Calling “The Hindu’s” bluff on Bangalore
Last week ‘The Hindu’ came out with coordinated articles in Delhi and Bangalore with grandiose titles like “apartheid” and “mired in prejudice”. Both these pieces are aimed at conjuring in the mind of a lay reader, a British Raj-esque image of neighbourhoods and cities – with each of them have a board that screams “Dogs, non-vegetarians, non-Hindus and non-upper castes NOT ALLOWED”. In the week that has gone by, blogger Sandeep come out with an evocative personal account vividly describing the other side; when the so-called discriminators have been at the receiving end. However, as a Bangalorean, I found “The Hindu” article deeply offensive and bereft of facts. That the article was biased was undisputed. But I also think it is imperative that the ‘The Hindu’s’ falsehoods and factual inaccuracies are exposed. For starters, the author of the article is one ‘Sudipto Mondal’ – all I can say is that it is irresponsible to allow someone who doesn’t understand the ethos of a city to go ahead and pass judgements on the locals.
Coming to the facts – I will try and highlight the facts that I have seen and absorbed over my lifetime – almost all of which I have spent in the heart of Bangalore. Unlike a majority of the city’s populace today, I have grown up with the city. I have walked the lawns and climbed trees in the very houses that ‘The Hindu’ accuses of bias – with meat eating Hindu and Muslim friends. The lawn is just as soft to Hindu or Muslim and the fruits just as sweet for vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The people are just as warm.
Here is the real picture, at least in South Bangalore (Basavanagudi, Jayanagar). Yes, there are more ‘upper caste’, ‘educated’, ‘old world professionals’ living here than would perhaps be the case in other areas. That said, there are enough non-vegetarians in South Bangalore, in my very neighbourhood. They may not be ‘dalits’, but are typically landed OBCs. (will reserve the unique ‘food habits’ of such neighbourhoods and it’s residents for another blog.) Fortunately or unfortunately, like most other residents of such neighbourhoods, these meat-eaters too come from a lineage of professionals and administrators. Their forefathers are most likely to have been High Court Judges, Engineers or high-ranking Civil servants.
It is also noteworthy that just in the two areas of Basavanagudi and Jayanagar (surroundings) alone, one would find at least 10 Churches and more than 25 Mosques (conservative estimate – if a 2km radius is added the numbers would more than double). If indeed the locals are prejudicial against minorities, how could this be possible? Are the locals only prejudiced against people from minority communities “staying” in their area, but fine with places of worship of different faiths in their neighbourhood? Are members of the minority communities convinced of the need to have their Churches and Mosques in areas where they aren’t allowed to live? Or do the minorities love these areas so much that they are willing to travel long distances just to pray in these areas.
If only ‘The Hindu’ had bothered to read the history of Bangalore. ‘Basavanagudi’ and ‘Malleshwaram’ areas were created as a result of the outbreak of bubonic plague in Bangalore. These areas were meant to house government servants who complained of lack of sanitation facilities and unhygienic conditions. Naturally, the aforementioned areas were inhabited by these civil servants, irrespective of caste and community.
Just as today’s software districts are occupied by those who work there. Why do the apartments around, say, Whitefield or Electronic City have more non-Kannadiga professionals? Should we support reservation (by linguistics, caste and community) in sale of apartment blocks as well? That is exactly what ‘The Hindu’ is suggesting by quoting an obscure former Corporator, that there aren’t “enough” muslims or dalits in some areas. This is like saying forest rights should be given to all people living in the district, not just forest dwelling Tribals.
There is also the absolutely puerile argument about “activist” Ruth Manorama being declined (NOT denied) office space by a certain elderly couple – to bother explaining it’s puerility would be undermining the intelligence of an average human being. The fungiblity of caste is a point to note. In this article ‘Lingayats’ are clubbed with upper castes, which is seldom the case elsewhere. When was the last time you saw an article that read “upper caste leader B.S.Yeddyurappa”? Technically, Lingayats are covered under the OBC list in Karnataka. Out of the blue, the case of north-east student Richard Loitam, who died in a student scuffle, is brought up. If the objective was to highlight discrimination, then why talk about murders? For the record, he was allegedly murdered by a migrant student hailing from East India – has nothing to do with Bangalore locals. This is the classical danger posed by the theories of victimhood based on caste and community. New enemy (or at least opposite) ‘forces’ are created in ‘fertile minds’ from time to time, targeting certain ethnic and demographic identities.
Interestingly, the article says that ‘prejudice’ is maximum in areas which are best endowed with infrastructure. Here is a thought, these areas are also the most law abiding – you will see building bye-law violations are far lower than compared with more “secular” areas. Crime rates are much lower and traffic is more organised. Are these characteristics a result of “prejudice”? If this sort of broad-brushing by the ‘The Hindu’, of a certain law-abiding and non-vociferous section of the populace isn’t prejudice bordering on racism, then what is?
India is a diverse nation. Diversity, in India’s context, is the coming together of different parts, each with it’s own unique characteristics and construct. One part alone cannot be representative of India. Each neighbourhood cannot have speakers of 22 languages just because India has 22 official languages. “The Hindu” confuses India’s syncretic diversity with every district being a synthetic mini-India, with all religions, castes etc. being represented.
Sandeep asks in his blog, if the Hindu will talk about the demographic siege. It appears to me that a demographic siege is indeed what “The Hindu” is advocating.