Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Evolution of Raj and Bal Thackeray's ideology

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The basic attribute of Marathi people (Marathi mentality) is that typically they are not known to be businessmen. Even at the zenith of their imperial expansion, Peshwa Balajirao had to invite traders from Marwad to invest in Maharashtra start their business centres. The entrepreneurial attitude of Punjabis, Marwadis, Udupis, Gujaratis and few others is not typically seen in Marathis.

Having said that, the class which is voter-base of Raj Thackeray (RT) is the young middle class urban maharashtrians. Thus, most of them are educated. The problem with North indians (Bhaiyya as they are called) is somewhat different from the problem with South Indians (Madrasi as they are called) which BT had in 70's.

South Indians being well versed in english (Better than marathis) were easily getting higher positions in government jobs in late 60's. The Udupi lobby in Mumbai was dominating the hotel business and food industry. To disarm and eradicate communism from MH, INC supported and propped up Bal Thackeray (BT). BT must be given credit of eradicating the communism from MH for good.

BT invented "Wada-Paav" and "Jhunka-Bhaakar" and made available loans for maharashtrians to compete with outsiders in hotel businesses and other low end businesses. Marathis never had any monetary capability to enter the real-estate business of Mumbai and Bollywood. This is dominated by cash rich Sindhi and Punjabi lobby, most of which were the descendants of Shikarpur traders who liquidated their huge assets in Pakistan before coming to Mumbai after partition. Along with Marwadis and Gujaratis, these people formed the new elite of Mumbai dominating the ownership in FMCG, jewellery and Textile industry. Marathis never had chance of competing with this class. Their niche was low-end business, service, arts. Of course for uneducated, the unskilled labour-work was always present.

This mentality however was first manifested in history of independent India during Samyukta Maharashtra movement. One should understand that the linguistic pride in Marathi is not like South Indian linguistic pride shown by Tamils. This pride is more about Maratha empire. The popular metaphors in all the pride-instilling songs of that era (Samyukta Maharashtra movement and later BT) refer to Maratha horses drinking waters of Yamuna (conquest of Delhi) and Sindhu (Attock). The fundamentals behind Marathi linguistic movement and pride are based on lost empire and power and not primarily love for language. When British formalized their rule in 1858, the biggest losers in India were Marathas. This is somehow not forgotten in subconscious minds of Maharashtrians.

In current times, the threat to the social niche of marathi people in urban MH is from people of UP and Bihar. This apparent threat different from previously perceived South Indian threat in following ways..

1. South indian class which migrated to Mumbai and MH was not linguistically imposing. The Southies show much more readiness to speak the languages which Marathis understand (Marathi OR Hindi). This readiness in attitude is NOT SHOWN by North Indians from these two states. South Indians have totally different script and language, their effort to learn hindi and marathi was appreciated and acknowledged by Marathi people. From hindi speaking people, lot more is expected and it is justified. It is not really difficult to learn marathi for hindi speaker, especially since the script is same, most of the words are same. The general disinterest shown by UP-Bihar people in learning local language and customs ignites the spark and this has been the complaint of many other states (including Punjab, Himachal, Haryana, Rajasthan, South and North-east).

2. The socio-economic and political conditions of the UP-Bihar is worse than MH and rest of India. This is mostly due to the incompetent rulers which have been ruling that region for 3 to 4 decades now. The scale of migration of unskilled labour from these two states into rest of India justifies the usage of term "outrageous". The cultural arrogance coupled with fact and perception that Gangetic plains suck up the money generated by other provinces (i.e. MH) further exacerbate the tensions.

3. What is puzzling the most about RT is that the voter-base which supports him is that of educated middle class youth from urban centres. The migrants from north are mostly illiterate unskilled labourers and do the work and jobs which marathis typically have shied away from. The voter base of RT is mostly white-collared youth OR youth aspiring to do white collar jobs. This fact puzzles me the most, who is the real target of RT ?. In case of BT, it was well defined and actual.

4. The issue of importing unskilled labourers from Gangetic plains for jobs in MH which can be done by local unskilled labourers is relevant and pertinent. But Maharashtrian rural unskilled labourers (the direct beneficiaries of this RT policy) are not the voter-base of RT.

5. The urban issues raised by RT are pertinent and very well taken by marathi people - sign-boards in local language, advertisements for railway jobs in MH to be published in Marathi papers and not in Hindi papers published in UP, the Jet-airways crisis and his timely threat which was immediately effective.

6. One more reason which fuels the anger towards North Indians is the leaders who vouch for them in Mumbai and MH. The leaders like Abu Azmi, Amar Singh, Mullah Mulayam etc are totally incompetent and corrupt. Sanjay Nirupam was a Shiv-sena man and used to participate actively in "Bhaiyya-Bashing" before he was denied ticket. Hence he entered INC and started shouting against BT and RT. The locals know about his reputation. Kripashankar singh is targeted but much less; the fact that he can speak decent marathi helps.

