In the wake of the recent riots in Bangalore following thespian Dr. Rajkumar's death, there has been some soul-searching in the legislature of Karnataka (the southern Indian state whose capital is Bangalore), in the newspapers, and on the internet as to who or what was responsible for the total breakdown of calm and order over two whole days in the city. Finger pointing is in full swing. As is to be expected, political parties blame each other while residents blame the government and the police.
What I did not expect was the blame laid at the feet of "non-Bangloreans."
This wasn't an outpouring of grief that we witnessed. Perhaps this is the shape of things to come. Violence as an outpouring of anger and frustration.
What else can it be? Forcing the city to close down was actually a very perverse act, but a cry for justice nevertheless. Dr Rajkumar, unknowingly, became a mascot for the oppressed indigenous people who feel their language and identity are slowly being eroded by the winds of globalisation. The IT industry is not the villain. The villain is Time. And no one can fight Time.
You wake up one day and find that your neighbour speaks a strange language; your job is taken over by someone who moved into town last month and has an utter dislike for all things south Indian. Your job in a government office as a peon was a matter of pride and achievement, until the office boy working for an MNC boasts of a pay five times more than you earn because his English is better. It just seems so unfair. Maybe it is. But it is to the credit of the indigenous people that they tolerated this unfairness for a very long time.
A few months ago, it was the new weekly, Bangalore Bias, expressing similar sentiments in its manifesto. I had then provided longer excerpts from the manifesto and had written an essay countering the arguments. Here are some brief tid-bits from that manifesto:
The time has come to ask, "Whose city is it, anyway?"
Where there was time and space for libraries, literary debates, science fairs, Sunday beers, bicycles, Karaga, Christmas carols, kadalekaayi parise, jazz evenings, dolls' exhibitions and the grace of it all. In a city of seven million, there should still be that "Island of One Million" that knows what Bangalore was, but more crucially to the point, what it ought to be. We believe this community of one million cares for a lifestyle of grace and charm beyond the transactional logic that threatens to become the sole basis of our civic society.