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Bihari Bashing and ‘Backwardness’ – A Case for Bihari Sub-Nationalism: Mayank Labh

Guest post by MAYANK LABH

The recent “Toppers” scam in Bihar has served as a breeding ground to denigrate Biharis for their alleged corruption and backwardness. This is not the first time that Bihari bashing has surfaced as a favourite pastime of the self-indulgent elites of India. In fact, it is a continuous process with its periodic shifts. Ironically, the people who abuse people for the belief that India has gone intolerant and the people who denigrate Bihar constitute largely the same set of people reflecting the illusory, self-satisfying belief of Indian superiority and the unsuitability, other-worldliness of Bihar to suit that image of India.

Most of the trending stereotypes about Bihar, thanks to social media, seek to gain its legitimacy under the cloak of backwardness in Bihar. What is missing in the entire brouhaha and the mockery of Biharis is an attempt to delve into the processes that operate beneath the backward nature of Bihar.

One of the stark reasons, which the article would focus upon, for the alleged backwardness is that Biharis have failed to forge a concrete sub-national identity which can infuse a sense of provincial ownership over the region. It is no surprise then that elites of Bihar often hate to be termed as Biharis and, in fact, actively take part in Bihar bashing.  They even go to the extent of denying their roots and to vindicate that they come up with different kind of explanations and excuses to distance themselves from the ignominy of being a Bihari. They cower down to the societal pressures of conformity so that they can live a relatively comfortable though pride-less personal life. They use English or for that matter, Hindi – both hegemonic languages – to show their progressive nature. It is an index of the lack of sub-national identity that neither of the official languages of the state, Hindi or Urdu, is the mother-tongue of a single major population group. This is despite the fact that there were languages like Maithili, which had their own literary heritage – and this leads to isolation and disillusionment to the people who do not share the language of Hindi. Continue reading Bihari Bashing and ‘Backwardness’ – A Case for Bihari Sub-Nationalism: Mayank Labh