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Sons of soil: born, reborn

It's not the first time Mumbai has burnt over the sons-of-soil issue.


February 6, 2008 12:31:56 am

It’s not the first time Mumbai has burnt over the sons-of-soil issue. And while the Shiv Sena may be most famous for propagating it, from Tamil Nadu to Assam, the issue has found resonance across the country:

Maharashtra: In February 1956, the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti was formed to spearhead the demand for a separate Marathi-speaking state out of the then-bilingual State of Bombay. Prominent activists included Prabodhankar Thackeray, the father of Bal Thackeray. In early 1960, protesters demanding a separate state were fired upon by the police at Flora Fountain in the capital city of Mumbai. 105 people died in the firing, forcing CM Morarji Desai to quit. With passions running high, it was only a matter of time before the new state came into being.On May 1, 1960, finally the State of Bombay was split into the Marathi-speaking Maharashtra and the Gujarati-speaking Gujarat.

The Shiv Sena was born in June 1966 out of a feeling of resentment about the continued “marginalisation” of Marathis despite creation of the new state. It attracted a large number of often-unemployed Maharashtrian youth and white collar Maharashtrian workers in PSUs, who were pulled towards Bal Thackeray’s charges of nepotism in PSUs, uncontrolled migration of labour into Mumbai, and lack of credit to Marathis.

Thackeray, then a cartoonist for The Free Press Journal, targeted the growing number of South Indians by inflammatory slogans like “lungi hatao pungi bajao” and “yendu gundu”. There was a string of attacks on the South Indian restaurant chain Udupi. Thackeray later also targeted Gujaratis, Marwaris, Biharis, and people from North India.

Tamil Nadu: The main ideology of the two main parties of the state, AIADMK and DMK, is Tamil pride. The DMK, which began with demanding an independent Dravida Desam. It opposed the attempt to introduce Hindi in Tamil Nadu, and termed Tamil Brahmins “agents of North India”. The party demanded quota in government jobs for Dravidians and not to ‘immigrant’ Brahmins.

Andhra Pradesh: A greenhorn in politics, actor N T Rama Rao founded the Telegu Desam Party in 1982 and rode to power on the agenda of local cultural pride.

Assam: In British India, Assam for some period was attached to the neighbouring Bengal province. During this period, the Bengalis held many senior government posts. Later on Assam again became a separate province, but many government posts continued to be held by Bengalis. In the 1960s and 1970s, as Assam saw migration from Bengal, and then Bangladesh, fears grew that locals were being pushed off the state map. In the 1980s the Asom Gana Parishad was founded with the agenda to give Assam back to the Assamese people. Since then ULFA has frequently targeted migrant labourers

Delhi: CM Sheila Dikshit had to swiftly backtrack in May 2007 after expressing helplessness over the huge migrant influx into the Capital. As Parliament came to a standstill over the CM’s remarks, she apologised and said Delhi was “a home for people from every part of the country”. But the New Year began on another sour note, when Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna had to eat his words on the issue.

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