When in Mumbai, say Mumbai

>’Say Mumbai, not Bambai!’ say the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and its leader, Raj Thackeray. Forty years after his uncle led a campaign against South Indians for allegedly taking jobs away from the ‘sons of the soil’, Raj’s native Maharashtrian blood is boiling. Why? Because North Indian migrants in Mumbai dare to celebrate North Indian festivals like Chhath Puja and Uttar Pradesh Diwas.

If I remember my civics lessons correctly, it’s a fundamental right of every Indian citizen to live and work in any part of India. And to be able to celebrate any festival – be it Chhath Puja or Eid or Hannukah. And if I remember my history lessons correctly, Mumbai is ‘The Maximum City’ because of the inflow of people from all parts of the country. It was not just the Maharastrians who made Mumbai – it was also the Gujaratis, the Sindhis, the Tamilians; people from almost every part of India played a part in converting a group of fishing villages into Mumbai the Megapolis.

A friend told me that it’s pointless to talk about this, since nobody is going to take Raj Thackeray seriously anyway and that in any case, all he wants is cheap publicity. Maybe he’s right. But this ‘us vs. them’ issue seems to be popping up all the time, not just in Mumbai but all over the country. Be it Modi’s ‘Gujarat Gaurav’ or the anti-Bihar riots in Assam or Raj Thackeray’s attack on North Indians – this trend of regionalism is growing and threatening to consume the Nation.

People who know me well are aware that I’m not a big fan of the concept of nations and nationalism. That said, I do believe that in this day and age, nations are the only hope we have. National governments, at least theoretically, are supposed to provide people with stability and security. They’re supposed to make resources available for their citizens. But Nationalism has one inherent flaw – how is a Nation to be defined? Is it a geographical concept? Or is it linguistic, or religious?

Modern India was born out of the geographical idea of ‘Hindustan’ or ‘Bharat’. We’ve multiple racial, cultural and religious groups within this country. The fact that India has survived as a democracy for 60 years is a testament to the power of the idea of a Nation. Surrounded by failed or failing states, India has remained stable. But who is to say that this might not change?Call me an alarmist or a pessimist, but I can’t help wondering – has Regionalism become the new Nationalism?

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3 thoughts on “When in Mumbai, say Mumbai

  1. >Thanks for writing this post, in spite of the friend who asked you not to. Because, clearly, there ARE people who will take that man seriously!Moreover, alarmism, pessimism and such other ism’s are probably the only ways to bring some sense back here!

  2. >Raj, in a response to Maharashtra Times, had this to say, Communists cry “unfair” when Sourav is dropped, DMK doesn’t take any action against the supporters of LTTE, a terrorist organisation… these guys aren’t called “regional fanatics”… You know, for some strange reason, he had a point!!! But then it was the use of ‘goondagiri’ and force against the North Indians that was ridiculous (to say the least)…. Your last sentence is really strong and somehow, as sad as it may sound, it could well be true to India, of late!!!!

  3. >on the idea of nationsi believe all this just like any other ideology has evolved out of a piece of thought, an interpretation. At the beginning of time, the forces of nature brought mankind to a place of being. We interpreted it as home.We evolved, moved, relocated, adapted to newer places and we felt like calling them home too.Soon, we got tired, frustrated with being nomads and became farmers. We made boundaries, fell in love with our homes and forgot about the rest of the world. We all have continued with this practice and thats why we find ourselves in this situation.I am in Pune, Mah, India, Asia, EarthDo you really think that we all were born with the innate ability to divide and further divide our places ? That love for a place can generate the ideas of regionalism, communalism, nationalism etc ? NO. I DON’T THINK SO.Rather, it’s our incapability towards accepting the larger and the only truth of oneness. Our incapability to accept the fact that we love the one who caters to us. That we are scared of those who can see more than we do. That just because we can’t eat the complete, we cut it into pieces. That we think two makes a couple, oh so pink; and 10 makes a mob, bloody and red.If someday we can open the windows and look out at the beautiful place, i am sure we all will open the doors and will walk into our real home.

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