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They're nationalists, not migrants: Crucial for GDP, workers don't care for regionalism

By Shamsul Islam*
As a student of political science we have been familiar with Samuel Johnson's amazing words on patriotism, an essential ingredient of nationalism. He wrote: 'Patriotism is last refuge of scoundrel.' History has been witness to the truthfulness of this dictum multiple times globally.
Back at home what should this mean could be witnessed by closely observing what RSS-BJP Indian rulers, who are darling of the rich and middle-classes, did and continue to do to the working classes of the country during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
The Indian ruling classes and the so-called gentry, which generally hails from dominant castes, keeps on sermonizing that “Bharatiye” civilization is one which treats the whole world as a family (वासुदेव कुटुंबकम:), our guests are treated as we honour gods/goddesses (अतिथि देवो भव:) and all Indians are the children of Mother India.
But after seeing what the Indian state has done to crores of working people, including children and women (many of them pregnant and disabled), these claims prove to be fake. These workers, who created wealth through their labour, made what the metropolises of India are today.
They were the main human force which brought green revolution in India, kept on running giant industrial wheels of India. They played the most crucial role in contributing to the GDP of the country. However, the Covid-19 pandemic, they have been left in the lurch. Visuals of their sufferings would shame any nation.
When rich and middle classes were beating thalis (utensils/plates), clapping, lighting candles, discussing the brands of face masks (our Prime Minister appeared six times on TV screens, every time wearing a new designer mt ask; he even released a video of himself showing how he was keeping fit during the lockdown!) and hand sanitizers, millions of devastated jobless, homeless, penniless workers were walking on roads, some of them riding broken bicycles, cycle rickshaws, hand carts, tricycles etc.
When many of them walked 1,500 kilometers, the state seemed to have totally withdrawn from the scene. When these multitudes were punished for journeying through roads in the name of 'social distancing' (a term suggestive of casteist attitude of the ruling elite), large number of them diverted to rail track, where many of them were crushed under moving goods trains. Countless of them died in accidents riding trucks and vehicles.
The ruling elite of India and media did another unforgettable crime. These devastated workers were called as 'pravasi mazdoor' or migratory workers as if they had come from outside India. By using this term we were not only humiliating these suffering Indian but also underlining racism ingrained in our world-view.
It is strange that IT experts, white-collar employees, engineers, doctors, managers coming from different parts of the country working at Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad Chennai, Delhi, Gurgaon etc. are never described as migratory. They become Mumbaikar, Banglorean, Delhiite, Kolkatan, Hyderabadi, Chennaiite etc. They are described as the gentry of their respective cities of work. 
However, the poor workers hailing from different parts of the country remain alien, hence are described as 'migratory' workers. Those who call Indian workers as migratory are, in fact, preparing ground for disunity.
Isn’t it strange that money bags which establish factories in Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Telengana or Uttar Pradesh are never described as migratory capitalists. In North-East India major part of business is owned by Marwaris and other outsiders but they are not called migratory businessmen and women.
Workers should put conditions before returning to cities. They should demand robust labour laws, no meddling with 8 hours working day
Two leaders from Gujarat become Indian PM and home minister, but we do not designate them as migratory. A “baba” from Uttarakhand becomes chief minister of the largest state of India, Uttar Pradesh, but he is not described as migratory.
They all remain national. But workers who toil to create wealth for the whole of Indian, despite the absence of even minimum facilities which a human being requires for existence, are called 'migratory'! In fact, Indian working classes are the only nationalists as they care least about regionalism.
How is this different from racism which was prevalent in the USA and South Africa?
There seems to be no end to the inhuman attitude of Indian capitalists and RSS-BJP government promoted by them. They did not bother about their workers who were left to die of hunger, to be maimed on roads and walk hundreds of kilometres. Now they are beating their chests that all workers have left!
India’s rulers are obliging capitalists by forcing workers not to return to their homeland. Even labour laws are being done away with. Eight hour work is going to be a history. It is time that workers of India should put conditions before returning from their homeland. They should demand robust labour laws, no meddling with the eight hour working day, housing, complete medical cover, education facilities and sufficient wage instead of minimum wage.
The Indian working class must realize that Indian billionaires may have money but it is human labour which multiplies it. The embedded media and experts are trying hard to spread the canard that workers are in crisis. The fact is that it is capitalism which is in crisis and the Indian working class must rise to the occasion, demand a fair deal. They have nothing to lose!
Remember these couplets of Faiz Ahmad Faiz:
"When we, who toil by the sweat of our brow
will ask the people of the world for our share,
we won’t be content with a farm or a country,
we'll ask for the whole world for ourselves." 

---
*Formerly with Delhi University, click here for Prof Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Twitter: @shamsforjustice, blog: http://shamsforpeace.blogspot.com/

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