the fact that the whole controversy has taken Bengali versus non-Bengali turn is very disturbing. Some of the comments published on open forums like Indiatimes blogs or Rediff are extremely caustic and parochial. This is not a single such incident. I was appalled to read in the news that contestants in various game-shows or talent hunt appealed openly to people from their respective home-states to vote for them. If I am not mistaken, even the Chief Minister of a state asked people to vote for a finalist in the Indian Idol contest.

This feeling of regional identity seems to be pan-Indian (quite ironic, isn’t it?). Interestingly, some sections of people from every community feel that they are not being as ‘provincial’ as other communities, and this is what is hampering their progress. Some of them go as far as in stating that there is a nation-wide conspiracy against their community ‘to keep them down’.

Maharashtrians feel that the so-called ‘outsiders’ have taken over Mumbai and they are left behind in all sectors. Goans feel that if they allow Marathi to be the state-language then people from Maharashtra will take away all their jobs. Bengalis resent the fact that most of the trade in their capital is controlled by the non-Bengalis, whereas ULFA or AGP in neighboring state of Assam claims the same against them. Tamils and Kannadigas fight over the water. The list is endless.

Though by and large the Indian identity is more dominant than the regional one outside India, few of the incidents still show how deeply rooted these boundaries are. To give an example, three new students arrive from India. Seniors duly pick them up from airport and arrange for their temporary accommodation at their home. Imagine their dismay, when these new kids refuse to stay with them only because they belong to ‘different half’ of India and demand to stay with seniors from their state.

It will be too naïve to expect that we will forget all our differences and will consider ourselves only as Indians (or for that matter, just human beings to take it up by one level). The only thing we can attempt is to keep the regional bias to the minimum. By nature, man tends to find someone like him (utpatsyate hi mam kopi samandharma...). Language is just one such criterion. Color of skin, religion, nationality, interests – vested or otherwise, culture, caste, class - so many other things divide us between different groups, and/or bring people sharing common things together.

It is not just a question of regional biases in India; on a bigger scale the question is whether the mankind is ready for globalization in its true sense – not just economically, but as imagined by Tagore (Yatra vishwam bhavatyekaneedam – where the whole world becomes a single nest). The leading cities of the world are not just cosmopolitan in intra-national sense – they are becoming a melting pot with people from all the nationalities. At this juncture of time, soon it will be passé to rue about the loss of regional identity of Mumbai or Bangalore (No, the name change is scheduled to take effect from Nov. 1, 2006 :-)) and the new dilemma would be to preserve their Indian identity. Perhaps, that would bring us tad closer to Indian-ness.


Sudhu said...

The problem is attributed to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who against stiff opposition chose to divide the country into states on the basis of Languages spoken. If he would have rather chosen just geographical boundaries, things might have been different.
To add to the list of problems, one obvious problem while dividing states based on religion is the problem of the one's living on the border of two states. There is a mix of languages in these bordering towns. The recent revolts in Belgaum are just a small example.

Sudhu said...

sorry, i meant dividing states based on Language... and not Religion :)

Nandan said...

Thanks Sudhu for the quick comments. I do not think formation of states based on geographical boundaries would have helped much either. The states that existed before 1960 with two or more linguistic communities had their own share of problems; with each complaining that the rulers are favoring the other community. Be it the state of Vidarbha, Bombay, Mysore or erstwhile Bengal state including Bihar - linguistic divisions were quite clear. Bihar, for example, was formed in 1912 as people wanted a separate identity as a different linguistic state.