Dear Raj Thackeray ji,
It's great to see that you are back to your old tricks. I had almost forgotten that I existed but thanks to your new rant, I have come to the realization that I am a Bihari who lives (and works) in Bihar. Working in Bihar, I often get depressed about the widespread corruption, inefficiency and casteism that are deeply ingrained in our system. It's not very different from Maharashtra or any other state in India. But unlike Maharashtra, we have a distinct reminder set in our life alarms to remind us about our collective identity -- YOU!
It is no coincidence that the people who are at the centre of your angst are the kind of people who happen to be vulnerable all across India...
Whenever I am in doubt, I just go back to reading your statements on Bihari asmita (pride)! Fragmented by class, caste and ideological boundaries, the people of Bihar hardly ever come together under one identity. From time to time, whenever our 'asmita' is overshadowed by doubt, you come to our rescue. You remind us that we are, after all, Biharis, all of us, even those who don't consider themselves Biharis anymore and are not very different from you in their ideology and politics. You also remind us of how industrious, 'jugaadu' and tenacious we can be. I don't generally accept such compliments for they sound irrational but you shove it down our throats with such force, that there is no option left but to swallow it.
It is of course no coincidence that the people who are at the centre of your angst are the kind of people who happen to be vulnerable all across India, even in Bihar. Working-class people -- auto rickshaw pullers, hawkers, street vendors have all been the subject of your focused interventions for almost a decade. It's good politics, considering the fact that no one gives a damn about working-class people and their rights in India these days. Not the government, certainly. In fact, the section of society which is the most hostile and suspicious towards the working class is the urban middle class that has risen in the neoliberal spring of the last two decades. I am told that the majority of the people who form your vote base also belong to that same middle class. So it would have been good politics, if only it was less polemical and more substantive. Even middle-class Maharashtrians realize that driving an auto is not something that highlights the aspirations of mostly white/blue collared and upwardly mobile people. I recommend that the next time you decide to target north Indians, please keep this in mind and attack those who are comparatively privileged.
I would like to thank you for making us feel as if we are part of the fraternity of migrants across the world that are snatching opportunities ...
Moreover, I would like to personally thank you for making us feel as if we are part of the fraternity of migrants spread all across the world that are snatching opportunities in distant lands and making them their own. In return, we have helped the world create a range of colourful leaders who seem to have an allergic reaction to rationality and logic, ranging from the hugely popular Mr Trump to the comparatively less creative ones like you. Alas, even Mr Trump's popularity stems from the fact that he attacks people who are 'outsiders' in his definition of what constitutes a nation. What's your idea of nationality, Mr. Thackeray? Are you a part of the growing brigade of upper caste and right wing fanatics who choose not to believe in our Constitution whenever it gets in the way and on other occasions cite the same Constitution to send political opponents to jail? If not, you are a true revolutionary in every sense of the word. In a time when the country seems so gung ho about the idea of nationalism, you subvert the idea of the nation with such ease that we are bound to question what the fuss around nationalism was all about. You are a reminder that there are bigger problems of the 'common man' that haunt us in our day to day lives, and that we should not waste our time in debating grand ideas which don't have an impact on these pressing issues.
You subvert the idea of the nation with such ease that we are bound to question what the fuss around nationalism was all about.
In the end, like any mediocre writer of our times, I would like to end with an anecdote. In rural Western Champaran last year, I met a middle-aged man reading a Hindi newspaper outside a primary health centre. He was a Dalit landless labourer working in the fields of an upper caste landlord. He started talking about a piece he had read in the paper, something to do with farmers committing suicide in Vidarbha and other parts of Maharashtra. He was disturbed by the fact that these farmers owned land and still they were committing suicide. "It can easily happen to us too," he said. There is an innate Indianness to Vidarbha and Western Champaran, something that mainstream political parties and the media fail to understand. Unless all of us collectively pay attention to that hidden identity that binds us together, our Bihari and Marathi identities will never strike a chord with the conscience of our democratic nation. Till then, keep inspiring us with whatever you have got.
With lots of litti chokha (love),
A fellow Indian
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