7. Another angle is that of underworld and terrorism. The UP, especially the doab is the region from where abu salem and many other dons, thugs and terrorists have come. Muslims from Azamgarh is very popular bashing stick for RT and BT; same goes for countless illegal Bangladeshi's. The leaders who choose to stand for UPaites in Mumbai and MH are of shady character, hence the anger is further multiplied. Nitish Kumar is not criticized by RT and BT as much as Azamgarhi Abu Azmi, Mulayam, Amar singh and lalu yadav are. 

8. Over all, in my opinion, this is more about resurgence and outlet of some hidden subconscious anger in minds of Marathi people and Maharashtrians that they are left behind in the race for power-struggle of India's heartland. After B.R.Ambedkar there is no big Marathi leader who has important say in Delhi power circle. Pawar is powerful but has bad image even in MH outside his stronghold; Pramod Mahajan was promising, but is no more. The urge seen in Saatvahans, Western Chalukyas, Rashtrakootas and Marathas is exactly this same urge which is manifesting itself in form of BT and RT. This urge is to assert themselves and participate decisively in politics of Indo-Gangetic plains.

9. Since this urge, coupled with anger of lost power/importance at the hands of north (delhi - symbolized by mughal emperor) is behind emergence of this mentality, I don't think this movement can remain aloof from hindutva cause or it can divide and enervate it. Any spark in gangetic plains which calls for rallying of hindus, this region and these people will be first to jump in for that cause. BT did the same during and after 1992 riots.

P.S - Please read the comments of this article as well as other articles. I have written a elaborate post-script comparing the Tamil linguistic movement and Marathi linguistic movement which is pertinent. Also inputs of other readers are priceless..


Chiron said...

The opposition of Tamils for Hindi is purely out of linguistic reasons. It also has racial connotations to it (aryan-dravidian divide, AIT etc). The priority is different in both cases

Tamils have never ruled OR influenced Indo-Gangetic plains. Marathas (and their predecessors) have done it. While they were ruling and influencing the northern plains, they adopted local languages. There are countless marathi families settled in Punjab, UP, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, MP, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, AP, TN. There is even a theory that the Marita/maree tribe of Baluchistan are in fact descendants of Maratha PoW's after Panipat campaign.

In all these places, they settled as conquerors, and yet learnt and adopted the local language and customs in no time. This shows that opposition to adoption of some other language is not the driving force. Nor is sticking to one's language a rabid priority. Marathis are very fluent in Hindi. In fact many children and young people speak hindi while talking to their collogues, who are marathi as well. It has been the matter of habit. Anybody who is educated in MH will testify how common hindi is among youngsters, in spite of having marathi as mother tongue. So if Marathis themselves are not very fussy about the language and are by and large cool with hindi language, what exactly is the problem?

of course, this does not mean that there is total lack of pride in language.. This is definitely not the case and linguistic pride is one of the very important factors behind this movement.. but, things are much more subtle and intricately linked with historical pre-eminence which was suddenly lost and has been elusive ever since... the argument that no maharashtrian has ever been a PM of India is commonly outspoken many times, especially around general elections. The fact that BT said that if Pawar could become PM of India and was short of support, SS would ensure that a marathi man will become PM further backs this observation.

The principle driving force is loss of position of eminence. Even the Maratha thrust in 1857 was to re-establish the empire lost in 1818. Tatya Tope, Nana Peshwa, Rani Laxmibai all were marathi for namesake onlee.. they were Hindi speaking Marathas. Hence although pride is based on previous glory, the manifestation of it depends upon how the glory is remembered.

Herein lies the fundamental difference between these two groups under consideration. The glory is remembered (in case of MH) as time when there was political influence over entire subcontinent. While that influence was in effect, marathi was not the lingua-franca of the empire and nor any efforts made to do it. Local languages along with marathi and farsi were used for the purpose.

Chiron said...

AoA Al brazzackh. :-)

Thanks for a very valuable comment.. Your points indeed are succinct and pertinent.

Yes, its me with tiranga. I am currently not in desh for educational purposes. This photo was from Indian embassy here, on 15th August celebrations. This flag is from Indian Embassy.

Best Regards... :-)

al brazzakh said...

Seems the discussion has run its full course. The points raised by both sides of the debate are correct. The problem of finding a common ground with the non-Dravidian identity will sting the later day Dravida parties as well as people.

As a state prospers, it loses the needs to "depend" upon another states economically. This unfortunately leads to an "isolation". Such is the case of TN today, hence it is difficult to find a common cause with, say, Maharashtra or Gujarat or NE or Indo Gangetic plain.

At this point i think, a strong "external" factor can only unite the people. However till the external factor raises its head, the SIMIs and IndMujs will continue to garner political space.

I think the entire problem stems from an ideology based on "Victimisation". If the TN self respect movement would have added to Hindu-Sanatana Dharma cause, it would be one of the rock solid ststes. However, based on "victimisation" of the other, the ideology has been to find a villain for all the pre existing troubles. And that villain turned out to be "Brahmnism".

Karnataka as a state has long disconnected from this vicimisation ideology . Some of the largest groups for Ram Janmabhoomi campaign came from Karnataka. So has AP. Hence except TN, the rest of the states are in harmony over the core idea.

