Regionalism in Maharashtra

On 3 February 2008, after clashes with the Samajwadi Party workers, MNS workers assaulted North Indian taxi drivers and damaged their vehicles in Dadar, Mumbai. At night, alleged MNS activists raided Pratap talkies in Thane, because it was playing “Saiyan se Solah Singaar”, a Bhojpuri film, and burned it down. They also damaged the theatre. On the 12th, they attacked vendors and shopkeepers from North India in various parts of Maharashtra and destroyed government property. These are some of the hundreds of incidents of violence that took place against north Indians in Maharashtra, starting in February 2008.  Violence stemming due to regionalism is not new in India. It has occurred in many states for quite some time. What started out as a beneficial cause for regional development seems to have been twisted into a political issue causing a lot of damage to life and property.

In 1953, the state of Andhra Pradesh was created following protests from the Telegu-speaking population of the Madras Presidency. This was followed by cries of protest from various parts of the countries for separate states based on linguistic lines. Regional sentiments however did not die down after the redrawing of India’s map. The states then started demanding better deals from the central government, giving rise to regional political parties like the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, Akali Dal in Punjab and the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam. They were of the belief that the Central Government was dominating them and overlooking their interests, and they needed to fight for the benefit of the local people, to protect their language and culture.

This kind of regionalism is harmless to a large extent and legitimate. A separate state does work to protect the identity of the people of a particular culture. It prevents administrative problems and also creates a feeling of security amongst the people. But somewhere this healthy kind of regionalism changed into a superiority complex and gave rise to hatred for other cultures. The issue of regionalism began being raised for expedient political gains. This is exactly what happened in Maharashtra.

On 3rd February 2008, violent clashes took place between the MNS and the Samajwadi party. MNS chief Raj Thackeray explained that the attack on the Samajwadi Party was a response to the “provocative and unnecessary show of strength” and “uncontrolled political and cultural dadagiri) of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar migrants and their leaders”. Following this, he made various comments based on language politics and regionalism, accusing North Indians from UP and Bihar for “spoiling Maharashtrian Culture and not mingling with the local population”. He accused them of taking away their jobs, and said that they should go back to where they came from. A lot of violence against North Indians by MNS workers ensued, resulting in thousands of them fleeing back to their native states, apart from heavy damages to lives, property and industry in the state.

A lot of arrests were made, due media coverage was given to the incidents and the politicians and political parties blamed each other, and amongst all the chaos, the common man and the root of their problems were forgotten. It is true that migrants from other states have overcrowded Maharashtra and put heavy pressure on the civic amenities. It has also created a scarcity of jobs for them. But the migrants are not to be blamed for that. The people from underdeveloped areas have no choice but migrate to hunt for jobs and survive.

According to the Constitution of India, an Indian citizen is free to move around and settle down peacefully any part of the country. So they go to places where jobs are available, and get them on the basis of merit. This gives the political parties absolutely no reason to accuse them of stealing anything, or criticizing their language and culture, or for that matter, instigating violence against them. Their want for limelight and votes ends up being a nightmare for the common man. This is not the solution to the problem of excessive migration. It can only be solved by development and creation of jobs in other states, and tackling the issue of overpopulation. If this unnecessary propagation of hatred continues, it will solve nothing, and only divide the people more. Today it is the division of states. Tomorrow it will be the division of districts, and so on.

Sahil Batra

Image Source: []