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Anti-Bihari sentiment refers to discrimination against the people of the Indian state of Bihar, which is a region in the north-eastern Gangetic plains (as well as people of the Bihari ethnic group that originated there). Bihar has had slower economic growth than the rest of India in the 1990s, and as a consequence many Biharis have migrated to other parts of India in search of work. Bihari migrant workers have been subject to a growing degree of xenophobia, racial discrimination, prejudice and violence. Biharis are often looked down upon and their accent ridiculed. In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people and created 10,000 internal refugees.
- 1 Causes
- 2 Impact
- 3 Violence
- 4 Controversial statements
- 5 Consequences
- 6 See also
- 7 References and footnotes
Since the late 1980s and through to 2005, poor governance and annual flooding of Bihar by the Kosi River (Sorrow of Bihar) contributed to a crisis in the Bihar economy. The criminalisation of politics, and kidnappings of professional workers between 1990 and 2005 contributed to an economic collapse and led to the flight of capital, middle class professionals, and business leaders to other parts of India. This flight of business and capital increased unemployment and this led to the mass migration of Bihari farmers and unemployed youth to more developed states of India. The state has a per capita income of $536 a year against India's average of $1470 and 30.6% of the state's population lives below the poverty line against India's average of 22.15%. The level of urbanisation (10.5%) is below the national average (27.78%); and behind states like Maharastra (42.4%). Urban poverty in Bihar (32.91%) is above the national average of 23.62%. Also using per capita water supply as a surrogate variable, Bihar (61 litres per day) is below the national average (142 litres per day) and that of Maharastra(175 litres per day according to 2006 data) in civic amenities.
Social and cultural
There is a perception in Indian states with smaller populations that Bihari culture could dominate local languages and customs as migration of poor workers continue from those states. This feeling that local customs would be overwhelmed by migrants was a key feature of the MNS campaign in Maharashtra and feelings of resentment in Punjab. The migrant population in Punjab, according to state researchers, is nearing three million out of a total population of over nearly 30 million. One third of the migrants, nearly one million, live in and around Ludhiana. After the attacks on Purvanchalis and Biharis in October 2008, a Punjabi group called the Dal Khalsa, carried banners and placards that read “Punjab for Punjabis” and “Return migrants, Save Punjab”. This fear is further personified by the rise of Bhojpuri cinema in non-Bhojpuri speaking states. Punjabi comedian Jaspal Bhatti said that instead of assimilating with the culture of the state, the migrant population was seeking to decimate Punjabi culture and cinema. In Mumbai, Raj Thackeray had also complained to theatre owners for their reluctance to exhibit Marathi movies and producers of Marathi movies complained that it is becoming difficult to hire theatres in Mumbai to release their productions and exhibitors preferred to show Bhojpuri language movies.
Bihar has a per capita income of $536 a year against India's average of $1,470. Given this income dispartity, migrant workers moved to better paid locations and offered to work at lower rates. For example, in Tamil Nadu inter-state migrant construction workers are paid about Rs.60 to Rs.70 a day against the minimum of Rs.130 per day. After thousands of migrant workers left Nashik, industries were worried that their costs would increase through more expensive local workers. In an interview with the Times of India, Raj Thackeray, leader of the MNS said; "The city (Mumbai) cannot take the burden anymore. Look at our roads, our trains and parks. On the pipes that bring water to Mumbai are 40,000 huts. It is a security hazard. The footpaths too have been taken over by migrants. The message has to go to Bihar that there is no space left in Mumbai for you. After destroying the city, the migrants will go back to their villages. But where will we go then?". The strain to Mumbai's infrastructure through migration has also been commented by mainstream secular politicians. The Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh felt that unchecked migration had placed a strain on the basic infrastructure of the state. However, he has maintained and urged migrant Bihari workers to remain in Maharashtra, even during the height of the anti North Indian agitation. Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, said that because of people migrating from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Delhi's infrastructure was overburdened. She said, that "these people come to Delhi from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but don't ever go back causing burden on Delhi's infrastructure."
