Story of Anti-Bihari sentiment in India

Story of Anti-Bihari sentiment in India

Bihari refers to the people of the Indian state of Bihar, which is a region in the north-eastern Gangetic plains (as well as people of the Bihari ethnic group  that originated there). Bihar has had slower economic growth than the rest of India in the 1990s, and as a consequnce many Bihari’s have migrated to other parts of India in search of work. Bihari migrant workers have been subject to a growing degree of xenophobia, 1] racial discrimination,   prejudice and violence. Biharis are often looked down upon  and their accent ridiculed. In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people  and created 10,000 internal refugees.


Since the late 1980s and through to 2005, poor governance and Annual Flooding of Bihar by Kosi River (Sorrow of Bihar) contributed to a crisis in the Bihar economy. 9]  The criminalisation of politics, and kidnappings of professional workers between 1990-2005 contributed to an economic collapse and led to the flight of capital, middle class professionals, and business leaders to other parts of India. 10] 11]  This flight of business and capital increased unemployment and this led to the mass migration of Bihari farmers and unemployed youth to more developed states of India. The state has a per capita income  of $148 a year against India’s average of $997 and 30.6% of the state’s population lives below the poverty line against India’s average of 22.15%. The level of urbanisation (10.5%) is below the national average (27.78%); and behind states like Maharastra (42.4%). Urban poverty in Bihar (32.91%) is above the national average of 23.62%. 1   Also using per capita water supply as a surrogate variable, Bihar (61 litres per day) is below the national average (142 litres per day) and that of Maharastra(175 litres per day) in civic amenities.

Impact: Social and cultural

There is a perception in Indian states with smaller populations that Bihari culture could dominate local languages and customs as migration of poor workers continue from those states. This feeling that local customs would be overwhelmed by migrants was a key feature of the MNS campaign in Maharashtra and feelings of resentment in Punjab. 13] 14]  The migrant population in Punjab, according to state researchers, is nearing three million out of a total population of over nearly 30 million. One third of the migrants, nearly one million, live in and around Ludhiana. 15]  After the attacks on Uttar Pradeshi’s and Biharis in October 2008, a Punjabi group called the Dal Khalsa, carried banners and placards that read  Punjab for Punjabis  and  Return migrants, Save Punjab . This fear is further personified by the rise of Bhojpuri cinema in non-Bhojpuri speaking states. Punjabi comedian Jaspal Bhatti  said that instead of assimilating with the culture of the state, the migrant population was seeking to decimate Punjabi culture and cinema.  In Mumbai, Raj Thackeray had also complained to theatre owners for their reluctance to exhibit Marathi movies and producers of Marathi movies complained that it is becoming difficult to hire theatres in Mumbai to release their productions and exhibitors preferred to show Bhojpuri language movies. 

Furthermore, many see Biharis as criminals and attribute any rise in criminality to Bihari youth, or the so called “Bihari Mafia”. 18] Due to the high levels of crime in Bihar there is a perception by some that Biharis are inherently criminal by nature. This has led to Biharis being blamed for crimes ranging from automobile theft to increases in rape, murder and kidnapping.


Bihar has a per capita income of $148 a year against India’s average of $997. Given this income dispartity, migrant workers moved to better paid locations and offered to work at lower rates. For example, in Tamil Nadu inter-state migrant construction workers are paid about Rs.60 to Rs.70 a day against the minimum of Rs.130 per day. 20] After thousands of migrant workers left Nashik, industries were worried that their costs would increase through more expensive local workers. 21] In an interview with the Times of India, Raj Thackeray, leader of the MNS said; “The city (Mumbai) cannot take the burden anymore. Look at our roads, our trains and parks. On the pipes that bring water to Mumbai are 40,000 huts. It is a security hazard. The footpaths too have been taken over by migrants. The message has to go to UP and Bihar that there is no space left in Mumbai for you. After destroying the city, the migrants will go back to their villages. But where will we go then?”. 2  The strain to Mumbai’s infrastructure through migration has also been commented by mainstream secular politicians. 23] The Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh felt that unchecked migration had placed a strain on the basic infrastructure of the state. However, he has maintained and urged migrant Bihari workers to remain in Maharashtra, even during the height of the anti North Indian agitation. 24] Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, said that because of people migrating from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Delhi’s infrastructure was overburdened. She said, that “these people come to Delhi from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but don’t ever go back causing burden on Delhi’s infrastructure.” 

