Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Hindu Mindset

The great Indian spirit that was witnessed after Mumbai terror attacks has started evaporating. The fears that I had expressed in my last post seem to be turning true.

First it was a zealous part of intelligentsia that passionately argued that the attacks were termed as the greatest terror attack just because the ‘elite’ were targeted. The facts that it was panic on the streets (home of many non-elite Indian) of Mumbai and an ordinary Mumbaikar shuddered to venture out of his home (those who were elite enough to have one) on the night of 26th November were not strong enough a reason to believe that the panic, with an utter contempt for boundaries of class and creed, struck everyone.

And now the worst, thought not unexpected, fear has come true – the reactions have taken a communal color. And I am among the first victims. I write this post as a 'Hindu' today.

And the person who has helped me don this Hindu identity is a central minister, ironically (?) minorities’ welfare minister. The minister, the name is Antulay, A R Antulay, suspects a conspiracy behind killing of ATS chief Hemant Karkare, the person who was investigating the Malegaon blasts case, a proof of existence Hindu terrorism. He thinks Mr. Karkare was pushed into death by some people (what the hell, why can’t he clearly say ‘Hindus’) so that Malegaon investigation was derailed.

There is nothing wrong in thinking or having an opinion. But each thought or opinion has a place in the civil society based on its ‘merits’.

I guess the accepted norm is that when you have a differing opinion from the majority (and I don’t mean Hindus by majority in this case!) the onus is upon you to prove your opinion/assertion/theory. Galileo and Darwin had differing opinions from the majority and the onus was upon them to prove their theories, rather than upon the majority to disprove their theories. And I guess it was fair. What was unfair was the fact that on occasions they were not even allowed to prove their theories.

But in politics, especially in Indian politics, and specifically with Muslims involved, it seems that the onus is on the majority (and here I mean Hindus) to disprove the theories and opinions of the minority.

Otherwise why the political class, except the BJP, thinks that the Antulay’s conspiracy theory should be probed, WITHOUT asking the minister to provide some concrete evidence, say a suspect post-mortem report or any other tangible evidence, which hints towards his conspiracy theory holding some ground?

Antulay did face resistance initially. But the moment he played the ‘Muslim’ card, everyone was willing to oblige rather than question his assertion.

Mr. Karkare was probing Malegaon case. He got killed. These two events happening one after another is strong enough a circumstantial evidence to suspect and probe the causes of his death?

Congress was under pressure over alleged fake encounter in Jamia Nagar. Arrests in Malegaon blasts case take place. Jamia Nagar outcry takes a backseat. These three events happening one after another is not strong enough a circumstantial evidence to suspect if ATS was acting under any political pressure?

For me, both of the above are conspiracy theories, a perverted post-hoc analysis of events by some propagandists. But why should the former merit probe and the later be rejected with disdain?

I can only see religion as the differentiating factor. And that’s my Hindu mindset thanks to Antulay.

A few good men (and women) among you might suggest that I should not take the political class seriously as they always play to the gallery. Vote bank politics, you see. But that is not completely true.

Even an educated Muslim and ‘secular’ Hindu has soft corner for conspiracy theories coined by Muslim groups. Some of the Urdu newspapers had carried out reports suspecting the whole Mumbai terror attacks as handiwork of Hindu Zionists (what on earth does that mean? A fake news report had suggested that Judaism and Hinduism were merged to created Hinjews to fight Islam, seems like our Urdu media and Muslim intelligentsia took that seriously).

The reports suggested that Hindu Zionists (well, they are actually trinity of supporters of BJP, some elements of Congress, and Hindu elements of the Army, backed by Mossad and CIA) had carried out ALL terrorist attacks in India to defame Muslims. The only exception to this conspiracy was 1993 Mumbai blasts, which were not carried out by the Hindu Zionists, the conspiracy theory argued. (In their school text books they must have learnt that each theory has an exception, so they allocated one.)

Among one of the important and tangible evidences that believers of this conspiracy theory provided in case of Mumbai terror attacks was the fact that terrorists wore Hindu saffron bands on their wrists (refer to the famous picture of Azmal Qasab). Hence Hindu Zionists were behind the attacks.

Such a tangible proof it was. Wait, I had seen in some Bollywood movies that Muslims tie such bands after visiting dargaah of Sufi saints. Ah, those movies might also be part of conspiracy by Hindu Zionists. That’s why they issue fatwa against Muslim Bollywood actors.

