Dear East Indian, what were your thoughts when Maharashtra faced a shutdown on 2 and 3 January 2018?
Were you grumbling about not being able to go to the shops?
Were you blaming the ‘goondas’ for making life miserable for everyone and their uncle?
Were you shaking your head at the terrible state of politics in the country?
Or were you, like only a handful of people within our community analysing the situation and looking for the root cause of the violence?
As one of India’s many minority groups, it is important that the East Indian community remember 2 and 3 January 2018 as days when another minority group, the Dalits organised themselves to lead a powerful resistance against the pro-Hindutva brigade – all within mere hours of unearthing the most recent atrocity meted out to them.
From birth to death, there is politics involved in nearly every single aspect of an Indian’s life – whether it be governmental or the religion you prescribe to. Politics has been part of our very existence ever since the Indian national identity was established on 15 August 1947 (and even before).
As East Indians, we have been around even before India received Independence, but we don’t figure in any history books, despite the contributions of freedom fighters like Kaka Baptista.
Today, groups like the Watchdog Foundation, the Mobai Gaothan Panchayat, the Bombay East Indian Association, etc. are fighting relentlessly for the existence and recognition of our community, our lands and our peoples. Individuals in various gaothans, parishes, and even abroad are making tremendous efforts towards not only preserving our culture and the ways of our peoples, but also towards reviving it.
To wear your lugra, surka, or your poth; to serve your guests wedding pickle, or eat bottle masala-laced dishes; to have East Indian Singing Competitions and participate in Processaos (processions), to use our language and the many dialects it has spawned, this is how we assert our ethnic identity and our place in the social and cultural fabric of a country as diverse as India.
This too is political, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
The next time you hear about attacks against another minority group in the country, how about we stand in solidarity with them, and aid them in their resistance in whatever manner we can?
And when the news begins to air, how about we look to the sources that are digging deeper to report the truth and amplify these in our exchanges with our neighbours or on our favourite Whatsapp groups?
It is absolutely cool to stand up for what’s right, and it’s absolutely vital we stand up for those within our own groups and gaothans who are fighting for our very survival. We are part of a larger community, let’s never forget this.