Why we must defeat bigotry

In an excellent opinion piece about bigotry in India titled The Crowded Centre, Ramchandra Guha writes:

The creation of linguistic states was a legitimate concession to the pride that Indians took in their respective mother tongues. It is permissible for a state to demand that the language of administration be in the mother tongue; also that the medium of instruction in government schools should be the local language. But if any Indian state asks for more than this, it puts at peril the Union of India. It cannot be allowed to demand that all jobs in the state be reserved for permanent residents of the state; or that the rituals and ceremonies that citizens perform in their private capacity be the rituals and ceremonies native to that state alone.

The late prime minister, Indira Gandhi, understood very well that the territory of India belonged equally to all Indians. Even if in some other respects (as in the upholding of free speech) she did not always follow the precepts of the Indian Constitution, in this matter she was both a constitutionalist and a patriot.

In the summer of 1980, the All Assam Students Union launched a series of attacks on the homes of those they deemed ‘outsiders’. Government property was also targeted; and the flow of oil from the state was blocked. Indira Gandhi warned the agitating students that their actions were both unconstitutional as well as counter-productive. “Suppose other states refused to supply Assam with steel?” she pointedly asked: “How would the Assamese develop their industry?” Her understanding of Indian federalism was that “it was only in the shadow of a bigger unit that each unit can survive; otherwise outside pressures will be too great to bear”.

Raj Thackeray’s movement is both un-Indian as well as anti-democratic. Biharis in Mumbai have every right to observe their own festivals; so long as their observance does not put at peril the lives or livelihood of their fellow citizens (as it manifestly does not). Amitabh Bachchan has every right to live and work in Mumbai; and, while living and working in Mumbai, also to maintain a close connection with his home state of Uttar Pradesh.

A well-written piece that is worth reading. (via India Together)

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