“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”
As Pandit Nehru said these words; every Indian, irrespective of caste, gender, creed or colour had cried tears of joy. Their burdened spines had straightened and chained spirits had soared high in the skies for the first time in centuries. The vision of our forefathers of a “free and equal” India painted everything pink. No more of being humiliated or oppressed. No one to command supremacy or indicate inferiority. Their only desire – to live freely, with dignity – without being hailed abuses at, is all they ever wanted. And they hoped to have it now.
Fast forward to 2016: 68 years on, and that hope now senses a grey end. We are at a standstill. Baffled and perhaps (some) ashamed, for the India our forefathers shed their blood for, has vanished somewhere down the road. People look down at each other all the time. To substantiate, once an ‘honour’ to refer to a person; “Bihari” is now a derogatory word. In the whole of North India, being a Bihari is synonymous to being an uncultured, good-for-nothing, raving lunatic.
The state of “Bimaru“, as Bihar is disparagingly referred to, was the cradle and pride of ancient India. The cultural blend and the scientific aptitude of the state had garnered international repute for the nation. Where Gautam Buddha and Mahavira gave the world – a lesson in peace and from where Aryabhatta catalysed the growth of science and mathematics. This land of scholars, officers and statesmen is considered a burden on the nation?! The smirks and slangs hurled at them unveils the dark reality of our independent state. Are we free from the shackles of prejudice and inequality? Is this independence?
Before we delve into the intricacies of these threads, we need to unwind some more complicated ones. Bihar was the epicenter of knowledge and wisdom – the light of Asia. How did then, it lose its sheen? What happened in the interim? Why do people envision such bleak pictures of Bihar today?
Of the many reasons, listed below are the primary causes of this catastrophe:
- Historical Invasions: Myraid invasions by military rulers imparted periodic traumas to the state. A chronic one initiated with the arrival of the British. To challenge the authority of Indian rulers and to convince their subjects of their inferiority, British had a clear idea. They sabotaged the centers of Indian education, Nalanda being the premiere among them all. Innovation was discouraged and questions suppressed. Gradually, the state lost all its resources to the greedy maws of a few.
- Post-Independence Troubles: The economy of the nation was dwindling and the state was poorer than the rest. The image was further tarnished by the politicians of the state. The eternal drool for power blinded the leaders and they did what they had fought against – Divide and Rule. They facilitated casteism and built a system based on corruption, red tapism and sycophancy. Consequently, crimes rates increased and the concept of ‘dirty politics’ came to life. The land of honest scholars turned into the holes of corrupt ‘babus‘ and ‘netas‘. Expectedly, people loathed that.
- Geographical and Infrastructural Woes: Infamously known as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’, river Kosi is known to cause a tremendous damage to the economy and livelihood of the people every year. The resources of the state are limited. After the bifurcation of the state into Jharkhand, the situation worsened. The industrial lands went to Jharkhand and people had no option but to migrate to other states in search of a livelihood. Others migrated seeking higher education.
The political command of the state in the wrong hands, is the prime contributor in ruining it completely. Busy with casteism and corruption, the politicians never had much time to uplift the standards of education and commerce. Thankfully, the era of Nitish Kumar government has begun turning the tables. Outshining most developed states by registering a whooping 11.3% GDP growth, and producing more white-collar officers, MBAs or Doctors than half the country; Bihar is certainly on a path of development. But this does not alter the inferior treatment its people receive.
To many, ‘Bihari(s)’ are burdening their cities and states. They outnumber the residents of that city and though they ease their lives and support their economy; they hardly command any respect. Reason? They do menial jobs. Most ‘Bihari(s)‘ are daily-wage labourers or drivers or masons. The society, shallow in all respects, fails to acknowledge that the backbone of the infrastructural development in India are the same people they hurl abuses at.
What a sane mind would fail to comprehend is that, why do the same people who humiliate ‘Bihari‘ workers are over head and ears in respect for the ‘NRI Punjabi‘ or the ‘NRI Malayali’ workers (Many Punjabi people migrate to Canada and Malayalis to Middle-east to do labour work)? Those who leave their nation to develop and serve a foreign land command respect, whilst the ones who are compelled to abandon their homes and choose to serve their nation end up being called a piece of filth? Has the spirit of nationalism and fraternity died post-independence or does it revive shortly on the 15th August(s) and 26 January(s)?
It has been a long term mind-set of people that all Biharis are illiterate, corrupt, law breakers; they are the ones who have taken their jobs, their lands, their seats in colleges; they are menial workers or say present day “girmitya majdoor”. They do not know how to behave; they have no culture, no respect for others’ well being. Mind-sets can be changed, Set minds can’t. Be it IITs, IIMs or IAS, Bihar brains have outshone everyone. They take seats in colleges on merit.
On behavioral grounds, one man doesn’t make a community. There are law-breakers in every community. As per the 2012 report by the National Crime Records Bureau, Bihar is the 22nd most crime committing state. The highly developed and cultured states of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh proudly top the list. Truth be told, a court of law would dismiss the innumerable baseless allegations that have been made on Bihar. A prejudiced mind, to the contrary, would overlook everything.
What saddens the most is that the leaders of various states embarrass the holy institution of democracy by giving condemnable statements. A crowd follows its leaders and hence, it is the responsibility of leaders to set right examples. The jest shaped out of their accent and language speaks volumes of our education standards. We fail to respect someone’s individuality, ignore someone’s hard work, and denounce someone’s character. To my senses, they maybe illiterate, but we happen to be ones uneducated.
It is high time we as a nation, introspect and acknowledge the injustice that has been done to the people of Bihar. The freedom which the constitution guaranteed must be upheld high in principles. Seconds after announcing independence, Pandit Nehru had hinted at the problems that encompassed the embryonic nation of ours. He said,
“….many of our people are sorrow-stricken and difficult problems encompass us. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action. To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy.”
Can we free ourselves from this narrow mind set whose dangers Pandit Nehru hinted at decades ago? Our brethren of Bihar are leaving no stone unturned to resurrect the glory of their state, can we agree not to speak ‘Bihari‘ in a tone of disgust? Can we bring the freedom our forefathers envisioned? The freedom where people do not get generalised and everyone operates in harmony? If yes, congratulations! You have just become a better citizen of this nation.