28 States & 7 Union Territories

The ideology of ‘ethnic purification’ followed by the Nazi Party in the height of the Second World War caused what was without doubt, one of the most horrific, barbaric episodes in world history. Over six million innocent Jews lost their lives, after being subjected to cold-blooded, callous and brutal torture. The idea was based on notions of ethnic-nationalism, an idea in which the nation is defined in terms of ethnicity (or perhaps a shared language).

Between the years 1933 to 1945, the pure-blooded ‘Aryan’ race worked ruthlessly to eradicate the decidedly non-Aryan community of the Jews. Some of the Nazi followers were truly inspired by Hitler, while the others were merely envious of the large wealth collected by the industrious Jews. It was felt by many Nazi’s that the Jews were controlling all of the resources that could provide wealth, and thereby reducing the others to a state of poverty, due to the inaccessibility of resources. At the culmination of World War II, the entire ‘free’ world (including India) sat back and marveled at the complete lack of humanity demonstrated by the Nazi’s. The United Nations went on to proclaim that “never again” would such a tragedy occur and such a Holocaust would never happen again. The UN spoke on behalf of the thinking, feeling human within each of us.

More than half a century has passed. Similar movements that aimed at ‘ethnic-cleansing’ sprung out in various parts of the world, for example, the mass-genocide currently unfolding in Sudan is no less tragic than the Holocaust. And it is based on the very same division between different cultural and racial groups. Again, one wonders how the perpetrators of such violence can belong to the human race. We nod our heads disdainfully and lament at the loss of humanity. Daily newspaper headlines bombard the reader with stories of such atrocities. We spare a moment or two to contemplate the pain, the loss and the destruction. We sympathize with the victims and bemoan the futility of being ethno-centric. We are quick to categorize the perpetrators of such atrocities as the ‘other’ – the regressive, barbaric fundamentalists with wonky ideologies. We are confident in our own inherent compassion, and the strength of our intellect, are positive about the fact that had we been in the situation, we would have reacted very differently and the violence would not have occurred (or we wouldn’t have engaged in it). And then we move on, for it is so very far away from our day to day existence.

But is it really?

Everyone is familiar with the furor caused by Raj Thackeray in the early months of 2008, when he slandered large groups of North Indians that had apparently usurped the entire state of Maharashtra. The non-Maharashtran population rose up in arms against his seemingly fanatical brand of politics. It seemed only fair that as Indians, we should have the liberty to live and work in any part of the country; after all, it is our country. The Maharashtra issue is yet to conclude. It bears an eerie similarity to the conflict in the north-east. The ULFA doles out cruelty to all the non-Assamese that live and work in the state of Assam. ‘Assam for the Assamese’ has been their perpetual cry. Having spent my early childhood in Assam, I have personally witnessed the unmitigated violence that occurs in the remoter districts of the state. It becomes effortless to sympathize with the victims, the poor innocent plebeians who are tortured for no fault of their own.

Within India, a country that boasts of ‘unity in diversity’, it is startling to see the sheer lack of unity evident at every level, be it in the top priority offices in the parliament or even at the college campus. But for how long can we keep laying the blame solely on the shoulders of others? Are we not equally insular; are we not equally hostile towards those who hail from other states? In the recent years, there has been a sudden influx of low-income groups from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrating bag and baggage to Chandigarh, they work either as laborers or as low-end clerks at government offices, and there is a palpable growing resentment amongst the locals who are vying for the same jobs. They would feel that in their own state, they should be given preference. A similar issue plagues students at the time of university admissions. Which Delhi-ite has not wept bitter tears over the fact that Delhi, being the national capital is not allowed reserving seats for local students (unlike Tamil Nadu and Mumbai University which are exceedingly partial to local students). Students would obviously be delighted if the educational institutions of their own home-turf would provide them with certain perks. Does that not make us equally ethno-centric, does that not make us equally resentful to the ‘others’ who we have to compete with for even the most basic resources even in our home state? Wouldn’t we want the ‘others’ to go back to their own states and leave our jobs and our resources alone?

A discontentment is bound to grow.

I am in no way saying that these growing feelings of mal-contentment can in any way be compared to the horrors of the Holocaust. But if things continue to proceed in the manner in which they are, the dissatisfaction will only grow. The resentment felt towards the ‘outsider’, can escalate to instances of random violence, then planned violence, and then genocide, for isn’t that the natural progression? The seeds to disharmony are being sown, and the result will ostensibly be a horrific, epic scene of discord.

Is it possible to eradicate the growing frustration? Yes, but to achieve that, one has to erase the very cause of it. That would imply doing away with rigid imaginary lines that separate nations, states and people; getting rid of all such divides. But, is that in any way practical, because the lack of boundaries would inadvertently result in pandemonium, chaos and anarchy. As without any borders, it would be nearly impossible to maintain order. Is it even possible to erase such divides? Or, does the solution lie in the mindset of man, who is territorial and self-serving by nature?

In India, there are twenty-eight states and seven union territories. But, what must we do to make it a nation?

Rayman Gill


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