The future we Indians face was put sharply into focus by Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena over the last few days. Showing that in the end, the MNS is no more than a clone of the Shiv Sena original, MNS activists attacked various residents of Mumbai, only because they are “not Maharashtrian”; in particular, because they are from the north of India.
This raises so many questions that it is difficult to know where to start.
How do you define “Maharashtrian”, and therefore its opposite, “not Maharashtrian”? Is there anything in the name “Maharashtra” that says it means the same as “Marathi-speaker”?
If someone was born in the city in 1960, say, and does not speak Marathi, is she Maharashtrian or not? If someone migrated into the city in 2006, say, and speaks Marathi, is she Maharashtrian or not? If first person now learns fluent Marathi, is she Maharashtrian or not?
Is Mumbai to be the exclusive preserve of some people who define themselves as authentic Mumbaikars, and define everyone else as outsiders? Why not extend that logic to every other city and state in this country then? And if we do that, why not then ask ourselves in what sense we are Indian at all? Are those who speak of “Maharashtrian” and “non-Maharashtrian” not blowing holes in the idea of India itself?
That’s what it’s all about, really. For all India’s progress and promise, it’s fortunes are also in the hands of those who would tear it apart by beating up other Indians just for being other Indians.
That’s the crystal ball future that men like Raj Thackeray are holding up for us. Unless we find it in ourselves to reject the politics that turns Indian against Indian, it will become our sordid present.
At Citizens for Peace, it’s not just that we condemn this violence. We also ask our fellow Indians to think seriously about that future.