Anyway, the Mumbai attacks soon were proved to be an exception to the Hindu Zionist theory (the theory still holds true for millions, mind you) after Urdu media from Pakistan argued convincingly that Azmal Qasab was a Pakistani Muslim Jehadi, and not a Hindu Zionist.

If I have acquired a Hindu mindset today, it’s not because of people who coin such beautiful conspiracy theories, but because of those educated Muslims and secular Hindus who shift the onus of disproving such theories (either related with existence of Hindu Zionists or Karkare’s murder) on the Hindu masses.

The cushion of such conspiracy theories against the curse of communal discrimination has taken Indian Muslims into their shell and pushed them into a denial mode. They have got into a position that could make them blind to their own folly, a place where they could indulge in constant self pity and refuse self reform, and a ghetto that could help develop a Muslim mindset and induce a Hindu one upon people like me.

And when I say that Muslims have got into their shell and in a denial mode, it is due to the fact that for several years now educated Muslims have been busy defending and professing Islam instead of accepting that there could be some problems in their own house and trying to correct it. And secular Hindus are more than willing to let them be there.

They have got into their shell as even an innocuous idea such as protest against the terror attacks attracted resistance. Some Indian Muslims had opposed the move by some other Muslims to protest against the terror attacks. The Muslims who favored protesting against the attacks argued that such attacks were carried out in the name of Islam and hence they should clear the air by protesting.

But the other group, consisting of some members of Muslim intelligentsia, argued that protests against the attacks were tantamount to owning up that the attacks were by Muslims. And why should Muslims need to speak up in capacity of being a Muslim against the attacks? Muslims must protest as Indians and not as Muslims, they argued.

Sounds fair and logical enough, but it’s actually a manifestation of that denial mode. The same people used to find fault with media that ‘Muslim’ opinion against terrorism was never given proper coverage, and as a result terrorism was unwittingly linked with Islam. Now when some people, backed by media, want them to speak up and voice the ‘Muslim’ opinion against terrorism, they think it’s not fair. In fact now they claim that they are being targeted against for being Muslims when Media asks for their opinion as Muslims.

Anyway, an average Hindu didn’t ask them to speak up either. The common reaction after the Mumbai attacks was, ‘Pakistanis did it, and we Indians must all be united.’ People trying to blame Muslims and Islam were pushed back and told to shut up. ‘Enough is enough’ was the refrain. BJP couldn’t capitalize on ‘Hindu’ sentiments in the following state assembly elections, as there was none.

There were 'Indian' voices/noises all around. And then Mr. Antulay spoke up.

And he finds support from Muslim MPs cutting across party lines and from secular and broad minded Hindus. I see an analogy between what USA did with Muslim fundamentalists during 80’s and what the secular Hindus are doing now. USA supported Taliban and gave birth to Al Qaida to fight Soviet forces. Secular Hindus want to fight communal Hindus with the same strategy?

And don’t ask me which side I belong to. Don’t divide the Hindus in just two categories – secular and communal. What about Hindus who are proud of Hinduism but don’t want to be associated with rapists and murderers of Muslims, and at the same time are wary of rubbing shoulders with some so-called secular Hindus? Will they be allowed an opinion and independent identity? Or they would be told – either you are with us or you are with the communal forces?

There was time when such a Hindu was real and respectful like Swami Vivekananda. Then he became like Santa Claus; people liked to believe he was there but declared him fictitious. And now with this polarization, he has become like Yeti; undesirable, fictitious and extinct.

But he is still real. It’s a matter of choice for secular Hindus and educated Muslims to give him space, if not respect, by listening to the Hindu mindset. Or the other option is to brand him as a communal, reject his arguments, and go back happily into the shell.

And the Hindu mindset says – stop donning kid gloves when dealing with everything that has a Muslim element and taking a moral high ground when dealing with anything that has a Hindu element in it.

Enough is enough!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


"Some people don’t get support from either the rabbi or the rabble; they are either genius like Galileo or frivolous like Gigolo.”

yes, that's mine, and I hope to get international recognition for coming up with this wonderful quote! :p


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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Root causes of terrorism

It would be a crime if I don’t blog on Mumbai terror attacks (even though I write a blog post far and few) while all through the last four days I’ve been following each development related to it forgetting everything else. Now when I write, post-mortem of the incidents and the innocents are going on, and perhaps this post is going to be a part of it.

