Politics of Division

The federal political structure of India does not give its citizens dual citizenship- one for the country and one for the state. The makers of our constitution envisioned the country as one nation, with all its cultural, religious, dialectical differences coexisting in one organic whole. Some political factions, however, have contemptuously and repeatedly disregarded the spirit of integrity that the constitution tries to instill in the hearts of the Indian people.

One is immediately reminded of the surge of regionalism in early 1950s, when Pandit Nehru had to set up a State Reorganization Committee to create 16 new states on linguistic lines. The Khalistan Movement of Punjab, the extremist ULFA movement of Assam against Bengali’s and the Hurriyat movement of J&K are only a few names in the history of regional politics of India. Their internecine consequences should act as grave reminders for politicians of today, that divisive politics is destructive politics.

Presently, the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena, a regional party based in the state of Maharashtra, is propagating the notion of cultural identity and catalyzing communal violence in the state. It brings back the bitter memory of Shiv Sena’s “Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians” campaign which drove away South Indians from the state in 1970s. MNS’ agenda is now to decontaminate the Marathi culture of North Indian incursion and alleges that migrants from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are in cultural incongruence with Maharashtra.

The constitutional edifice which lays down the foundation of India’s democracy gives its people the fundamental right to move freely anywhere in the country and take up an occupation of their choice (Article 19). But the MNS refuses to go by the word of law. It mulishly rejects the precedence of an outsider in the state. It blames the state governments of UP and Bihar for their incompetence in providing opportunities to their people. MNS party workers find “Maharashtrian pride” in beating up students from other states. It is a clear indication of devolution of thought in Indian politics today.

We cannot deny the fact that every state of India has a distinct cultural identity. It is also right to have a sense of belonging to one’s state and misgivings about encroachment upon its guarded territory. But what has happened in Maharashtra is not an attempt of preservation. It is politicization of petty issues to appreciate party vote bank. It is also a violation of constitutional and basic Human Rights of people.

The most disconcerting aspect of the issue is that there is no one to stop such peremptory mass agitation and such impudence towards the law of the land. The centre finds itself helpless against one man- Raj Thackaray. It dreads to interfere and curb such insolence as the party has become more powerful than the government. One man, who has no capacity greater than any other man of this country, if arrested, the peace of the entire country is at stake. How is this success of democracy?

Every word spoken by Raj Thackaray reeks of utter contempt for the country’s value system. His purported intention to preserve Marathi culture reflects upon his felonious political strategy of regionalism. He earnestly urges support for his cause- “If I am voicing your true emotion, then why are you sitting on the fence. Come join me in this struggle.” It sounds like an invocation to divide the nation into factions and launch an incendiary riot.

Regionalism is appropriate to the extent where genuine demands of the people of a state require attention. We, as citizens of India, should find pride in being Indian and embrace the cultures and people of all the states of the country. Rahul Gandhi very aptly commented on the display of divisive politics by the MNS by saying- “Either there is the whole nation, or none at all.” Syncretism, not violence, should be the spirit among regional parties of this culturally diverse country India.

Udhav Sureka