Posted by: Pradeep | September 12, 2008

I am Indian before anything else

Recent upsurge of nasty remarks by one of the frustrated politician from Maharashtra has made me vocal on this issue even more. People ask me what is my religion; my answer is Indian. What place I am from? India. Being an expat probably takes me much closer to my country than being within the country. People fall prey to regionalism, linguistic and communal inticing by self contained politicians who have little to offer to society.

I found in today’s TOI that many other think on these lines (reproduced below)…

I do not support the violent campaign launched by Raj Thackeray. I consider myself as an Indian first and then a Maharashtrian. Raj Thackeray and his men have no business taking the law into their hands. He is now trying to bully the joint police commissioner in Mumbai. I think the state government has failed to protect those targeted by the MNS, and it is high time they take effective action. Those involved in violence should be stopped before the situation goes out of control. 

Raj Thackeray has great talent and energy, but it’s difficult to understand the basic issue. While agreeing that his whole approach might be myopic, and while I certainly don’t support destructive violence, one must understand that 
it arises from frustration. For instance, who is paying any attention to Bangladeshis without passports? In Bangalore, the signboards are in Kannada while in Chennai they are in Tamil. Raj is obviously looking for an avenue where he can make his presence felt. I personally feel that the governor and CM should call everyone and resolve the issue. 
I am definitely an Indian first, but the spirit of being an Indian is going away because our politicians are all parochial. I wrote a letter to Raj on the issue of Marathi signboards. After all, it will be unfair if some patients in my clinic can’t identify with my board. I always start my speeches saying ‘Marathi is my matrubhasha, Hindi my rashtrabhasha and English my karyabhasha.’ 
Sharada Dwivedi | HERITAGE EXPERT 
In a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai where only 30 per cent of the population is Maharashtrian, why do we have to insist on this predominance of Marathi? And I say this though I am born a Maharashtrian. When I go to my husband’s hometown in Chandigarh where the majority of the population is Punjabi, no one insists that we talk in Punjabi only. Besides, Hindi is our national language and what is more important—national or regional, or English which is now being accepted as the global language? Personally, I first consider myself a human being, then an Indian. Such incidents arise because of the mindset of people who want to turn the city into a global city but are still stuck in time, a century ago.
Shobhaa De | WRITER 
Without doubt, I am an Indian first and everything else next. I am also proud to be a Maharashtrian, and have no problem wearing both identities equally on my sleeve. The state government 
has been ineffectual, period. So far it has not shown the leadership or will to implement policies at any level, so I am neither surprised nor disappointed by its wishy-washy attitude. It appears as if they are tacitly supporting Raj’s sentiment. 
About the Bachchan controversy, I think it is essentially a case of two politicians (Jaya and Raj) pitted against each other. Surely someone of Jaya’s experience should have figured out that in this day and age the chance of the most innocuous remark being misconstrued or exaggerated is very high. If she had spoken in Hindi without the preamble of ‘we are UPwalle’, there would have been no fuss at all. 
That being said, how can anyone possibly condone wanton acts of vandalism in civil society? I feel this business of being proprietorial about a city defeats the broader concept of nationalism. I don’t get this idea of wanting to possess a city and have exclusive rights over it. I recognise that Mumbai is what it is today because it has always embraced the so-called ‘outsider’—a word that is misplaced and one we should stop using. If you are an Indian, you cannot be an outsider in any part of India. We should not allow a small number of people to speak for the rest of the city.
Those who know Jayaji will understand that her comments were not made with malicious intent. They were off-the-cuff remarks. I am saying this not because 
I am married to Goldie Behl whom she considers her elder son.
There is nothing new about the MNS agitation. In the past, another politician and party carried out this agenda. The media has gone to town giving wide publicity to violence. They should 
be more responsible. My mother is Maharashtrian, but I am proud to be Indian first. There should be peace in Mumbai and the government should ensure that people—including shopkeepers—don’t live in fear.
Of course I do not support Raj or any of the Thackerays. I think the Bachchans have not distinguished themselves in standing up for anyone’s rights, except their own, but I am opposed 
to any kind of bullying on the question of nationality, religion or language. I believe that the government is soft on this is because they too see some political gain in it. Am I an Indian first or Maharashtrian? I am a human being first and last. The rest is politics. I do not think Raj Thackeray’s campaign has the silent support of the Maharashtrian community. But when faced with threats of violence people choose safety first and keep silent. That is how democracy is crushed and bullies triumph.

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