The first reaction of most of the Indians to the terror attacks (apart from despair, dismay and disgust) was – it’s all due to our politicians. I don’t think it was a new reaction as surely most of us end up cursing the politicians, but this time intensity was really high, as measured by media reactions and blogs/comments on websites.

But it also troubled me, especially comments like “Where is Raj Thackeray? Why is he hiding now when Mumbai is under attack?” etc. My ‘love’ for Raj Thackeray and his policies is not a secret given that my last two blog posts have been about him only, and I’d hate that even here he takes center stage.

So when a fellow Bihari friend sent me the same message, I shouted back at him at how could he still think like a Bihari when it was time to think like an Indian? In his defense, he had to tell that it’s his frustration as an Indian only which was being reflected in such messages. Because he (a Bihari) was insulted and shooed away when he thought himself as an Indian and Mumbai as his home. He might be right in his conviction and contention, but I still argued that it’s not an ‘Indian’ reaction.

I also shouted back when a Citibank telemarketer called me up to inform me that I was eligible for a loan. I called the poor girl/woman an ‘idiot’ who was selling me a loan when Indians were getting killed. I later apologized to her and I hope she understood. She was just doing her job and I overreacted due to a possible sublime sentiment that she was not being ‘Indian’ enough.

Reactions of political parties are not even worth mentioning, they are hardly ‘Indian’ ever.

I encountered many reactions that were ‘Hindu’, ‘Dalit’, ‘Marathi’, ‘Middle Class’ (there are people who think that the only reason central Home Minister resigned and other heads could roll was because ameer or rich people were attacked at Taj and Oberoi), ‘Academic’, etc. while I kept looking for that elusive ‘Indian’ reaction.

The same ‘Indian’ reaction that we see when Sachin Tendulkar scores a century, the same ‘Indian’ reaction when… (help me find another regular non-cricketing instance…)

It’s not that there was no ‘Indian’ reaction at all. The common men gathering at Gateway of India wore that reaction. The people who greeted NSG commandos after the Nariman House operation were showing Indian reaction. Many other reactions on media were ‘Indian’, similar to what we had witnessed earlier when bomb blasts took place in different parts of the country.

But I fear these reactions would fade away, and worse, the other unfortunate reactions would overwhelm this feeling of being one as Indian. I pray my fears are proved wrong.

My fears spring from a feeling that while most (or some?) of us are united today and showing that ‘Indian’ reaction, we might not stay together, as it has happened on earlier occasions. I guess this happens because after reactions, we want solutions, and as a civil society, we seem to be clueless about a solution to terrorism.

Take for example Jessica Lall or Nitish Katara murder case, the civil society (backed by media) could see a solution - punish the criminals. But in case of terrorist attacks, our society is divided. We don't have a clear solution. Why?

Because we keep discussing 'root' causes of terrorism – resentment among Muslims, Hindutva, et al. Come on, there were 'root' causes of those murders too (and for that matter, all crimes have ‘root’ causes), and those root causes were much more complex – a cocktail of problems of ethnicity, crime, corruption, class, among others. But our society didn’t waste time in analyzing those causes because the priority was to get justice, so that we can call ourselves a ‘civil’ society.

But in case of terrorist attacks, it seems priorities are different. The focus in not to get justice or to get the criminals punished, but to happily debate the ‘root’ causes of terrorism. In fact, there are people who are ever ready to block any attempt to get the terrorists punished. They want to 'discuss' the roots instead of 'decimating' them.

A crude analogy, but it almost seems like discussing morality when a rape has taken place when someone insists upon discussing root causes of terrorism.

We can again say that politics is responsible. No, it’s because our ‘Indian’ reactions fade away after such blasts, and worse, the other unfortunate reactions (‘Hindu’, ‘Dalit’, ‘Marathi’, ‘Middle Class’, ‘Academic’, and others) overwhelm this feeling of being one as Indian.

Remember, there can not be any homeland security as we just seem to have a ‘land’ called India, not a ‘home’ called India.

This is the ‘root’ cause of terrorism.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bihari thanks Raj Thackeray

As a Bihari, I want to thank Raj Thackeray and team to have attacked Bihari students gone to take exams in Mumbai. They chased Bihari students away as stray dogs are chased by watchmen. They beat them up as donkeys are beaten up when they refuse to move. I loved it. I loved it as a Bihari.

No no, neither am I a demented soul nor am I attempting any Gandhigiri. But as a hopeless optimist, I see a silver line in the clouds.

