Karnataka Bandh

I am going to be at home all day today since everything is closed and rumors are that anybody or any vehicle on the street is liable to be stoned or beaten up. Why? Because some shadowy group of “Kannada Organizations” is organizing a Statewide bandh, i.e., all shutters are closed for the day. I am amazed by the level of Kannada nationalism in Karnataka. The ostensible reason is the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over some villages in northern Karnataka. I am not aware of the underlying political dynamic.

Being Tamilian, though not having grown up in Tamil Nadu, I am quite aware of Tamil Nationalism and the anti-Hindi stance of Tamilians. I can understand that to some extent since having grown up in the north, I am quite aware of the routine dismissal of non-Hindi speakers by northerners. But Tamil nationalism has other, less attractive aspects as well, such as the complete domination of Tamil politics by the two Dravidian parties with their hagiographic representation of Tamil politicians such as MGR, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi. Even that is OK, but the bleeding edge of Tamil nationalism is seen not in India, but in Sri Lanka, where it meets an equally ugly, if not uglier, counterpart in Sinhala nationalism. I guess I should be glad that Tamilians are not blowing themselves up in India, though we know that they can do it, having killed Rajiv Gandhi that way.

Anyway, back to today and back to Bangalore and Kannada. First of all, I am not sure who is being represented by these Kannada organizations. Secondly, what is the great achievement in closing down a state in which your nationalist ideology is accepted by all the major political parties? And, while people like me with salaried positions are OK, what about all those daily wage workers? Are these Kannada organizations going to feed all of them and their families this evening? I mean, its not as if these “Kannada Organizations” are shutting down Maharashtra. It seems like an arbitrary exercise of power, hence a cowardly act, to force people to obey your diktats in your own backyard. Har gali mein kutta bhi sher hota hai na.

PS: Mid afternoon update. I just turned the TV on. Lo and behold, only the Kannada channels are playing. Great, now all of us will have to become Kannadiga’s.

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