Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

By Anushka Dasgupta in Opinion


We are not trees who are bound to the roots. In fact, even the tree doesn’t know where agents of pollination will take its offspring to. Human beings weren’t quite born into a 3-BHK. We have been an extremely mobile and nomadic community, walking across vast areas in search of better food, shelter, and pastures. There were conflicts for territories. That was Pre-historic. The most debated and massive migrations happened when the Indo-Aryans probably migrated to the subcontinent. We are all the result of the intermixing between different racial groups.

A Representational Image Of The Possible Aryan Migration

Throughout history, people have undauntedly crossed the Himalayas and the seas and oceans to come to the Indian subcontinent.

There have been intermarriages and people from the subcontinent have gone and settled elsewhere. The early Medieval saw many invasions and new dynasties of Turkish descent cropping up. They mixed with the local populations and many settled down here. We may be having some Turkish genes, without us knowing the least (That proposition, although distant, sounds quite exotic).

Cut to, the British period, innumerable migrants from Bihar dispersed all over the country and globe. People of some places like Trinidad and Tobago or Mauritius still trace their origins to villages in Bihar but who knows, many may have lost a track of their migration too. Many laborers of Bihar even started working in agricultural fields of Punjab and soon, they adopted the lifestyle, clothing, and language there and became a ‘Punjabi’ over time.

It is quite possible that now they are the ones who are clamoring against ‘Biharis’ taking away ‘their’ livelihoods in Punjab. Some political leaders and revolutionaries exiled by the British Government, to Indonesia, Burma or Singapore very often used to marry locals and settled down there. (Well these ‘locals’ themselves may have come from some other place). Identities over time change and evolve and even turn against others.

Bihari Migrants Of Trinidad & Tobago

The partition of India meant a huge upheaval in the country. There was large scale migration, in not only the borders areas of the country but also much into interiors. Refugees from Punjab and Bengal came and settled as far as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. Today they have mixed with other populace in such a manner that after the first generation of refugees is no more, they might not have any recollection of the partition at all. I have heard of the great divide in West Bengal between Purbo (East) and Poshchim (West) Bongo (Bengal) which is to separate refugees from non-refugees.

When Bengal was united, not only people from West Bengal, even people from Bihar were working and living in cloth factories or farmlands of East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) and some have even continued to live there; speaking Bangla and practicing Islam.

Along the border areas of West Bengal and Bihar which were separated as recently as 1912, there are porous identities and unique mixed communities of Bengalis and Biharis live along these areas.

Southern Odisha is full of Telugu speaking people, Punjabi speaking people live in Haryana, and Gujaratis live in Maharashtra. These are communities which have been residing in these neighboring states long before independence and certainly long before the states in India were re-organised on linguistic basis.

A Refugee Colony In South Delhi Post- Partition

We have come into this age of Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation but somehow, have refused to adopt a cosmopolitan outlook. No amount of modern development has helped us succeed in rising above the ‘narrow domestic walls.’

Due to the development of modern nation-states, migration without proper verification and permission can be a legal offense. We need proper documents to prove our citizenship to the government authorities just as we have to prove our identity or address by a UID. As far as migration within our country is concerned, our constitution allows Indians to settle in any part of the country. We follow a single citizenship system in our country. No provincial forces can uproot anyone from any part of the country they wish to live in. One may question the legality of your stay, but no one can question the morality of your decision to live somewhere. Under Article 16 (3) and Article 35, the Constitution has taken care against the divisive politics practiced by states.

What the Son of the Soil movements in our country have done, is that they have tried to prove that ‘outsiders and enemies of our "Rajya" have taken away employment opportunities or the crime rate has increased because of that. First in the 1900s, the Bengalis and then in the 1990s, Marwari businessmen in Bihar were targeted because they were prosperous in employment and business respectively. It must be remembered that if Biharis have the right to study in Delhi, and work in Mumbai, Pune, and Banglore, other communities of the country have an equal right to settle in and work in Bihar.

Such provincial beliefs have found their expression in the violence that has been unleashed against linguistic and cultural minorities of Bihar. There has been a hint of regionalism in West Bengal against the Biharis settled there, which in fact is quite unsettling. The economy of West Bengal owes a lot to the Punjabis, Marwaris, and Biharis there. A state that houses that minuscule Chinese, Tibetan and Jew colonies of India should not kill its diversity by raising such narrow demands.

Durga Puja Celebrations In The Bengali Areas Of Bhagalpur

Today, the nature of jobs and education in India and the world is such that people from all over the country need to relocate to new lands and adjust to new culture and practices. In such a scenario, we have to learn to become more accepting and understand that no community or group has any exclusive rights over any province.

There has always been such a lot of hullabaloo regarding who is a native and who is indigenous to a place, and this debate cuts across generations and geographies.

Everyone wants to be accepted and thus, they are bent upon proving how they are the true sons and I coin the term- "Daughters of the soil." Regional political parties of India are busy declaring in their manifestos how they will reserve all state government jobs for ‘natives.’

All that the soil can produce is the fertile humus, the topsoil, bacteria and various nutrients and plants. The soil did produce Mother Sita ji, as far as popular legends go, but I have never known soils to produce whole communities of people. Who are these people then, claiming to be sons and daughters of the soil?

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