As a Bihari, who studied in Bihar from kindergarten to my bachelor’s degree, I had tried several times to leave Bihar and go for higher studies or employment outside my home state. I ultimately succeeded in 2001 when I came to Delhi to study journalism. I never went back to Bihar since then.

So these attacks are inspiring me to go back to my home state and do something for ‘my own people’? Not yet, I have to get rid of my insensitivity a little more to do that. So I am thanking Raj because I believe it will inspire more sensitive Biharis to go back to Bihar and do something? Not really.

I thank Raj Thackeray as a Bihari who was/is sick of caste based feelings that ran/runs deep among Bihari students in particular and society in general.

(my feelings are based on what I felt and experienced when I was in Bihar i.e. more than seven years back, I’d be most surprised and happy to know that situation has changed, but I doubt, as I do keep visiting Bihar a few times in a year)

When I moved to a high school in Patna, I suddenly found out that my identity went beyond what kind of shoes I wore, what lunchbox I brought, or how many marks I scored in exams. I belonged to a particular caste as well. But fortunately, my identity was not completely hinging upon that aspect.

When I moved to college (in Bihar, higher secondary is taught in colleges by state education board), the caste aspect of identity grew stronger, one of the important factor being writing your ‘category’ when applying for admissions in top colleges (from Bihari standard), but mostly due to the psyche of Bihari society; I was growing up, caste feelings had to catch up.

All through the college days (both the higher secondary and bachelor’s degree), I encountered caste consciousness on a regular basis, on numerous occasions.

Students tended to have friends from the same caste as their own (not so rampant or crass trend as it may appear from my words, but still it was a trend). In hostels, I heard students were divided along caste lines on many occasions. And in some cases, students even chose private tutors from their own caste to prepare for engineering, medical, or IAS examinations (only three career options known to a common Bihari student at that time).

Of course, one can see that all the career options meant going outside the state as there were not many good engineering or medical colleges in Bihar (Jharkhand included then). So the benevolent MNS and Shiv Sena ideologues are not wrong in saying that Bihari leaders should be punished because they have created a mess in Bihar which leaves no option for Biharis but to go outside their state to look for jobs and studies. If they really believe so, I don’t know why there are punishing the victims in such a case, let them chase away or beat up the Bihari leaders, no one would complain.

Anyway, coming back to my college days, tea stall (nukkad) gossips by students were about politics and which leader/political party is good for the state. Most of the students would take a stance simply because they belonged to a particular caste. They also discussed about cricket, girls, smoking, wine, and studies. I don’t know if caste was a factor in those discussions as well.

Caste was (is?) a harsh reality among student community. After all they were also part of the society, the Bihari society, which was (is?) notorious for giving their beti (daughter) and peti (ballot box or vote) to people of their own caste. It seemed that the student community, who form the future of any society, had refused to come out of this caste rut and bring about any positive change.

This student community, which had got no facilities in the home state, seemed least bothered about it. They knew there were better institutes and jobs outside Bihar, but they never seemed to worry why Bihar didn’t have them. Instead, they ‘prepared’ themselves for the competition to get into those institutes and to get those jobs outside Bihar. They had every right to do so as they all thought it was their own country and any person was free to move to any other part of the country.

Preparing for ‘competitive’ exams was a ‘status’ factor. A typical Bihari student would take admission in some college in Bihar, which has no facility and system, and prepare for these competitive exams. These exams ranged from prestigious engineering, medical or IAS exams to bank-clerks, lower administrative jobs, and railways recruitment exams.

All these competitive exams would eventually take them out of the state. Most of the Bihari students even chose centers of these exams outside Bihar, even if they had an option of taking exam in Bihar itself. That’s a mystery; either it was wanderlust or a cynicism about the home state.

I also witnessed that while applying for those mushrooming engineering colleges in Maharashtra (wonder why MNS is not attacking those Bihari engineering students, or have Bihari students upgraded themselves?), there were students who would rank choice of their colleges for admission after consulting students from their own caste, perhaps to create a ground for making a coterie of their own castemen even outside Bihar.

When going out of state to take exams, students of the same caste even tended to book railway tickets together, given they were not so much in number to muster courage to travel ticketless (yes, railways have been their favorite mode of transport, much before Lalu Yadav became the minister).

I guess, and I hope and pray that I’m wrong, things have not changed much since then. The same set of events might have taken place in lives of most of those students who boarded trains and reached Mumbai on 19th October.

