The remark on North Indian States made by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Member of Parliament S. Senthilkumar in the Lok Sabha, since expunged from the records, was unworthy of a lawmaker. To speak disparagingly of fellow beings for their beliefs, food habits, or cultural practices is nothing short of bigotry. Political preferences vary from region to region in a vast country such as India. There are various imbalances in this vast landscape; for instance, in terms of literacy and education, natural resources, access to trade routes, and demographic composition. These imbalances also reflect in the country’s political and economic structures. Some regions are more advanced economically while some others have a higher capacity to influence the political course of the country. Imbalances apart, there is vast diversity in India in terms of religion, language, culture and culinary habits. Nation makers grappled with these challenges of imbalances and diversity, to set in motion the consolidation of the most diverse, and most populated democratic country on the planet. While India has made significant progress in addressing these imbalances and managing the diversity, any honest appraisal would have to account for the unfinished tasks at hand. Regional identities and imbalances are not to be brushed under the carpet or forced into silence, unless the attempt is to create an authoritarian country.
The MP apologised for his unwarranted comments and so did his party. That episode should now be laid to rest. His comments were in the context of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in the three Hindi-speaking States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, while Telangana voted for the Congress, suggesting a divergence between the northern and southern States in political preferences. India has had ruling parties and coalitions of different regional compositions, but the north by virtue of having a larger share of the population has had a bigger say in the country’s governance. The suggestion of an invidious north-south divide is baseless and dangerous, while the issue of multiple imbalances is legitimate and real. The States in the south and west are growing faster economically, while those in the north and east are growing faster in population. These trends need to be reconciled in a manner that helps the progress of the country, rather than becoming a source of acrimony. Development outcomes also vary across religious and caste communities in particular regions. There is also a danger that these challenges can accelerate with the impending nation-wide delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies and the growing gaps in development between regions, and communities. These questions of imbalances cannot be left unaddressed. It is essential that these discussions are informed and respectful; and devoid of any prejudice and hostility.