Violence : Maharashtra

North Indian students, including students from Bihar, preparing for the railway entrance exam were attacked by Raj Thackeray’s MNS supporters in Mumbai on 20 October 2008. One student from Bihar was killed during the attacks. Four persons were killed and another seriously injured in the violence that broke out in a village near Kalyan following the arrest of MNS chief Raj Thackeray.  Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded action against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists and full security to students. Nitish Kumar requested Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh intervention. Kumar directed the additional director general of police to contact senior police officials in Maharashtra and compile a report on Sunday’s incident and asked the home commissioner to hold talks with the Maharashtra home secretary to seek protection for people from Bihar. In 2003, the Shiv Sena alleged that of the 500 Maharashtrian candidates, only ten of them successful in the Railways exams. 90 per cent of the successful candidates were alleged to be from Bihar. Activists from the Shiv Sena ransacked a railway recruitment office in protest against non-Marathi’s being among the 650,000 candidates set to compete for 2,200 railway jobs in the state. 30] Eventually, after attacks on Biharis heading towards Mumbai for exams, the central government delayed the exams.

Violence : North East states

Biharis have sought work in many states that form part of North East India. There were significant communities in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur. As with all migrations in history, this has created tensions with the local population, which has resulted in large scale violence. In 2000 and 2003, anti-Bihari violence led to the deaths of up to 200 people,and created 10,000 internal refugees. Similar violent incidents have also taken place recently in Manipur and Assam.  According to K P S Gill waves of xenophobic violence have swept across Assam repeatedly since 1979, targeting Bangladeshis, Bengalis, Biharis and Marwaris. 36]

Violence : Punjab

In early 2008, bombs exploded in Ludhiana which killed six people and injured a further 30 in a blast in one of the three cinema halls in a multiplex. The halls were frequented by migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and one credible theory being considered was that the blasts were an attempt to scare away migrant workers. 

Violence : Karnataka
In July 2009, activists of the Kannada Protection Force (KPF) in Karnataka stormed into exam centres and disrupted railway recruitment examinations in protest against the appearance of north Indian candidates, especially from Bihar, in large numbers. 

Controversial Statements: Derisive use of BIMARU term
Dr Ashish Bose, a Bengali retired govt servant coined the epithet BIMARU.Even official planning commission records use this term. BIMARU resembles the Hindi word for illness, Bimar. The BI in BIMARU stands for Bihar. Ther other Hindi-speaking states that are included in BIMARU are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Bihar, and other North Indian states, have also been held accountable for holding India’s GDP ranking below the double digit number.

Controversial Statements: Editorial by Bal Thackeray

Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray, commented in the Shiv Sena newspaper, Samnna on why Biharis are disliked outside Hindi-speaking North India. He quoted part of a text message as the title of his article. The message suggests that Biharis bring diseases, violence, job insecurity, and domination, wherever they go. The text message says, “Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari. Do Bihari Ladai ki taiyari, Teen Bihari train hamari and paanch Bihari to sarkar hamaari”  (One Bihari equals hundred diseases, Two Biharis is preparing for war, Three Biharis it is a train hijack, and five Biharis will try to form the ruling Government). Nitish kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, and the Union Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav, protested against the remark, demanding official condemnation of Bal Thackeray. Kumar, during a press report at Patna Airport, said, “If Manmohan Singh fails to intervene in what is happening in Maharashtra, it would mean only one thing – he is not interested in resolving the issue and that would not be good for the leader of the nation”. Angered by Thackeray’s insulting remark against the Bihari community, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) activists burnt the effigy of the Shiv Sena chief at Kargil Chowk  in Patna and said that the senior Thackeray had completely lost his marbles and needed to be immediately committed in a mental asylum. 

Consequences : Protests & demonstrations

Angry students in various parts of Bihar damaged railway property and disrupted train traffic, as protests continued against assaults on north Indians by MNS activists in Mumbai. The police said the protesters targeted Patna, Jehanabad, Barh, Khusrupur, Sasaram and Purnia railway stations in the morning. The protesting students reportedly set afire two AC bogies of an express train at Barh railway station. They ransacked Jehanabad, Barh, Purnia and Sasaram  railway stations. According to the railway police, at least 10 students were detained in the morning and extra security was deployed to control the situation. 45] Noted Physician Dr Diwakar Tejaswi observed a day-long fast in Patna to protest against repeated violence by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray and his goons against the north Indians. 46]  Various student organisations gave a call for Bihar shutdown on October 25, 2008 to protest attacks on north Indian candidates by Maharashtra Navnirnam Sena activists during a Railway recruitment examination in Mumbai. 

