Bihari is not a bad word…but Madrasi?

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.”

11 thoughts on “Bihari is not a bad word…but Madrasi?

  1. TV says:

    It is interesting how you can imagine that the article is against TN when it has not even been mentioned once. Is it a case of “too much protestation”.

    When one has little to loose, as in Bihar, there is every reason for a violent agitation to start. Just for your information, the per capita allocation to Bihar has been the lowest in every five year plan, when Bihar was the best governed state (50’s) or now. The land of Nalanda and Vikarshila does not have a single IIT, IIM, Central Univ, CSIR or DRDO lab. The poorest state in India is a net exporter of capital. The NHAI highways will not serve the Bihar (or Jharkhand) towns and cities except Muzaffarpur and will bypass them as if these were enemy territory. Cities bypassed include Patna, Gaya, Arrah, Bhagalpur, Ranchi, Dhanbad, Jamshedpur, Harazibagh and so on.

    If you can feel so agitated when there is no reference to TN, how would a Bihari be feeling in the face of such abject exploitation? Do you need any more reasons for an agitation?

  2. TV says:

    And on the issue of language, you should refrain comment on issues that you are not familiar with. According to linguists, Maithili is the mother of Bengali and Bhojpuri existed at least 300 years before Hindi was born. Leaders like Dr Rajendra Prasad and Jayaprakash Narayan, in their misplaced national zeal, allowed these beautiful languages to be declared dialects of Hindi.

    As sample, I am giving two day to day expressions, one in Bhojpuri and another in Maithili.
    Maithil “eena ni bajoon” and Bhojpuri “bijay kare chalin”. Try it with any hindi wala not familiar with these languages and see for yourself if they can decipher the meaning of these expressions.

  3. Iyer says:

    But, you cant deny what happened in the 1960s was absolutely stupid on the part of people from Tamil Nadu.

    “I hate Hindi and hindi speaking ppl..!” – Now what is that..? This is what most of the people in Tamil Nadu used to say. Unfortunately, this is one state where the maximum number of people are there, who dont understand or can speak Hindi…

    I understand ure feelings when u read the blog abt Bihar..!! But with the kinda highly educated people in TN, the “hate Hindi” movement should have been avoided!

    • Arun says:

      Iyer…don’t call “1960’s anti imposition of Hindi agitation as stupid.” People equate that to the Indian independence movement, and I am one of them.

      There is no socio-economic reason for the imposition of Hindi in India. You can use a parochial view of “numerical superiority” as one reason to foster a foreign language on India. Remember, that before advent of British, most of South India had their own languages.

      Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka, and Kerala are “educated and progressive states” not in spite of Hindi, but despite Hindi. So, people who push Hindi need to have their heads examined because they are the traitors of India.

      Thanks.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @iyer…

    pls dont fan hatred and misinterpret stuff… it was a movement against hindi imposition by the central govt..

    more info here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Hindi_agitations
    and even the link above doesnt mention about the role of the indian army shooting at peaceful demonstrators and subsequent failure of the cong govt in TN to come to power ever again.

    from ur name u seem to be a tamil brahmin…and some of them (like you) consider your lineage not to be of tamil origin… knowing both sides, you should know better than to spread hate (stating a fact is one thing…i’ll let you to complete the sentence)

  5. YOHANN says:

    There is no need to mention it.

    Bihar is poor due to its own politician not anybody else’s fault. Who would like to go and invest in Bihar when one gets kidnapped for ransom. Politicians from Bihar played politics over development

    Nobody’s hates Hindi, but it should not be imposed on any state having their own language. Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam all have their own distinctive dialects which has been around B.C. We do not need a new language foisted over us .

    Being Anti-Hindi is not Anti-India

  6. tejaswy says:

    On a lighter note, My friends at one point of time used to call the whole of south india Madras, aka madrasi.
    I must point out at this point in time that all of my friends were punjabi’s.
    Now as fate would have it all of them are in Madras aka all over south india for jobs. One is in chennai, one in banglore, one in hyderabad, pondicherry etc.
    Its my turn to have fun now,

    “Oye madrasiyo, kaisey ho”

    “Madras me mausam kaisa haii”

    “bolo rajni baba ki jai”

    “Madras madras kartey chaley ayenge punjabi”

    from the song “radhey radhey kartey chale ayenge bihari”

    O well i would not fret, there will be some frictions now and then but they will all gel together. 😀

  7. Amar says:

    Yo, There aint word called Bihari. Its due to the division of the area between UP and Bengal and named after the Buddhist Pilgrimages and tourings called Vihar- Touring place. The same people spread after the Indus valley Civilization on the Northern and Gangatic Plains of Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar. And even to the south of Vindhyas. Patliputra was the first capital of United India done in BC which falls under the so called state of Bihar.
    I do not discriminate rather feel more superior when any one tries to discriminate to pretend their low humour and IQ qualities, which in North India has with the states of Bihar and UP and then in the counter parts of South Indians specially Tamils.
    In north only Punjab is the state which shows its regionalism aggressively and no other state whether Bihar, UP, Delhi, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana. Rest whether its West or South they have thier own So called absurd JAI MY STATE and etc.
    No body can hear saying ” JAI UP, JAI BIHAR, JAI HAYRANA, JAI MP, JAI RAJASTHAN, ETC” Rather I and we found us as more Indian.
    More Interestingly, I’m going to show more national integration by marrying a Tamil girl from chennai very soon.

  8. the maithil guy says:

    bihar or should i say an unsuccessfull alliance of magadh-mithila-santhal pargana lost out on its culture-language-identity just because of plain politics or over-zealous nationalism. now ” biharis ” are actually “biharis-wanderers” in terms of language and culture and identity. 80% of the population now can’t speak/read/write in their own languages and moreover can’t speak the so called proclaimed “national language” correctly.

  9. a bihari says:

    excuse me friends but i think that you can never win from biharis..
    The seeds of development of india are shown in bihar…
    The biggest strugle of indipendence by mahatma gandhi are performed in gandhi maidan,patna.
    The father and mother of indian politics is bihar.
    And by the way the original and pure hindi language is BHOJPURI.
    Bihar is bihar and it has its own merids
    any other person has not the will to survive in bihar.
    Even 10 or 12
    year old kids of bihar will sell u peoples in the market

  10. ninad says:

    I don’t believe Madrasi is a bad word although with time some words do change in meaning and go that way and although calling someone a Madrasi might not be with an intent to cause offence it is certainly going that way. I don’t use it because i don’t know if the other person takes it as an offence or not. The word is not like “Ghatee” the meaning of which is derogatory. It’s like the Filipinos call all Indians as Bumbays. For a North Indian it is difficult to distinguish between the 4 southern states by looks or by language so they are grouped into the club called South Indians are Madrasis. It could also be because much part of South India was under Madras presidency before states were created. I am just guessing the origin but such words to group communities do exist in many parts of the world. Here in Australia all sub-continent people are known as Indians….so i guess people from Pakistan must be taking an offence to that as they get grouped as Indians too since it is the bigger group. All the mongoloid race people are called Asians and in that people usually say Chinese looking. I guess the Japs would take offence to that and hey Japs in itself has become an offensive word, it wasn’t before. I guess you should see “intention” when people use these words as not everyone uses such words to offend.

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