Yesterday, The Hindu published an article on its Open Page titled, “Musings of a Bihari“, in which the author, Mayank Rasu laments the bad name politicians like Laloo have earned for Bihar. So far, so good. What got my attention, and subsequently, made me angry, was the veiled reference to the apparent disloyalty of Tamil Nadu vis-à-vis the supremely loyal state of Bihar. In a section titled Loyalty not taken note of, he states that he has migrated in search of greener pastures from his home of 18 years, the great state of Bihar. He then goes on to say that the “loyalty” of the Biharis cannot be questioned because nobody says “Jai Bihar” instead of “Jai Hind”. He does not stop there. He goes on to add, “Never did I come across an agitation where activists boycotted Hindi over regional languages like Bhojpuri and Maithali (mind you, Maithali has its own script).” This is undoubtedly a veiled reference to the infamous anti-Hindi agitations of the 1960s led by the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu. My first reaction to those words were, “What the @$!@???” Before making such references, it is important to understand the nature and scope of the anti-Hindi agitations and try to explain the reasons logically. There is no reason why the people of Bihar would rebel against Hindi. The simple reason is that Bihar is part of what is called the Hindi Belt. The differences between Bhojpuri, Maithili and Hindi cannot be compared with the differences that exist between Tamil and Hindi. One must understand that Tamil is a language in its own right, on par with French and Finnish. It is as different from Hindi as English is from Russian. Any attempt by the Centre to impose Hindi as a national language would have met with opposition in the pre-globalisation era of the 1960s. It probably still will. However, that does not mean Tamilians are any less loyal that Biharis.
The second point raised by Mr. Rasu is objectionable too. That too, is a veiled reference to Tamil Nadu. He states, “Even after experiencing abject poverty and perpetual slight, no politician has ever dared to head start a separatist movement as that is never going to work owing to the people’s strong sense of oneness with India.” Now, I honestly do not think that is true. Sociologically speaking, a separatist movement only comes into existence when the people of the region have a certain autonomy. Tamil separatism was possible in the 1980s because Tamil Nadu is a highly industrialised state, which is quite capable of surviving in the event of separation. The demand for an independent Khalistan would not have arisen if Punjab had not been a prosperous agricultural state. Abject poverty, a low Human Development record and extremely high population density is not a recipe for separatism. The absence of any separatist movement in Bihar is not a measure of the loyalty of the Bihari people, but a sociological reality that prevents any such demand from succeeding.
That said, I quite sympathise with Mr. Rasu when he asks if this perpetual slight on the name of the Bihari is right. But, it also makes me wonder why everyone who comes from the South of the Vindhyas is considered a “Madrasi”. Is that not a bad word too? Are the poor South Indians not made fun of because they can’t speak proper Hindi? Is their accent not exaggerated in every Hindi movie and television show? We have learnt, not only to live with it, but to laugh at it. Why should a Bihari not adapt and adjust? After all, it is these differences that make us pat ourselves on the back for our “Unity in Diversity.”