Various cases were filed in Bihar and Jharkhand against Raj Thackeray for assaulting the students. A murder case was also filed by Jagdish Prasad, father of Pawan Kumar, who was allegedly killed by MNS activists in Mumbai. Mumbai police, however, claimed it to be a case of accident. 51] Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a compensation of Rs 1,50,000 to Pawan’s family. Bihar state Congress chief, Anil Kumar Sharma, has demanded enactment of an Act by Parliament for closing opportunities to any political party or organisation that indulge in obscurantism and raise such narrow, chauvinistic issues based on caste, religion and regionalism to capture power. 5  A murder case was also lodged against Raj Thackeray and 15 others in a court in Jharkhand on 1 November 2008 following the death of a train passenger last month in Maharashtra. According to the Dhanbad police, their Mumbai counterparts termed Sakaldeo’s death as an accident. According to social scientist Dr. Shaibal Gupta, the beating of students from Bihar has consolidated Bihari sub-nationalism. 

Rahul Raj

Rahul Raj, from Patna, was shot dead aboard a bus in Mumbai by the police on the 28 October. Rahul was 23 years old and was brandishing a pistol and shooting at public from the bus. The Mumbai police alleged that he wanted to assassinate Raj Thackeray.  Nitish Kumar questioned the police action, but R R Patil justified it, and restored Raj Thackeray`s security.  It was alleged that Rahul was protesting against the attacks on Bihari and Uttar Pradeshi candidates appearing for railway examinations. Mumbai crime branch is looking in to the incident.  During Rahul’s funeral slogans of “Raj Thackeray murdabad” and “Rahul Raj amar rahe” were heard. Despite Mumbai police’s allegations, there was high level government representation at the funeral. Bihar Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and PHED minister Ashwini Kumar Chaubey represented the state government at the cremation which was also attended by Patna MP Ram Kripal Yadav. The bier was carried by Rahul’s friends even as the district administration had arranged a flower-bedecked truck for the purpose. 

Attacks against Marathis

After the October 2008 anti-Bihari attacks in Maharashtra, members of the Bharatiya Bhojpuri Sangh (BBS) vandalised the official residence of Tata Motors Jamshedpur plant head S.B. Borwankar, a Maharashtrian. Armed with lathis and hockey sticks, more than 100 BBS members trooped to Borwankar’s Nildih Road bungalow around 3.30 pm. Shouting anti-MNS slogans, they smashed windowpanes and broke flowerpots. BBS president Anand Bihari Dubey called the attack on Borwankar’s residence unfortunate, and said that he knew BBS members were angry after the attack in Maharashtra on Biharis, but did not expect a reaction. Fear of further violence gripped the 4,000-odd Maharashtrians settlers living in and around the city. 58] 59] Two air-conditioned bogies of the train Vikramshila Express   reportedly with Maharashtrian passengers on board – were set on fire in Barh area of Bihar. Hundreds of slogan-shouting students surrounded Barh railway station in rural Patna demanding that MNS  leader Raj Thackeray be tried for sedition. No one was reported injured and passengers fled soon as the attackers started setting the bogies on fire. 

A group of 63 tourists, of which many were Marathis, were on a tour of sacred Buddhist sites. The tourists found themselves stranded on the outskirts of Patna as riots broke out. The Marathis in the group were forced to hide their identity for fear of attacks. The group avoided speaking in Marathi, and women wore saris in the north Indian rather than the Marathi style. For security, the group had to be escorted by 25 policeman to the station. The tourists reached Nagpur safely. 61] In another incident, a senior woman government official in Bihar, with the surname Thackeray, was the target of an angry mob that surrounded her office and shouted slogans against her in Purnia district. Ashwini Dattarey Thackeray was the target of a mob of over 200 people. The mob, led by a local leader of the Lok Janashakti Party, surrounded Thackeray’s office in Purnia, about 350 km from here, and shouted slogans like,  Go back Maharashtrians  and  Officer go back, we do not need your services .