And as soon as they reached Mumbai, some of them were attacked and chased away. They were treated with utmost disgust, as if they were animals. Those who survived were beaten up in the examination halls, again as if they were unwanted scums. I am sure it was a dreadful, disgusting, and demoralizing experience for each of those Bihari students and Bihari society.

And I hope that the Bihari society has realized that when those students were beaten up, nobody asked them if they were Yavav, Bhumihar, Kurmi, Brahmin, or Paswan by caste.

Thank you Raj Thackeray for creating parity in the Bihari society, which our leaders could never bring about.

Thank you Raj Thackeray for making Biharis feel like one people.

May God bless you. Get well soon.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tale of Two Communities

Recently some comments of Raj Thackeray over people hailing from UP and Bihar created a lot of noise and nuisance. Superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s house was attacked and some poor taxiwallas were beaten up and their taxis smashed on the roads of Mumbai, the financial capital of India.

Raj Thackeray is the nephew of Shiv Sena’s supremo Bal Thackeray, and heads his own political party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which means a party that is out to build a new Mahrashtra. And they are out on roads.

Experts say that Raj Thackeray is apparently following the kind of politics that his uncle practiced in 1970’s and 80’s – Maharashtra for Maharashtrians.

He seems to suggest that most of the problems Maharashtra is facing are due to usurping of rights of Maharashtrians or Marathis by Non-Maharashtrians. He avers that Non-Maharashtrians, especially Bhaiyyas (people from UP and Bihar) are infesting their land and taking away their jobs. They are depositing Marathi money in Bihari banks.

Not only that, these outsiders are polluting their culture (the sena parivar had maintained that the molesting of women on new year’s eve was handiwork of these outsiders).

Such accusations against Non-Mahrashtrians are not new. After Shiv Sena was defeated in the last assembly elections in 2004, Bal Thackeray had stated that tactical voting by Muslims and Non-Maharashtrians was responsible for it. Muslims and Non-Maharashtrians had ganged up, they invited gang war?

At that time, his statement was discounted as a grumpy grouse of a besieged leader who found his failure hard to digest, or was termed as just another ruse by the ageing lion to keep his flock from falling off. But some political pundits had predicted recrudescence of the politics of hate; the objects of aversion being Muslims and Biharis on most of the occasions. The rhetorics by Sena leaders in the past few years seem to corroborate this prediction.

The present round of trouble-mongering was started when Raj Thackeray declared that Biharis performed the drama of chhath puja (worship of sun god) to show their strength, and impose their own culture on Marathi land.

Come to think of it, this accusation against Biharis is very similar to Sena’s opposition to Friday prayers by Muslims, where it was insinuated that Muslims come out in large numbers on Fridays to show their populous strength and force an entry of their Arab culture into the Hindu land.

And that puts Muslims and Biharis in a similar situation for once. And incidentally, this is not the only time and place these two communities would find themselves in similar situations.

There are a lot of prejudices prevalent against both the communities, foremost among them being the presupposition that these people perform and are fit only for petty jobs; Biharis are all migrant labourers, vendors and taxiwallas, and Muslims are all tailors, butchers and bakriwalas (forgive me for calling these professions petty, I’m just restating an unfortunate preconception).

Talk about stereotypes, and both these communities stand painted in all shades of bias. When we talk about politics, Biharis become casteist and Muslims communal. When we talk about mannerisms, Biharis become vulgar and Muslims violent. When we talk about development, Biharis become burden and Muslims burglars.

On many occasions both the communities have to face mocking and derogatory comments in public places. And then there have been physical attacks on them, here Muslims being much more unfortunate than the Biharis.

So what makes Biharis and Muslims similar?

There are some obvious likenesses, such as both communities are comparatively poor and lacking in overall development e.g. education, infrastructural facilities and employment. Both the communities are politically active and arguably open to manipulation. People belonging to both the communities have a strong ‘sense of community’, either foisted upon them or naturally nurtured by themselves. And lastly but very importantly, they are easily identifiable, one by their names and the other by the way they pronounce their names!

Could these similarities be actually reasons why they find themselves in aforementioned situations? Surely the vilification and hate-campaign against both the communities are responsible for them to be pushed in to such situations. But why are these two communities pet-hate of some outfits? What makes them so dreadful for these ‘fascist forces’?

Yeah, they are deemed dreadful by their bĂȘte-noirs, for they pose some real and some imaginary threats to their adversaries – the fundamental fear that these communities are ‘coming in a big way’ to overwhelm them. And this fear is largely the outcome of some exaggerated extrapolation of the present trends into future.

