By Sumit Kumar:
Bihar has a very high frequency of crime, but this does not mean that I am a criminal, goon, murderer, or thief. The jailbreak event happened at Jehanabad, my home district, but that does not qualify me as a Naxalite. Bihar probably tops the list for dirtiness in the Swachh Bharat Mission rankings, but this does not mean that my clothes are dirty. Bihar tops the list in terms of illiteracy, but that does not mean that I am illiterate. Casteism is ingrained in the social order of Bihar, but that does not mean that I am casteist. Corruption is high in Bihar, but that does not mean I am corrupt and dishonest.
Don’t mock my Bihari identity. Don’t be sceptical about me because of my home state. Bihar is not a separate country, it is the cerebrum of India, which provides one of the highest number of IAS officers and IITians in the country. A Bihari or an entire region does not commit a wrong, an individual does. I hope you are well educated and understand the political, economic, societal and historical importance of Bihar in modern India. I will not be offended if you make fun my regional identity as I have faced enough of it, and any obnoxious comment will be like water on a duck’s back for me. But, one day, if your grandson, or great-grandson for that matter, settles down in Bihar for some reason, he will be abused in the same manner as you are abusing me today. The feeling behind racism does not limit itself to colour, it extends to region, religion, caste, customs, language and other ethnic traits.
No, I am not playing the ‘victim’ card. If you call yourself a nationalist who proudly hails Bharat Mata, you should also respect me, irrespective of my regional identity, because I am also a tiny part of Bharat Mata. But, if you physically expel me from one part of Bharat Mata to show off your regionalism then, sorry to say, you are anything but a nationalist. If you call me a thief, only because some thieves had stolen 10,000 rupees from your wallet, who happened to be residents of Bihar, then I am sorry, you are nothing but anti-rational.
The frequent attacks on north Indian people in Maharashtra unleashed by local fringe elements under the garb of regionalism abetted by demagogues like Raj Thackeray and others have vandalised pluralism in Maharashtra. Every North Indian has the right to live in Maharashtra as does every Marathi or south Indian, for that matter, have the right to settle in north India. The 2008 attacks on the north Indians by people who had the support of none other than the self-proclaimed Marathi hero Raj Thackeray was a stain on the land of Shivaji.
Referring to people from the north-east as ‘chinky’, ‘Bangladeshi’ etc. in other parts of India clearly reflects the racist mindset existing in Indian society. Not to mention the unabated violence against the people from the north-east in Delhi has made them vulnerable and fearful in their own nation on account of their fellow nationals. Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Chak De India’ reflects the racial prejudice against tribals from Jharkhand in one of the scenes in which the girl from Punjab ridicules the duo from Jharkhand because of their place of origin.
A robust democracy stands on the protection of rights of each and every citizen irrespective of his or her ethnic identity. To be fair and honest, we have failed on this front and we will continue to fail unless we, the rational and logical youth stand and fight for the rights of vulnerable ethnic groups. Conducting seminars or conferences or intellectual debates isn’t the only solution. The solution lies in injecting the racial tolerance in the people from very basic level, i.e., schools and the home. The solution lies in making inclusive schools and colleges where students from different ethnic groups study, play and interact together. The solution lies in making people understand that a mistake committed by one individual cannot justify violence against the whole community.