Friday, November 14, 2008

Marathi Manoos has persecution complex? Uhhh.. No.

This article is in response to some of the comments left on my previous posts by people. I think some arguments presented here justify a new post, than just making it a comment.

You start by saying that Indian vernacular media is generally so gross that you can best avoid it. What do you base this on? I haven't read Hindi newspapers before the anti-immigrant incident, so I cannot comment on the general quality of Hindi publications. Maybe, they are gross. However, with regards to Marathi publications, I beg to differ. Publications like Maharashtra Times, Loksatta, and Sakaal (the three that I have actively read through my life), are not gross. Publications like Saamna and Navakaal are incendiary and tabloidish, so I wouldn't include them in this discussion. Vernacular publications define the cultural character of the Marathi society. Even though I learnt through an English medium school, we always had Marathi newspapers at home, and I take pride in saying that I read them as actively as English newspapers. Most media houses churn out a compilation of stories, jokes, poetry in form of a magazine during Diwali times - popularly known as Diwali Ank. Thus your characterization that vernacular media is gross, is inappropriate from the perspective of a Marathi reader. They do lack one aspect - readability for people who don't speak/read that language. But that would be saying English newspapers are gross just because the Chinese can't read them.

If you do lay your hand on a Marathi speaking person, please ask him or her to translate half the articles, interviews and reports in Marathi newspapers. Compare and contrast them with the selfsame ones in English newspapers. As I am fortunate enough to be conversant with both languages, I have access to both, and can clearly see that the "facts", "points of view", and "perception" in a Marathi newspaper is clearly different vis-à-vis that in, say, an English newspaper. Since I can understand Marathi, and can hear the Marathi politicians'
interviews, see the way they are reported in a Marathi article, and see how they are misreported in an English article, I fail to understand this incompetence on the part of the latter bunch of journalists. Is something getting lost in translation? Or is it malicious misrepresentation due to edicts from their newspaper editor (who is clearly better off siding with the "nationalist", pseudo-"secularist", pseduo-"liberal" intelligentsia). Or simply the newspaper editors are on the take from wealthy industrialists with vested interests. Who can tell?

About your point about having a persecution complex and individual minorities voicing their dissent - If they have a genuine grievance, they should have the forum to voice it, how much ever anti-Indian it may sound. If you look at the nature of grievances that people voice, I sense a pattern. People have an insecurity arising because of imposition of a foreign culture or a rule that their community is uncomfortable with.

What we must not forget is that there is a very fine line between the two, and in a large number of cases, where there is smoke, there is fire. A person suffers from a persecution complex when he deems that some imaginary object is persecuting him, when there is none. You further argue that the so-called "poisonous" Marathi identity is being injected into Mumbai by the recent theatrics of MNS. Let me tell you something. About 95% of the Marathi people I have met, right from school days, which without dating myself, I can say is far far before Raj Thackeray ever entered politics have been consciously aware of having been discriminated against and been given second-class citizenship in India. Many Marathi people that have taken part in this agitation are true Marathi commoners. They are not being fed vitriol by an imported mullah trained in a foreign madarasa. There are no temples dedicated to Marathi people where anti-North Indian agenda blares over loudspeakers every Friday after prayers. There are no Marathi churches, which have stockades of weapons. People listen to RT because in the heart of their hearts they find an echo of their own feelings. They do not listen to RT because they want new insecurities implanted in their minds. What is naturally a territorial instinct, should not be termed anti-nationalistic sentiment. What is clearly discrimination should not be called a persecution complex.

That said, I do not like protectionism and favouritism. I do not like the demand that jobs be reserved for Maharashtrians. I am a firm believer in meritocracy. However, meritocracy is truely a meritocracy only if the playing field is level and fair. If an examination has candidates only from a particular state, how is it a fair playing field? Hey, I hate reservations as much as the next guy. I think it is a stupid ultra-left socialistic movement that frustrates the truely deserving. But you cannot deny the need of fairness to allow merit-based selection to work! You cannot be meritocratic in selecting the most meritorious students from Lucknow for a job in a railway station in Maharashtra.

Marathi 50 52
North-Indian 9 18

About your point about agitation against the South Indians in 1960's. I am not fully aware of the socio-political circumstances surrounding the anti-South Indian plank in the 60's that led to the rise of Shiv Sena. That was a different agitation for a different cause. Though I can relate to the South Indian culture a lot more than I can relate to the North Indian culture, there might have been a cause for agitation back then - I don't know it, and hence morally, I cannot condone what was done then. My personal experiences in South India have been far more pleasant than my experiences in Northern India. I have felt safer, a lot more at home, and have always experienced a sense of respect for my culture and traditions in the South, than in the North. I know this is a personal experience, and I am not trying to generalize this. On a related note, if you speak to a South Indian, and ask him his opinion on the Hindi hegemony, I will be very surprised if you do not hear views that echo the stir in Maharashtra. People don't like a language and a culture being imposed on them. That is against human nature! Trying to fit everyone in the same box under the label of nationalism or globalization is a flawed exercise.

Mumbai was made by everyone. I agree. Mumbai has hade considerable contributions from the Parsis, the Gujurathis, the Jains, the Sindhis, and the South Indians (largely Kannadigas from Dakshin Karnataka and Tamils). There have been a few North Indians who have had a hand in Mumbai's development too. However, nothing can reveal as much as hard cold facts, look at the embedded table for a particularly good one.

You can google and look up the facts. I found them in an article in the Government of India census web-site. There is little doubt that most of Mumbai's financial and economic development was largely mature by 1989. There have been strides in the last 20 years, but there has been more regression than progress with respect to the infrastructure. Do you mean to say that the 9% of a substantially lesser population in 1989 had larger contributions to Mumbai economy than the 50% of Maharashtrians? Do you think that a 9% increase (also note in mind that the population has increased a lot, so if you base the percentage on 1989 population, the increase is probably much much more than 9%) in the North Indian population, most of which is arguably unskilled migrant labour, is healthy for the civic infrastructure of a city? Are you trying to tell me that large masses of unskilled, poor people with day-to-day earnings don't form a prime vote-bank for political leaders from the North? Are you trying to tell me that this new mass of people who have known to form ghettos and cartels are increasing the safety of the city?

If I or any other Marathi person indeed had a persecution complex, we would have made life difficult for our persecutors a long time back. We keep welcoming people, and this is how you repay the Marathi hospitality? By abusing their culture? By politicking to make Marathi insignificant in the capital of Maharashtra? Heck yeah, we ain't taking this lyin' down.

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