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Divide and rule - a divisive game of politics

New Delhi, Fri, 29 Aug 2008 M Shamsur Rabb Khan

Those who continue to blame the erstwhile British Empire for “divide and rule” must understand that this policy is very much in use in Indian politics. In fact, it has been used and abused by our politicians cutting party lines since the British left India. And it is very likely the policy will be used in future as far as it yields dividends. Ironically, all through the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s, political leaders, especially that of Congress used to abuse the British Empire for divide and rule. It appealed to the Indian psyche and the party won election after election. But as you cannot fool all the people all the time, people started gauging the truth behind such appeals. Then came the BJP. This party brought in a much bigger emotional issue to play divide and rule: religion. However, in this game people have always been losers, as the politicians gain upper hand in outsmarting them.

Be it demand for a separate state, or agitation for change of name for cities, or tirade against the people of one region (read Bihar and UP) or the latest salvo from MNS leader Raj Thackeray’s demand for hoardings to be in Marathi language is all but a stunt to gain political mileage based on divide and rule. And the proponents of such a policy present a picture among the people or supporters that the other people are a threat for their existence. The fear factor pays handsomely in the elections, as people are befooled to the ballot box. Killings of workers from Bihar in Assam and movement to oust them from Mumbai and elsewhere in India are part of political agenda based on divide and rule.

Marathi, like any other language, can be good enough to be propagated, but the very intention behind its promotion is not the language itself, but gains in elections. Since Raj seems desperate in getting his political feet firmly on Maharashtra, he needs to come up with something startling that can touch the emotional nerve of the people of the state. By that, he becomes a local nationalist and a promoter of language of the people. Even though every Marathi household would love to prefer his sons and daughters admitted in English schools, they may support any movement that gives publicity to their language. In Maharashtra free Marathi medium schools are becoming extinct because even the poorest Marathi Manoos prefers to send their children in private English schools.

Expatriates are despised everywhere as local feel their chunk of the jobs and economic benefits are taken away by the outsiders. I felt it in Oman and Dubai. Whenever I tried to talk to the locals, I felt their angst of not being qualified enough to do the job that I was doing. At times, I apprehended backlash, as frustration to see the outsiders availing economic benefits might turn into a fill scale hate campaign. Any political agitation among such people at this stage might lead to a big movement to oust the expatriates. Thank God, Oman is not a democracy where people have the right to come on the street on every petty issue.

Jai Maharashtra as a promo sounds nice to locals, it may not suit to the people of other regions and forcing it on others is anti democratic. Anti-Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s was also the result of imposition of a language on the people who thought it otherwise though that was not the case. There is nothing wrong in having sign boards in Marathi, which perhaps may suit the Marathi Manoos but imposing it like a dictator is something that create divide among people, especially in metropolitan city like Mumbai, where people from different regions, cultures, and languages help create what is called the grandeur of Mumbai.

If people of one region try to establish their supremacy over the people of other regions in such a fashion, then the very grand Indian ethos of diversity in unity is at stake.


Read More: Mumbai

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