There are several stereotypes that a ‘Bihari’ is associated with. Bihari is not just a geopolitical identity but, let’s accept it, a demeaning, abusive slang reserved for anyone who is doing something uncivilised, idiotic, criminal or just being uncouth in behaviour.
In buses, metro, autos and at shops and colleges in Delhi, I have heard and seen people being abused by being called a ‘Bihari’, even when they were from some other state. I don’t need to substantiate it. One can just go around and do something like using opposite lane or taking a sudden turn in front of a vehicle etc. and wait for their Bihari connection to be established by their behaviour.
The reason was a government-led by Lalu Prasad Yadav (often seen as a joker in politics) and his illiterate wife Rabri Devi that pushed the state to the nadir of everything. No proper schools, no teachers in existing ones, rampant corruption, indiscriminate criminal activity blooming in every part of the state, kidnapping becoming an industry of sorts and blah blah blah.
The ‘blah blah blah’ part was not just three words that hold no significance, rather it is a tired typing when I can go on counting what wretched state my Bihar was in as a leader in all kinds of nefarious criminal activities. It was reflected in popular culture when the typical goondas in South Indian films would be a Bihari.
Anyway, that was a bit of background and the reason I, and lakhs of Biharis like me, came to study and work outside our state. Our work ranges from the being in the top bureaucracy, ministry to selling vegetables and working as helpers in welding shops of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Maharashtra and scores of places all over India.
We still deliver sabji to the hanging polybags from the third floor of an unorganized colony in Delhi and, we still take pride in the fact that the several key positions in Ministry, bureaucracy is occupied by Bihari people. The thing is Biharis are everywhere and working hard to make a living, anyhow.
One of my colleagues, the other day, remarked, “You guys (Biharis) are so hard working!”
To this I said, “We had no choice but to work hard. We had to grab anything that came our way. We studied in Delhi, prepared for exams as our parents sold land to finance our education; we came and worked in 18-hour tea shops, factories so that our kids could get an education which became illusive and unattainable in our state that prides on Nalanda, Vikramshila, Budhdha, Patanjali, Chankaya, Aryabhatta and Panini.”
We had no alternative in the state which was ruled by Lalu and Rabri. Being an illiterate Chief Minister is not an issue but letting that illiteracy pull a blanket over your eyes and leaving the state to dogs, certainly is.
And now, in a change of events, the synonym of ‘good governance’ or ‘sushashan’, Nitish Kumar is set to form a government in Bihar where RJD (Lalu’s party) is emerging as the single largest party.
RJD is known to be a casteist party, which is vocal about its agenda and asked people, in this election, to vote on the lines of ‘forward vs backward’. What he forgot was, it was his rule that the state’s backward people remained as such and he had to play the same card again.
In the last ten years of BJP-JDU alliance (cut short before 2014 general elections), the state was reviving with stupendous growth rate, leading the nation from the front on the GDP growth charts.
The educated class (and the uneducated) of the state, like us who are studying, working, doing research, selling vegetables or cleaning the drains, had started to talk of the ‘change’.
A change that spoke of a rising middle class that sent its next generation outside the state to study and work and work for its betterment. A change was seen with school buildings coming up, roads being built in villages, private schools reaching out in villages, MNREGS making sure that the worker migration reduced, corruption and crime tanking to all time lows.
People saw a ray of hope in the first five years of BJP-JDU combine and voted them to power, sheerly in the name of development which was apparent. Nation thought Biharis, finally, voted for development. This was once again seen in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where parties like JDU that parted ways with BJP (party with development agenda in elections) and shook hands with Lalu’s RJD was reduced to single digits (2 seats).
Bihari image was changing for the better. However, today on November 8, 2015, the results of Bihar Assembly Elections are out and RJD appeared to be the single largest party. BJP’s involvement into ‘beef’, ‘cow’ and ‘Hindu-Muslim’ rhetoric (direct or indirectly brought in conversation by the opposition) didn’t work.
Who did the people vote for? What happened to Bihari voters that made RJD, a party vocal about caste politics, the single largest party? What would an educated Bihari respond to when asked why the RJD is wielding power in the state, again? Will caste ever be out of Bihar politics?
An interesting response came from a friend on Facebook when posed with this question: “Dikkat ye hai ki hame ab fir se sar neeche karna hoga. Gadi khareedne se pehle firauti dena hoga. Zameen khareedne se pehle uske daan kosh me daan dena hoga. Aur fir se apne naam me surname ke jagah Kumar lagana hoga.” (The problem is we will have to hang our heads low. Before buying a vehicle, we will have to pay ransom. Before buying property, we will have to fill their (RJD goons) ‘donation box’. And, once again, we will have to use ‘Kumar’ as surname to conceal our (forward caste) identity.)
I hope his words are not prophetic.