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State of the Indian States!

Posted on July 20, 2010 in Society

By Ritwika Sharma:

How many times have we been part of a conversation, dismissing certain habits as being peculiar to a state or territory of our own nation, but alien to our own selves? How many times have we explicitly made a firm realization of the fact that we our two different, maybe even conflicting entities; one that represents the state or region that we belong to and the other, miniscule albeit identifiable entity of being an Indian?

Unconsciously, we do that all the time. An individual belonging to a place in North India is genuinely sympathized with if he/she lands up a job in any of the southern states. Poor child, how will he survive? What will he get to eat? Accustomed to daal makhni and roti, he will be reduced to the width of the paper-thin dosas that he will get to eat over there!! People in the Delhi University, the supposed Mecca of diversity when it comes to educational institutions in India, cannot abstain from referring to the students from the Northeast as chinkis. Derogatory, it might not be. Distinctive, it certainly is.

Now is the time when people from one place in the country are fast moving to places far and wide in pursuit of employment or for educational purposes. Does it not seem ironical in such an event that there should be such disparity and a sentiment of distinction between residents of different areas? As a matter of fact, the very territorial division of our nation is on a basis that defies all logic. The ever-increasing number of states and the persistent demand for even more due to social and political groups is justified under the garb of administrative convenience when in actuality, it was and still is on a largely linguistic and cultural basis. Who can forget the agitation and violence that ensued way back in 1952 that witnessed the creation of Andhra Pradesh, the first state to have been carved out on a linguistic basis? If not anything else, it paved the way for other language-based groups to justify their demands. The problem seems to continue with demands for separate states from various linguistic and political factions emerging every now and then.

The problem of such a division of the country manifests itself in ways more than one. For a nation so abundantly endowed with natural resources, why are various states constantly at loggerheads with one another for some or the other resource? Why are water disputes so rampant that even our Constitution has a separate provision that deals with water disputes? Did the framers of our Constitution anticipate that the states would be at variance with each other for something like water that they made it amply clear by inserting a provision dedicated to this inimitable object?

The issue does not seem to end here. We have been a nation that let refugees from across the border enter without the blink of an eye at the time of partition. Nearly 60 years later, an autowallah would drop you at the Delhi-UP border but would refuse to ply in the neighbouring state irrespective of your urgency to reach your destination or the amount of money that you may be willing to offer, the Chief Minister of a particular state would accuse migrants from another state for having “overcrowded” the capital city, the leader of a political party in a state would not mind beating even students black and blue just because they are from a different part of the nation. Is this the true picture of “unity in diversity”? Or all the saccharine-quoted talks of the nation being diverse yet unified is a sham?

A single, isolated reason cannot be accorded to this problem. The initial linguistic division of states, the leaders of a state providing for various means by which to cater to the needs of the inhabitants of their state (read: domicile-based reservation and the likes); these are mere examples of the Indian nation being subject to inherent divisions. If not anything else, such incidents present a lousy picture of the Indian populace, one that depicts us as a nation vulnerable to resorting to violence against our own brethren. As the demand for a separate state of Telangana gained momentum, and subsequent support, various identity-based groups, namely those advocating the carving out of separate states like Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh, Maru Pradesh and Vidarbha clinched it as an opportunity to press the Central Government to consider their demands. The rationale for such demands notwithstanding, the spurt of activity that pursued after the Telangana movement is noteworthy!!

What can be the reason of such worthless divisions in contemporary society? If a summary view were lent to the issue at hand, not many of us would support such divisions in the society. Thus, the answers that occur to me may not be factually correct. In an attempt to be different from one another, the easiest way charted by people around is to represent oneself from an altogether different part of the country so as to become characteristic of that particular part. It has become almost normal to characterize majority of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers as Biharis, the merchant class as Baniyas andMarwaris, the sharp ones (and supposedly, good at math!!) as the South Indians, so on and so forth. I would abstain from listing any more of such characterizations as that would inevitably mean that I am myself a firm believer in the aforementioned!! But more than belief, these descriptions stem from observation. Far from being an exaggeration, these are some pragmatic examples of what is happening around us.

For a nation so generously bestowed in its culture and traditions, why do such distinctions have to dilute the magnanimity of our diversity? Maybe, we are moving fast towards eliminating the already blurred line of distinction between diversity and disunity!! We have, by now, gotten so used to these innate peculiarities. And we do not really seem to mind till it genuinely, and severely, bothers us. For once, people did not bother themselves with the agitation against North Indians by Raj Thackeray and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) till the time students in the various institutions in the upcoming educational hub of India, Pune did not become their target. Thus, we prefer to remain in our comfort — zones till the time our distinct identities do not send us in a quandary. It is only when these distinctions pose a problem that we are perturbed and the thought of a united nation actually concerns us.

Ours is a constitution that confers single citizenship to its citizens. However, we are in the midst of bestowing ourselves with a separate citizenship, albeit informally, of our respective states. Individuality should not be suppressed. But when it transgresses its boundaries and threatens to divide a nation and its people, it tends to border towards disunity. Such contemptible divisions need to be done away with as soon as possible. Till then, what Shah Rukh Khan said in the much appreciated movie Chak De India holds absolutely true, “Kuch nahi badla hai. Hum pehle bhi states the, ab bhi states hain!!”

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.