The Indian (Dis)Union

For us, Tamilians, C/o Dravidanadu-that-was-not, Maharashtra is as much north as say, UP, Bihar or Rajasthan, the Vindhyas and Hindi acting as the physical and mental LoCs respectively. But thanks to Raj of Thackeray clan, we now stand enlightened on the great reality that for every north there is a higher north looking down: the ‘north Indians’ from UP and Bihar are now the object of ire for the Mumbai mobs of Raj for having stolen the livelihood of the latter. And no one symbolises this, in their view, as much as Amitabh Bachchan who, though bred by Bollywood, breathes only UP, his home State. Proof: AB has put most of his money in UP and not in Maharashtra. We are tempted to ask how should one deal with the politicos of all Indian States who prefer to put their money in those familiar Swiss banks which we all know are not located in Mumbai, Lucknow or Patna. But such inquisitiveness can wait for another day … soon.

The Thackerays, together and separately, incidentally, do not love South Indians either, particularly Tamilians. In fact the party, if you can call the gang that, owes its rise to the assiduous pampering of Marathi aspirations and pandering to their apprehensions vis-a-vis people of other States. But there is nothing original or exclusive about the Sena model. It has its parochial peers in almost every State. The Vattal Nagarajs of Karnataka, the Assam-for-Assamese torch bearers and the Tamil-only-Tamils-only champions here in TN, to name a few, can give the Senas a run for their vote.

Peers apart, there were also pioneers who preceded the Sena by decades. Take for instance the Dravidian movement which originally included all four southern states. But as the people and politicos of other states got a bit rational and wise to the designs of its leaders, the movement in time morphed into an exclusive Tamil vehicle. Nevertheless, it retained the Dravidian tag just to accommodate Periyar who hailed from Karnataka. But notwithstanding his own origins, Periyar had his pet theories and yardsticks on who was a Tamil and who was not. In his scheme, even Muslims and Christians, besides of course the Aryan Brahmins, were not Tamils. And he wanted all of them out, forthwith. Really, Raj, who is high on action should in all seriousness read a lot of rational ‘literature’ so that he can also shore up his rather inadequate rhetorical sophistry. For, in this game, more than mother-tongue, it is a twisted tongue that fetches political gains.

That ethnic and linguistic chauvinism posed the greatest dangers to India’s political integrity and federal structure was obvious from day one of freedom, rather, even before. During the freedom struggle, the Congress was categorical in its support for provinces based on language. It however changed tack after independence and rightly stressed on national security and economic prosperity as the criteria for reorganising States. The Constituent Assembly which laboured for more than two years after independence over every article also did a good amount of brainstorming on re-organisation of States and again the stress was on non-linguistic factors like geographic contiguity, development and administrative convenience. In fact, a linguistic division of the nation was considered ‘inadvisable’; the result was that during the early years of Independence the provinces remained almost as the British had left them, ie., as administrative units.

And then came Potti Sriramulu, a popular Congressman, with his demand for a Telugu State to be carved out of Madras Presidency. In 1952, he went on a fast unto death for the cause and after 56 days of fasting, died; and Andhra Pradesh was born, soon enough. The central government which had till then held firm gave way and a sensible policy was reversed under grave emotional pressure. The Constitution of 1950 had given a free hand to the Centre in creating, abolishing or redrawing the borders of a State. After the formation of AP, the Centre used this power liberally and sectarian pulls, primarily language, became the criteria for launching new States. The most recent re-organisation happened in 2000 with the inauguration of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal. Demands abound, and if heeded the country may well have over 40 States soon, and worse, with over 40 Thackerays guarding their ‘citizens’ zealously!

The US has the concept of dual citizenship, of the country and the State of residence, but in India, which is a ‘Union of States’ according to the Constitution, there is only one citizenship, ie, of the Union. But in reality, we all are more citizens of States than of India that is Bharat. For, in thought, deed and in determining one’s identity, it is language and other regional affinities that often prevail over nationalist considerations. This process has been no less aided by the progressive weakening of Central Governments and rise of regional parties with narrow agendas. After all, it is quite natural for sons of a soil to perceive threats to their rights and resources when ‘aliens’ arrive. But the country, having swallowed the linguistic scissors, has only made it easy for the likes of Raj and Nagaraj to vivisect from within!

But one can advance a stronger case for dumping them and pitching for unity: None can beat the Bengalis in rosagullas; the bisibela is a downright Kannadiga patent; the intellectual property for jalebis should rightly go to Gujarat. As should idly-pongal to TN, pickle to AP, aappam and puttu to Kerala and tandoor to Punjab. And the aalu chats and chukka chappatis have the stamp of the Hindi heartland. And finally the pan-beda of the UP wallahs, who presently are at the receiving end in Mumbai! Now, let’s face it, where should our ‘tongue’ truly belong? To the dull lingo politics or the delicious lure of the palate? Can chauvnism hold a candle to such a consummate culinary choice? But forget a fulsome feast, will language fanaticism at the minimum feed the famished faithful? Now, that’s some federal food for thought!

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Jawahar T R