North Indian students, including students from Bihar, preparing for the railway entrance exam were attacked by Raj Thackeray's MNS supporters in Mumbai on 20 October 2008. One student from Bihar was killed during the attacks. Four persons were killed and another seriously injured in the violence that broke out in a village near Kalyan following the arrest of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded action against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists and full security to students. Nitish Kumar requested Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh intervention. Kumar directed the additional director general of police to contact senior police officials in Maharashtra and compile a report on Sunday's incident and asked the home commissioner to hold talks with the Maharashtra home secretary to seek protection for people from Bihar. In 2003, the Shiv Sena alleged that of the 500 Maharashtrian candidates, only ten of them successful in the Railways exams. 90 per cent of the successful candidates were alleged to be from Bihar. Activists from the Shiv Sena ransacked a railway recruitment office in protest against non-Marathi's being among the 650,000 candidates set to compete for 2,200 railway jobs in the state. Eventually, after attacks on Biharis heading towards Mumbai for exams, the central government delayed the exams.
North East states
Biharis have sought work in many states that form part of North East India. There were significant communities in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur. Biharis who come to work as labourers are frequently and especially targeted in Assam by ULFA militants. There is a fear amongst the local population that Bihari migrants will dominate and annihilate the regional culture and the language. As with all migrations in history, this has created tensions with the local population, which has resulted in large scale violence. In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people, and created 10,000 internal refugees. Similar violent incidents have also taken place recently in Manipur and Assam. According to K P S Gill waves of xenophobic violence have swept across Assam repeatedly since 1979, targeting Bangladeshis, Bengalis, Biharis and Marwaris.
In July 2009, activists of the Kannada Protection Force (KPF) in Karnataka stormed into exam centres and disrupted railway recruitment examinations in protest against the appearance of north Indian candidates, especially from Bihar, in large numbers.
The government in Rajasthan assured full protection to students from Bihar, after ragging incidents of Bihari students in a private engineering college in Udaipur surfaced. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan flayed the attacks on Bihari students in Rajasthan saying that the students were subjected to insult, torture and assaulted with sticks when they protested. Former chief minister Rabri Devi called upon the chief minister to take necessary action and assure the safety of the students. According to reports, several Bihari students were thrashed during the ragging.
Biharis in Pakistan have suffered from violence from Sindhis, particularly in the city of Karachi in the riots of 1994-1996. As a result of the violence against them Biharis in Pakistan have organized the Bihari Qaumi Movement to protect their rights.
According to Zeeshan Haider, the Biharis in Pakistan are "now lost people who belong nowhere". A report in Rediff.com states that the situations in Pakistan have prompted a Bihari to migrate to Bangladesh.
Prior to the birth of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, East Pakistani Biharis sided with the military regime of President Gen. Yahya Khan. Due to their loyalty towards Rawalpindi as well as their collaboration with the Pakistan Army in the atrocities committed against the Bengalis during the Bangladesh Liberation War, many suffered from violence and discrimination from Bengalis in the new republic. Today, the term Bihari is used in Bangladesh to refer to a larger group of stateless people left in Bangladesh, the stranded Pakistanis, many of whom are Biharis.
The BIMARU term
Ashish Bose, a professor of demography, coined the epithet BIMARU, which entered the political lexicon. The term resembles the Hindi and Urdu word for illness, Bimar. The BI in BIMARU stands for Bihar. The other states that are included in BIMARU are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Orissa is sometimes included to form the term Bimarou. Bihar, and other North Indian states, have thus been held accountable for the majority of India's population growth, and holding India's GDP ranking below the double digit level.
Editorial by Bal Thackeray
Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray, commented in the Shiv Sena newspaper, Samnna on why Biharis are disliked outside eastern states. He quoted part of a text message as the title of his article. The message suggests that Biharis bring diseases, violence, job insecurity, and domination, wherever they go. The text message says, "Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari. Do Bihari Ladai ki taiyari, Teen Bihari train hamari and paanch Bihari to sarkar hamaari" (One Bihari equals hundred diseases, Two Biharis is preparing for fight, Three Biharis it is a train hijack, and five Biharis will try to form the ruling Government). Nitish kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, and the Union Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, protested against the remark, demanding official condemnation of Bal Thackeray. Kumar, during a press report at Patna Airport, said, "If Manmohan Singh fails to intervene in what is happening in Maharashtra, it would mean only one thing – he is not interested in resolving the issue and that would not be good for the leader of the nation". Angered by Thackeray's insulting remark against the Bihari community, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) activists burnt the effigy of the Shiv Sena chief at Kargil Chowk in Patna and said that the senior Thackeray had completely lost his marbles and needed to be immediately committed in a mental asylum.
Protests & demonstrations
Angry students in various parts of Bihar damaged railway property and disrupted train traffic, as protests continued against assaults on north Indians by MNS activists in Mumbai. The police said the protesters targeted Patna, Jehanabad, Barh, Khusrupur, Sasaram and Purnia railway stations in the morning. The protesting students reportedly set afire two AC bogies of an express train at Barh railway station. They ransacked Jehanabad, Barh, Purnia and Sasaram railway stations. According to the railway police, at least 10 students were detained in the morning and extra security was deployed to control the situation. Noted Physician Dr Diwakar Tejaswi observed a day-long fast in Patna to protest against repeated violence by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray and his goons against the north Indians. Various student organisations gave a call for Bihar shutdown on October 25, 2008 to protest attacks on north Indian candidates by Maharashtra Navnirnam Sena activists during a Railway recruitment examination in Mumbai.
Various cases were filed in Bihar and Jharkhand against Raj Thackeray for assaulting the students. A murder case was also filed by Jagdish Prasad, father of Pawan Kumar, who was allegedly killed by MNS activists in Mumbai. Mumbai police, however, claimed it to be a case of accident. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a compensation of Rs 1,50,000 to Pawan's family. Bihar state Congress chief, Anil Kumar Sharma, has demanded enactment of an Act by Parliament for closing opportunities to any political party or organisation that indulge in obscurantism and raise such narrow, chauvinistic issues based on caste, religion and regionalism to capture power. A murder case was also lodged against Raj Thackeray and 15 others in a court in Jharkhand on 1 November 2008 following the death of a train passenger last month in Maharashtra. According to the Dhanbad police, their Mumbai counterparts termed Sakaldeo's death as an accident. According to social scientist Dr. Shaibal Gupta, the beating of students from Bihar has consolidated Bihari sub-nationalism.
Rahul Raj, from Patna, was shot dead aboard a bus in Mumbai by the police on the 28 October. Rahul was 23 years old and was brandishing a pistol and not shooting at public. The Mumbai police alleged that he wanted to assassinate Raj Thackeray. Nitish Kumar questioned the police action, but R R Patil justified it, and restored Raj Thackeray`s security. It was alleged that Rahul was protesting against the attacks on Bihari and Uttar Pradeshi candidates appearing for railway examinations. Mumbai crime branch is looking into the incident. During Rahul's funeral slogans of "Raj Thackeray murdabad" and "Rahul Raj amar rahe" were heard. Despite Mumbai police's allegations, there was high level government representation at the funeral. Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and PHED minister Ashwini Kumar Chaubey represented the state government at the cremation which was also attended by Patna MP Ram Kripal Yadav. The bier was carried by Rahul's friends even as the district administration had arranged a flower-bedecked truck for the purpose.
Attacks against Marathis
After the October 2008 anti-Bihari attacks in Maharashtra, members of the Bharatiya Bhojpuri Sangh (BBS) vandalised the official residence of Tata Motors Jamshedpur plant head S.B. Borwankar, a Maharashtrian. Armed with lathis and hockey sticks, more than 100 BBS members trooped to Borwankar’s Nildih Road bungalow around 3.30 pm. Shouting anti-MNS slogans, they smashed windowpanes and broke flowerpots. BBS president Anand Bihari Dubey called the attack on Borwankar’s residence unfortunate, and said that he knew BBS members were angry after the attack in Maharashtra on Biharis, but did not expect a reaction. Fear of further violence gripped the 4,000-odd Maharashtrians settlers living in and around the city. Two air-conditioned bogies of the train Vikramshila Express – reportedly with Maharashtrian passengers on board – were set on fire in Barh area of Bihar. Hundreds of slogan-shouting students surrounded Barh railway station in rural Patna demanding that MNS leader Raj Thackeray be tried for sedition. No one was reported injured and passengers fled soon as the attackers started setting the bogies on fire.
In another incident, a senior woman government official in Bihar, with the surname Thackeray, was the target of an angry mob that surrounded her office and shouted slogans against her in Purnia district. Ashwini Dattarey Thackeray was the target of a mob of over 200 people. The mob, led by a local leader of the Lok Janashakti Party, surrounded Thackeray’s office in Purnia, about 350 km from here, and shouted slogans like, “Go back Maharashtrians” and “Officer go back, we do not need your services”.
A gang of 25 people pelted stones on the Maharashtra Bhawan in Khalasi Line, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Constructed in 1928, the building is owned by the lone trust run by Marathis in Kanpur. It has served as an important venue for prominent festivals, including Ganesh Utsav and Krishna Janmastami. On 29 October, in Ghaziabad, Marathi students at Mahanand Mission Harijan PG College were attacked, allegedly by an Uttar Pradesh student leader and his friends. Police sources in Ghaziabad confirmed the victims stated in their FIR that the attackers “mentioned Rahul Raj and Dharam Dev” while kicking them in heir hostel rooms. A group of 20 youths, from Bihar, attacked Maharashtra Sadan in the capital on 3 November. The Rashtrawadi Sena has claimed responsibility for the attack. They ransacked the reception of the building and raised slogans against Raj Thackeray.
Bhojpuri film industry relocation
The Rs 200-crore Bhojpuri film industry is considering moving out of Mumbai owing to threats from MNS workers, and growing insecurity. With an average output of 75 movies per annum and an over 250 million target audience, the Bhojpuri film industry employs hundreds of unskilled and semi-skilled people from the state in various stage of production and distribution. The industry, which has around 50 registered production houses in Mumbai, has initiated talks with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. "We have given a proposal to the Uttar Pradesh government through its Culture Minister Subhash Pandey for setting up the industry in Lucknow. Besides, we are also counting on some other options like Delhi, Noida and Patna," Bhojpuri superstar and producer Manoj Tiwari said. The films have a large market because the Bhojpuri diaspora is spread over countries like Mauritius, Nepal, Dubai, Guyana, West Indies, Fiji, Indonesia, Surinam and the Netherlands. There is a significant wealthy Bihari doctor community in the United Kingdom. 70 per cent of the total production cost of a Bhojpuri film — budgets of which range from Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.25 crore — is usually spent in Maharashtra, providing direct employment to junior artists, make-up men, spot boys and local studios among others.
However, the state government, post 2005, has made an effort to improve the economic condition of the state, and reduce the need for migration. In 2008, the state government approved over Rs 70,000 crore worth of investment, has had record tax collection, broken the political-criminal nexus, made improvements in power supply to villages, towns and cities. Bihar, a state fraught with abject poverty, has come out on top as the fastest growing state second year in a row, with a striking 13.1 percent growth in 2011-2012. Its economy has also grown bigger than that of Punjab — the prime destination for Bihari workers. They have laid greater emphasis on education and learning by appointing more teachers, and opening a software park. State Ministers who have failed to live up to election commitments have been dismissed. Bihar's GSDP grew by 18% over the period 2006-2007, which was higher than in the past 10 years and one of the highest recorded by the Government of India for that period.
Since November 2005, there has been a significant fall in the number of migrant workers in many parts of India. After the early 2008 migrant crisis and bombing of the Bhojpuri cinema hall in Punjab, Biharis have decided to stay away from states of the North East and Punjab. However, other Biharis migrants have found that returning to Maharashtra is still an option for them despite the violent nature of the agitation. Culturally, Biharis appear to have rejected a film based heavily on Punjabi culture. In August 2008, a film called Singh is Kinng starring Akshay Kumar which was a superhit in India, flopped in Bihar. Bihar has been where Akshay Kumar's films, from Jaanwar to Hey Babyy, have acquired a blockbuster status. In this case, the heavy usage of Punjabi language, culture was said to be the main cause of the movie being rejected by Bihari audiences.
References and footnotes
- Many Biharis are seen as criminals and any rise in criminality in areas of heavy migration are immediately blamed on Bihari youth or the so called "Bihari Mafia". ‘Outsiders’ must be welcomed, But Manipur is not alone in these isolationist excesses. In neighbouring Assam, six migrant workers have been killed in two attacks this year, and as many as 88 were killed, and 33 injured in 12 such incidents in 2007. Indeed, waves of xenophobic violence have swept across Assam repeatedly since 1979, variously targeting Bangladeshis, Bengalis, Biharis and Marwaris."
- Vir Sanghvi, The Bhaiyya Effect, Hindustan Times, 27 September 2008 "The roots of Raj Thackeray's attack on the Bhaiyyas lie in India's economic transformation. Through a combination of poor planning and worse politics, Bihar and UP have been left out of the economic revolution. When people from those states travel outside to find work, those who have benefited from the recent prosperity treat them with the kind of snobbery and disdain with which the British treated Indians when we went to England to find employment in the 1950s. Then, we were seen as losers from a place that would never manage to prosper. But, of course, Indians ignored the racism and rose to the top of the economic pyramid."
- AM, Calcutta Diary, Economic and Political Weekly, July 21, 2001 "..How come Bihar has such a negative image in the rest of the country? Fingers will be pointed at the obscurantism characterizing the state, but are things any better in Rajasthan? Bihar is supposed to be riven by caste dissensions; can it however hold a candle in this regard to Tamil Nadu? Feudalism and social oppression are hallmarks of Bihar’s daily existence; what about Madhya Pradesh , Orissa and Chhattisgarh though? According to some snooty people Biharis are by and large crude. Some others would prefer to say that the people of Bihar are rooted to the soil and hate to hide their natural instincts behind pretensions; they cannot be any cruder than those populating the backwaters of Punjab."
- Its Bal Thakrey's turn now, says 'Ek Bihari Sau Beemari',Maharastra CM assures of action against him in reply | eWeekdays.com"Shiv Sena Supremo Balasahab Thakrey has come hard once again on Biharis. Bal Thakeray,in his latest article in Samna has written that Bihari’s are like dieses. He said that Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari. Do Bihari Ladai ki taiyari, Teen Bihari train hamari and paanch Bihari to sarkar hamaari. Earlier it was Raj Thakrey and his party Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena who had launched an agitation against the North Indians. But this time its Bal Thakrey who has asked Biharis and Bihari Politician to improve their behavior."
- Biharis are an affliction, says Bal Thackeray" Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, in an attempt to overtake his estranged nephew Raj Thackeray's campaign against people from north India, termed Biharis as an affliction, and said they were unwanted in all other parts of the country. The ageing leader warned that the so-called Bihari leaders, by accusing people of Mumbai of harbouring "anti-national sentiments, were attempting to again breathe fire into the anti-north Indian feelings in Maharashtra." They must realize this would only put their brethren here at the receiving end, he added."
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The repatriation of the Biharis, an Urdu-speaking ethnic group stranded in Bangladesh since the seccessionist war of 1971, further strained relations between the Mohajirs and Sindhis in 1993. The Sindhis, already a minority in their homeland, claimed that the Biharis were being settled in the urban areas to augment the Urdu-speaking population, mainly the Mohajirs. In early 1998, thousands of Biharis, who retained their Pakistani nationality, demonstrated in Bangladesh for their repatriation. Their return to Pakistan was delyaed until recently by fear among successive Pakistani governments of upsetting the delicate ethnic balance in Sind province. In 1994, the entire leadership of MQM was sentence to prison for the kidnapping and torture of a military intelligence officer. They were later acquitted. Continued violence in Karachi in 1994-96 left hundreds dead and injured.
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