Bihari – An Unintended Sin

“Are you serious? You are a Bihari? I mean no offense but you don’t look or sound like one.”

Repeating this one sentence over and over in my head, I tried figuring out what does sounding or looking like a Bihari actually mean. What follows is my analysis of this-

I have noticed that people have come about to recognize Biharis as those who always wear shiny and gaudy coloured clothes. The idea of Bihar has become that of a “Bimaru” state( a term coined by Ashish Bose) and Biharis as “gaon ke log” (villagers). So if your attire doesn’t say chic, if your personality does not fit into someone’s social bill, you will be slammed as a Bihari. And I say “slammed as Bihari” because in the cities, specially Mumbai and Delhi, this word is now used as a slang. I have heard many people say at times,“ Abey kyun Bihariyo wale harkat kar raha hai”(Dude, why are you acting like a Bihari?). Poking fun once in a while is fine, but hurting someone’s sentiments by such racist comments is not at all appreciable.

Now coming down to the “sounding” part, firstly a very well accepted misconception- Biharis don’t know English. A friend of mine, who is a student at a very well reputed law school has been given the monicker “the sophisticated Bihari” because she breaks the cliched idea of a Bihari. She dresses well and speaks english fluently and people find her nickname very funny, afterall “sophisticated” and “Bihari” are antonyms! So what if this is not true, this idea is still so notorious that Chetan Bhagat’s next book too tells the story of a Bihari boy “who didn’t speak English well”.

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Another thing Biharis get picked at are for their accent. They say Biharis have a very peculiar tone. What confuses me here is doesn’t everyone else? I mean, even Tamilians and Bengalis have a different accent. So why is this such a big deal? And while I’m speaking about the accent, I would also like to talk a little about the language of Biharis as well – Bhojpuri. For some reason, unlike the other languages Bhojpuri is always looked down upon. People conversing in Bhojpuri in public certainly get those odd stares everywhere. Yes, I know that the language is a little loud but like every other dialect, it is unique and beautiful in its own way. While surfing the internet I came across many articles that showed Bhojpuri in a very different light than it is shown otherwise. One man spoke of his mother tongue Bhojpuri in such a way, it actually made me want to learn the language myself. It is the language of millions and while it has this funny tone to it, it also has this certain endearment, a certain charm about it. I feel everyone should find a place in their hearts to respect this language too.

The other general conception – “Dilli me toh sare Bihari rickshaw wale he hote hain”. First of all its totally wrong. The migrated population from Bihar come from all different sections of the society and yes, some of them are rickshaw pullers but there are many others who are doing white-collar jobs in reputed companies. Even while considering the case of the rickshaw pullers, it isn’t something one should complain about or be judgemental about. There are Indians, who do a similar job of driving cabs abroad but they aren’t looked down upon. So isn’t it harsh when we point fingers at people who are serving their own countrymen? Think of it, if it hadn’t been for them who would be helping you travel between metros and your college/workplace?

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Most of these things can be taken in a light hearted manner but there are times when the insecurity, discontent and unjustified prejudices have led to violence against Biharis. We all do remember the riots and violence against Biharis in Maharashtra in 2008. The disturbing case of the “Rahul Raj encounter” led to around 40,000 migrants returning to their hometowns for the fear of their lives. The cover page of “The Week” had then showed a particular politician in the attire of Hitler. Caption- Mumbai’s Hitler. The message was loud and clear. Biharis were facing a cruel time . For those who do not remember of it, there had been similar violence against Biharis in 2000 and 2003 that had led to the loss of around 200 innocent lives . The very fact that there is an individual Wikipedia page titled “ Anti-Bihari Sentiment” indeed shows how deep rooted this discrimation, this discontent is.

thackeray_protest_01                                                                     (People protesting against the treatment of Biharis in Maharashtra)

The whole idea, I think, should be to look beyond the obvious differences, and here I am talking about every state, every religion and caste and move forward as Indians, together for the sake of India, for the sake of humanity. Biharis could look different, sound different. But they are all Indians . They are all humans. So one should accept the differences and eccentricities and  together work towards forming an India, which is a less prejudiced, a less intolerant and an all-embracing nation.

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