Intolerance, Prejudice and Distrust: The New Values of a New India?

As the world’s largest democracy, we have many reasons to be proud of ourselves. High economic growth rate, a young and promising population, advancement in the fields of science, medicine, technology and education, are some of the successful factors which suggest, that even after more than 60 years of independence, we are going strong and getting better. Yes, there are problems like poverty, corruption and unethical politics existing in a vicious circle from day one of our independence, but they are not something we cannot fight back in the long run. What then, has prevented us from doing so?

In the past months MNS leader Raj Thackeray has been raising rabble over the non-issue of “North Indians versus the Marathi Manoos”. Mr. Thackeray is of a view that North Indians are infringing upon the rights of the ‘true Mumbaikars’ (read Maharashtrians) who live in poverty, while the northern ‘outsiders’ prosper in Maharashtra. The fact that such a preposterous statement is being considered, debated and even acted upon, is a serious insult to the very foundation of our nation.

Geographically, we are divided in states, each having unique peculiarities and specialties. And I am sure that most people, irrespective of their being Maharashtrian, will agree that Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city in India and also the commercial and entertainment capital of India. And it could not have made it to the global business map without the synergy created by people from all over India. So logically, the claim that Mumbai deserves to be occupied by only Maharashtrians is invalid.

Legally, Maharashtra is a part of the democratic republic of India. And according to Articles 19(1) (d) and 19(1) (e) of Constitution of India, every citizen has the right to freedom of movement and residence inside India. So, the very suggestion that North Indians should be thrown out of Maharashtra, is unconstitutional.

Even if people know these arguments, they don’t hesitate in trying to make good of what Raj Thackeray has proposed. The beating up of students from Bihar and U.P. during the Railway Examinations is a shameful and immoral act. Where we should be concentrating on improving standards of living, ensuring availability of education and basic medical facilities to all, we are spending time listening to and believing men who want political glory at the cost of peace and prosperity. Media is no less responsible for enabling Raj Thackeray to gain maximum coverage on his dirty maneuvering. But it is also true that media gives people what they want to hear. So the buck stops here.

While our internal problems are still largely unsolved, a many headed beast has reared its ugly head; Terrorism. The unwarranted killing of innocent people has become so common in so many parts of the world, that we are no longer surprised to read or witness such instances in our everyday lives. Where then, is the resolve and the unity that can help us get rid of this menace?

The answer lies within us. Our nation has often been quoted as a preeminent example of how people of different religions and beliefs can co-exist peacefully. We have professed our pride on our rich heritage and history. It’s true that in a country as diverse as ours, there are bound to be differences. But these should help us learn to be more tolerant of each other, especially after so many years of independence. That this is an uphill task, can be seen in the way a few heated, irrational words can make hundreds of citizens lose their sense of right and wrong

It may be true that Raj Thackeray does not believe what he preaches and does so only to hog limelight and gain electoral brownie points. We must rise above such petty differences as to who belongs to which state and the reason why one migrates from one place to another, has obvious answers. The Marathi Manoos or even the Delhi Manoos or the Bangalore Manoos, should be proud of his city/state because there are so many Indians and foreigners contributing to its success and call it their home. What is not so obvious is the reason why so many innocent people are losing their lives everyday for no fault of theirs. The recent terror attacks on Mumbai illustrates that to overcome such an attack, we need to unite and fight together as citizens of India. The terrorists do not discriminate between people dying in a bomb attack. Nor do the soldiers or doctors of our country discriminate between the lives to be saved. Did Raj Thackeray or the MNS army come out to help or comfort the people affected by the attack? Lets not dwell on rhetoric, fellow Indians.
Nidhi Kulkarni

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