It's all in blood

Our divisive nature

Race, language, region, caste, family and thus the blood-line is of great significance to us so that we may exclude the other person.

A teenager student from Arunachal Pradesh, Nido Taniam was brutally assaulted on January 29, 2014 in New Delhi for no fault of his; except that he looked different and had a funky hairstyle. Nido succumbed to his injuries. Few days before this incident, two Manipuri women Tharmila and Chonmila were hurled racial abuses at first and then viciously beaten up by miscreants in Delhi. These are hate crimes and are taking place at an alarming frequency in the nation’s capital and also elsewhere in the country.

Is India getting to be more intolerant and more racist? If one looks at our history after Independence, one should not be surprised at our ‘intolerance’ to ‘others’. Who do we call as the ‘others’ has differed at different periods of time. We have been as intolerant and hateful of ‘others’ in 1947 as we are today in 2014, while the specific target groups or the loci of hate crimes may have been different then, later and now. Despite all the claims of unity and harmony, India unfortunately remains a nation that has multiple seismic faults which erupt from time to time and manifest in various forms. It is true that we have had very tall leaders and reformers like Gandhiji, Nehru and Ambedkar in our midst. But, fault lines in Bharat lie deep and are multifarious.

Secularism, equality, democracy and even ‘ahimsa paramodharma’ are some of the principles that we keep speaking about in reference to our nation. However, those constitute only the top soil – the few inches of good soil; underneath it is the hard soil where these principles find it difficult to germinate and take root. Immediately after the carnage of partition based mainly on religion, we had riots asking for division along ‘languages’ that we all ‘belonged differently’. Giving a nurturing environment and support for the advancement of literature and cultural aspects of a ‘language’ is a good idea, indeed. But, India started ‘dividing’ along language lines. During the mid-1960s, Mumbai and many industrial towns of Maharashtra witnessed the harassment – including physical – of non-Marathi people residing in Maharashtra.

The people from today’s Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were the special targets. What was deplorable was that while the more goonish elements might have perpetrated the physical crimes, the local public in general supported such acts by providing a rationale to the occurrence of such unpardonable violence. Today, the ‘north-Indians’ are being harassed, in place of the ‘south Indians’. Language is only a cover-up for the race that one belongs to.

When one calls a person as Bengali, Punjabi, Oriya, Gujarati or Assamese, it unfortunately refers to the race; not to the language. Because, languages are thought to be belonging to a particular region. One has to be the undisputed ‘son’ (or daughter) of the soil in order to really belong. It has to be a ‘Punjabi’ bloodline or a ‘Marathi’ bloodline and so on. While we are currently referring to the crimes against the people from the northeastern region, even within themselves there are many divides. One is from Meghalaya, another from Nagaland, third from Mizoram. Within the Meghalaya people there may be further divisions; one is a Khasi and the other a Jaintia or other. Remember, these are all divides expressing their specific ‘blood-line’. 

Penchant for divisiveness

In India, one blood is different from the other. Sad, but true. To aggravate the matter further, there are too many of such blood-lines. We divide and further subdivide. Without our penchant for ‘divisiveness’, we would not have had so many ‘castes’ and ‘sub-castes’. Many or most of the castes and sub-castes are regional in nature. A caste seen in Tamil Nadu may not exist in Bihar.

To say that castes do not matter in today’s India is being superficial. Blood-lines matter hell of a lot in India. Beneath the top-soil of ‘integration’, there is the hard reality of the importance of utter divisiveness. When an Indian is asked by the other as to where does he belong, it is query that pertains to division and further sub-division. It is ironical that the quest for ‘belonging’ should only end with smaller and smaller subdivision. Contrary to the popular belief or what ‘sounds’ good, Indian society specializes in ’exclusion’. The stress is on how the other person does not belong to your group. And when the other person does not belong to your group, he becomes a part of a very large group of ‘outsiders’ like ‘Madrasi’ or ‘Bhaiya’ or even as large a group as ‘Northeasterner’ or ‘North Indian’. His/her identity is of no consequence to you. 

India is a feudal society despite all the rhetoric of ‘republic’ and all that. We are more comfortable being ruled by rajahs or by one powerful family. There is nothing wrong if the Nehru family continued to rule at the centre for long periods of time. However, it shows the ‘preference’ of us Indians. Without such a preference, the line would not have continued from Jawaharlal to Indira to Rajiv to Sonia to now Rahul baba. No wonder, we have many dynasties at other lesser levels: Deora’s (father and son) of Mumbai, Thackeray’s (father, son, nephew, grandson and daughter-in-law for some time) of Maharashtra, Karunanidhi and his descendents (sons, daughter, nephews and grandson) of Tamil Nadu, Singhs (Mulayam and his son) and Pilot’s (father and son) to name a few. Pedigree is of importance to us Indians. We check that even in Bollywood where some families rule the roost. 

Race, language, region, sub-region, caste, sub-caste, family line and thus the blood-line is of great significance to us so that we may exclude the other person. If we were inclusive or integrative we would have been really tolerant of the other despite his/her looks, language, dress or views. Was the teenager from Arunachal Pradesh Nido Taniam a victim of racism? Perhaps, yes. He was definitely a victim of our self-destructive divisiveness and penchant for ‘them and us’.

(The writer is a former professor at IIM, Bangalore)

Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? Who will win the battle royale of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019


Get real-time news updates, views and analysis on Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on Deccanherald.com/news/lok-sabha-elections-2019 


Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram with #DHPoliticalTheatre for live updates on the Indian general elections 2019.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry