Manoj Bajpai is an excellent actor. His brilliant portrayal of Bhiku Mhatre’s character in the film “Satya” fetched him the coveted Filmfare award last year. During the course of his acceptance speech at the award ceremony in Bombay, he mentioned how his home state Bihar was not “the most lawless state” as is generally perceived in the rest of India. To drive his point home, he even described how he and his team of Bollywood professionals shot a film in the much-maligned state without any problems whatsoever.
Actors, by profession, are known for stretching the truth. But Manoj Bajpai was being very honest and telling the truth. Indeed, Bihar has been and still is wrongly described as the most lawless state in India. It is basically a myth perpetuated over the years by the over-enthusiastic media who look for choicest epithets to make their copy colorful. One look at the facts will force all non-Biharis like me to rethink.
Yes, we keep hearing of Maoists and Ranvir Sena goons killing innocent villagers in rural Bihar. But such cases are few and far between and they are not exclusive to Bihar. Even today, Maoists, who are better known as Naxalites, hold total sway over large parts of rural Andhra Pradesh and they kill policemen with impunity. The Maharashtra government was and still is partially engaged in trying to stop the Naxal menace in Vidarbha region.
Most gangsters come from Bombay including Chhota Rajan, Dawood Ibrahim and Arun Gawli. None of them come from Bihar. Most gangland killings take place in the Maharashtrian capital. Extortionists and political wheeler-dealers thrive in Bombay, a city whose police force is still described as the Scotland Yard of India! Theft has now become part and parcel of Maharashtra. According to reports, even relatively peaceful regions of Konkan, Vidarbha and Marathawada are witness to deadly killings at the hands of organized gangs.
Much was written and aired about Bihar’s alleged lawlessness during election time. There are documentaries on how gunrunning is a part of Bihari culture. But that is again more myth than reality. In one celebrated incident, the famous television anchor Nalini Singh aired a documentary showing how gangsters in Bihar stuffed ballot boxes at gunpoint. It was later revealed that the whole documentary was a hoax. One of Nalini Singh’s team members went to the press and described it as a stage-managed show. She was even taken to court where she defended herself saying the documentary was done by one of her colleagues and she knew nothing about it. Unfortunately, images from the documentary are still used whenever there is a related story about Bihar.
And yes, there have been ghastly communal riots in Bihar… Bhagalpur, for instance. But communal riots have taken place in almost all states of India …. Who can forget Surat in Gujarat, Malliana and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, Bombay, Bhiwandi and Malegaon in Maharashtra, Hyderabad and Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh…
The list is endless. There is no point in singling out Bihar. It is time to correct the state’s image. It may have been the most lawless state in the 1970s but it has been peaceful in the last two decades. After the creation of the new mineral-rich Jharkhand state out of Bihar, we can instead call Bihar the poorest of poor states in India. That’s no myth.