A gang of 25 people pelted stones on the Maharashtra Bhawan in Khalasi Line, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Constructed in 1928, the building is owned by the lone trust run by Marathis in Kanpur. It has served as an important venue for prominent festivals, including Ganesh Utsav and Krishna Janmastami. On 29 October, in Ghaziabad, Marathi students at Mahanand Mission Harijan PG College were attacked, allegedly by an Uttar Pradesh student leader and his friends. Police sources in Ghaziabad confirmed the victims stated in their FIR that the attackers  mentioned Rahul Raj and Dharam Dev  while kicking them in heir hostel rooms. A group of 20 youths, from Bihar, attacked Maharashtra Sadan in the capital on 3 November. The Rashtrawadi Sena has claimed responsibility for the attack. They ransacked the reception of the building and raised slogans against Raj Thackeray.

Cultural, economic threats

Bihari leaders have urged a boycott of music CDs of Bollywood singers, movies, clothes and drugs manufactured in Maharashtra.  Why don’t Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Lata Mangeshkar or Anna Hazare come out and speak against such attacks on Bihari people? They enjoy greater influence on the society and their words would indeed matter ,  asked renowned Bollywood actor Mr Shatrughan Sinha. Nitish Kumar also threatened to block cash flow to Mumbai, country’s financial capital. “If Maharashtra is rich today, it’s just because the capital investments from across the country have made there. Does Raj Thackeray know where will Mumbai go if we block fund flow to Mumbai and Maharashtra”‘  … “I will pump out air of Mumbai by blocking cash flow if the violence against Biharis does not stop”. The Bharatiya Bhojpuri Sangh also demanded a ban on the import of onions from Maharashtra. The organisation said if the ban is not implemented by the Jharkhand government it will stop the entry of trucks carrying onions from Maharshtra. Jharkhand imports onions from Nashik in Maharashtra. “We will intensify our agitation if north Indians are beat in Maharashtra,” said Anad Bihari Dubey. In Jamshedpur, trucks arriving from Maharashtra were stopped and searched by nationalist groups. The government has declared that firm action will be taken to prevent a breakdown in law and order. “We have come to know that some people want to stop trucks coming from Maharashtra. “We will not allow people to prevent movement of trucks. Police have been alerted,” R.K. Agrawal, Deputy Commissioner of East Singhbhum district said to the media. A mob also attacked a cinema hall in Purnia screening films of Marathi directors. 65] After the attack the angry mob announced the start of their  non-cooperation  movement against Marathis.

Bhojpuri Film industry relocation

The Rs 200-crore Bhojpuri film industry  is considering moving out of Mumbai owing to threats from MNS workers, and growing insecurity. With an average output of 75 movies per annum and an over 250 million target audience, the Bhojpuri  film industry employs hundreds of unskilled and semi-skilled people from the state in various stage of production and distribution. The industry, which has around 50 registered production houses in Mumbai, has initiated talks with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “We have given a proposal to the Uttar Pradesh  government through its Culture Minister Subhash Pandey for setting up the industry in Lucknow. Besides, we are also counting on some other options like Delhi, Noida and Patna,” Bhojpuri superstar and producer Manoj Tiwari said. The films have a large market because the Bhojpuri diaspora is spread over countries like Mauritius, Nepal, Dubai, Guyana, West Indies, Fiji, Indonesia, Surinam and the Netherlands. There is a significant wealthy Bihari doctor community in the United Kingdom. citation needed]  70 per cent of the total production cost of a Bhojpuri film — budgets of which range from Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.25 crore is usually spent in Maharashtra, providing direct employment to junior artists, make-up men, spot boys and local studios among others.

Improving Bihar

However, the state government, post 2005, has made an effort to improve the economic condition of the state, and reduce the need for migration. In 2008, the state government approved over Rs 70,000 crore worth of investment, has had record tax collection, broken the political-criminal nexus, made improvements in power supply to villages, towns and cities. They have laid greater emphasis on education and learning by appointing more teachers, 68] and opening a software park. State Ministers who have failed to live up to election commitments have been dismissed. 69]  Bihar’s GSDP grew by 18% over the period 2006-2007, which was higher than in the past 10 years and one of the highest recorded by the Government of India for that period.