AoA. Over to Benis :)

Ps: Manipuri Meiteis are the most trustworthy, reliable countrymen and firmly follow Vaishnava traditions. Non INC PM from here would be much better than the Rajya Sabha member from Assam :P
AoA .

Ace said...

Chiron, a very well written article as usual.
Just a few questions in my minds:
Isnt RT brand of politics opportunistic to say the least. Isnt he only helping the Congress divide the marathi vote of BT ? Why is he targetting only North Indians? Isnt there an exodus from other states as well? Is it because N.Indians are politically more active and threatening the political existence of Marathi politicians across party lines? So have all these together propped up RT, partly to take on BT and party to subdue the North politicians? Isnt the monopolisation of industries by S.Indians, Sindhis,Punjabis, Gujratis equally detrimental to a say neo marathi entrepreneur? Dont they promote people of their own ilk in their industries, often ignoring the local marathi man ? Then why only N.Indians?

Chiron said...


Isnt RT brand of politics opportunistic to say the least.

Yes, it is opportunistic. But IMO this opportunism has historical background. Remember the behaviour of Marathas and Rashtrakutas when when ventured into Indo-Gangetic plains. This will explain the opportunism in RT and BT as well. Of course, the intention was noble then, but the way it was manifested, it could have been better.. Rashtrakutas were lot more civilized, and so were Marathas, as compared to contemporary Rohillas, Pathans, Mughals and Afghans. But from Hindu standards, they were still rash

Isnt he only helping the Congress divide the marathi vote of BT ?

Yes, but so was BT.. So was Balaji Vishwanath and other Peshwas.. This is difference between Rashtrakutas and Marathas.

Why is he targetting only North Indians? Isnt there an exodus from other states as well?

Because NI are competing with the unskilled labour niche of job-market in MH and rest of India. Although that is not his voter-base, still he is rallying the educated lower-middle class for that cause. And the urban section of young lower-middle class supports him because that would mean less competition in job-market

Is it because N.Indians are politically more active and threatening the political existence of Marathi politicians across party lines?

I have been contemplating on this line of thought too.. Delhi traditionally symbolizes Mughal emperor and has negative connotations associated in public psyche of MH. Aggressive north hell bent on destroying MH has been the rallying call in MH for past 400 years now.

So have all these together propped up RT, partly to take on BT and party to subdue the North politicians?

BT's "Putra-Moha" simply presented INC a chance to pull up this game again. If BT was sane enough to make RT as his successor (rightfully), this repetition of history would have been avoidable.

Isnt the monopolisation of industries by S.Indians, Sindhis,Punjabis, Gujratis equally detrimental to a say neo marathi entrepreneur?Dont they promote people of their own ilk in their industries, often ignoring the local marathi man? Then why only N.Indians?

one possible answer is Sindhis, Punjabis and Gujaratis do not compete with Marathi in job market. These three classes are typically seen in business and self-employment type jobs. Marathi manus is lazy to start his own business and meticulously and cunningly make it profitable (I am talking about gross picture, not certain individual success stories). On larger picture, there is no competition.

South Indians were the principle arch-rivals of BT in 60's and 70's. They have been taken care of and there is not such a huge migration from SI into MH. The migrations of NI from UP and Bihar is visibly outrageous. Hence they are seen as the obvious targets.

Hrishikesh Keskar said...

Very nice article Chiron. If possible, can you please share some info about the Panipat POW tribe in Pakistan?

Yogesh Jayant Khandke said...

The Panipat PoWs are called the Bugati Marathas.

Check this Wikipedia article

Descendants of Maratha Prisoners of War (1761)

विष्णुगुप्त said...

Isnt the monopolisation of industries by S.Indians, Sindhis,Punjabis, Gujratis equally detrimental to a say neo marathi entrepreneur?Dont they promote people of their own ilk in their industries, often ignoring the local marathi man? Then why only N.Indians?<<

I have first hand experience in this. My family started a new pharma business & government was a major customer but for a Maharashtrian Marathi getting orders was extremely difficult. Even with political influence & assurance of bribe. But no orders wouldn’t come. They will go to some TN small companies. After much brainstorming we came to conclusion that MH politicians & Burocrats prefer to deal for bribes with non Maharashtrian than a Maharashtrian business because there is always a possibility of MH business spilling the beans with MH public. I have seen this in other multinational business also. If they want to generate un accounted cash, they will depend on non Maharashtrian contractor than a Maharashtrian, in simple contracts as even gardening. For MH politicians dealing with Maharashtrian business is political thrat.

You can observe BT, RT’s UT’s Janata Raja’s business dealings, they are invariably with non Maharashtrians.

nautibull said...

I think it's the language..BT was against SI because of english.fine.people of MH learnt how to say Anna.Then came the NI.?.u mess with country..the game was played by political mind PM. So NI dreamers came to bombay.BT never wanted this to happen after anna boomeranged..regional parties live a brief life.Ss has extended its Best before expiry.