Today I was appalled to read the statement from a former Lok Sabha speaker (head of Indian legislature) Murali Manohar Joshi that “Mumbai is for only for the people from the state of Maharashtra”. Mumbai is the economic & entertainment capital of India and how can it be closed only to the people from its surrounding state? Mr. Joshi does not limit to just words but through his party has contributed to enough violence against “outsiders” – Indians from other states. Think of what would happen if NYC declares it is only for ethnic Newyorkers and start burning those coming from Pennsylvania or Maryland ?
The problem is limited not only to Mumbai but in other cities too. India’s tech capital of Bangalore experienced riots and violence against Tamils and other “outsiders” in 1990s, and some of its leaders blocked developments to the city like a monorail plan arguing that the Kannadigas (natives of the surrounding state of Karnatka) outside the city are being left out. The other tech city of Hyderabad is caught in a tussle between regions of the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is a shame that 3 of the major tech centers of India are now a victim of such chauvinism and sub-nationalism that both threatens India’s unity and economy.
It is time for Indian government to put its foot down and reinforce the idea - “India is for all Indians” and there cannot be any linguistic/regional/casteist group that can threaten this idea of India. Any Indian is free to move/settle in any part of India and state/local government that thinks otherwise must be threatened with dismissal. Any leader who incites violence in the name of subnationalism should better spend time behind bars.
But, more importantly Indian government should consider separating the major metropolis from their surrounding states and give them politcal autonomy – under Union Territories classification. China has this way and cities like Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, Hong Kong and Shanghai are autonomous & don’t belong to other provinces. This allows the cities to pursue their development and handle their problems independent of their adjoining states.
Just like how national capital of Delhi was carved out of the state of Haryana, metropolitan cities including Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata have to be carved out of their parent states and be given autonomy as Union Territories. This will prevent different communities fighting to attach the metropolis to their own region similar to what is happening in the state of Andhra Pradesh, and will allow the city to devise its own transportation and urban development infrastructure.
Chandigarh, Pondicherry and New Delhi have had no problems by not being a part of a major province and I would like to see other metros too in this. There could be a unified city development council at the center that can manage and guide these autonomous cities.
And coming to Indian politics, if the national party of BJP doesn’t rein its ally Shiv Sena and get out of such narrow minded interests it will permanently damage its electorate in the rest of India.