Whereas Muslims are supposed to swamp the whole country by their burgeoning numbers, Biharis are supposed to mop up all the jobs.

There was a huge uproar after the last census report when a series of arguments and counter arguments were put forward on growth of Muslim population in India. The controversy depicted the perceived threat that the Muslims supposedly offered. They were growing fast.

Biharis have been fortunate not to have created a nationwide stir on any statistical data, but there are reports which had predicted that by 2015, out of every 500 odd districts of India, either the DM or SP, if not both, would be a Bihari. These reports were based on the number of Biharis succeeding UPSC examinations (an estimate puts the tally to over 25% in last ten years or so). Bihairs were getting all jobs.

These are statistics and are supposed to be sacrosanct and scientific, and so the threats are meant to be real and prejudices valid. And it called for action.

Bihari students were attacked and beaten up by Shiv Sena workers in Mumbai when they had gone to take railway recruitment exams in 2003. The same year, just before these attacks in Mumbai, around 30 Biharis were killed in Assam because they were earning in a foreign land.

And action against Muslims? Do I need to cite any specific incident? It would be unfair to point out just one or two.

But it also calls for action on the other side. Both the communities need to counter the ‘reality’ of the threats and ‘validity’ of the prejudices. It’s not that only Muslims are growing in population or only Biharis are getting the jobs in India. There has to be something else that breeds hostility towards these communities. It’s not just about debunking a statistical calculation; both the communities need to take a holistic look at the current state of affairs.

Let’s go back to the similarities between the communities and revisit the question – could those similarities actually be engendering some of the prejudices? We’ve to look at the similarities, because two rather disparate groups, in terms of practices and beliefs, find themselves in a similar situation. There has to be something common between them in order to make that happen.

There were four major similarities that we had identified – (i) lack of development, (ii) politically active, (iii) sense of community, and (iv) easily identifiable.

Are these good enough characteristics of a community to give rise to prejudices? If so, should a ‘cure’ be found for them by the two communities?

Let’s take the first characteristic – lack of development. I think without analyzing whether this aspect can give rise to prejudices against a community, we would all agree that a cure is needed. And relationship with prejudices? I guess there is a link; underdeveloped and poor communities are usually stereotyped about their mannerisms and mindset.

One of the major reasons, apart from corruption and mismanagement, why welfare programmes of government has been unable to show effect, has been due to presence of such stereotypes for underdeveloped and poor communities. Authorities deal with the whole situation with pre-conceived ideas about the problems and requirements of the communities.

But such stereotypes, of their own, normally don’t deteriorate into prejudices, almost hatred, against the underdeveloped and poor communities. There has to be some other reason that should explain the prejudices against Muslims and Biharis.

Let’s go to the second characteristic – politically active. Something that could engender prejudices or hatred? I believe it has such potentials. And I guess this characteristic is linked with the earlier one; since the communities lack development, they sometimes cling to politics as a potential tool of development, which often renders them vulnerable to political maneuvering.

It’s very difficult to tell apart if one is a pawn or a prey in a political plot. And once you assume, wittingly or unwittingly, either of these roles, you are bound to provoke prejudices against yourself. I personally believe that this has been happening with Biharis and Muslims.

So what’s the cure? The communities should become less politically active? In fact, I myself am confused on how do we measure the ‘level’ or ‘intensity’ of political activism, and how do we find the ‘cut-off’ level, above which one can get tricked and trapped into a political plot. Can we be active in politics and still be neither a pawn nor a prey? Somehow both the communities have to make sure that it happens.

What about the other two similarities – a sense of community and easily identifiable? As a social animal, it's not easy for human beings to shed the sense of community; arguably one of the weakest species, humans need a sense of community. Although I wonder why do we cling to it so strongly even now after all our technological and social innovations, which surely has made us rather one of the strongest species now. Old habits die hard!

How easily you are identifiable mostly depends upon you. In fact, it depends upon the 'sense' of community. The stronger it is, the more unique and different you want to appear, almost flaunting your identity. I think both these characteristics, sense of community and being identifiable, are common to many ethnic communities, and prompt jokes, bias or discrimination.

So is a cure needed? Yes, all of us need a cure for this; Raj Thackeray, Biharis, Muslims, and all of us need this cure – tolerance and respect for difference, and at the same time, irreverence for boundaries of traditional communities in deference to a modern universal one.

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