Mumbai, Nov. 22: Jitendra Shankar found out painfully that the Shiv Sena meant it when it warned that “north Indians” would not be allowed to sit for railway recruitment tests as they were snatching job opportunities from Maharashtrians.
A Sena threat to disrupt Sunday’s examinations led the Railway Recruitment Board to put them off, but many like the 22-year-old Shankar, a Bihari from Chhapra, were unaware of this and landed here to appear for the tests.
But as Shankar got off the Lokmanya Tilak-Varanasi Express at Kalyan at 1.30 pm yesterday, he was set upon by a Sena mob lying in wait for him and other Biharis. His small-town-youth excitement on landing in a big city and his bright blue-and-red bag easily marked him out as an “outsider” hoping to find a way out of the poverty of Chhapra.
“Arre ye bhi Bihari lagta hai (He looks like a Bihari as well),” a woman activist shouted as Sena goons rushed towards Shankar, quickly surrounding him. The youth sensed trouble and abandoning any attempts at bravado, began weeping and tried to fall at the goons’ knees.
But there was no space for Shankar to bend as the activists preferred him on his feet for it made it easier to slap and kick him. Accusing him of “stealing jobs from Maharashtrians’’, the goons set upon him.
“Bihar se kyon aya, vahan kaam nahi hai kya' Khane ko nahi milta kya'’’ someone taunted as another slapped him across his frightened face.
“Will you go back on your own or should we bundle you into a train to Tamil Nadu'’’ a woman asked. “I will go back, sir, today itself,’’ a hurt and humiliated Shankar, stripped of his dignity and self-respect, replied his eyes moist with pain and embarrassment.
Some distance away, five or six men were pulling another Bihari’s hair as he cowered under a hail of lathis and expletives.
But Shankar did not scramble into just any train to flee Maharashtra, as countless others have been forced to. Instead, he took shelter in a Rs 100-a-day motel along a dirty yard near the station.
“How can I go back. I thought I will take the exams and see if I get the railways’ work,’’ Shankar said. “My father is a tailor running a small shop and my mother cannot work because she has cataract in both eyes. I have two sisters. They have to be married off.’’
The youth said he had no idea Maharashtrians were angry with Biharis. But those who roughed up Shankar and many others, are proud of their “achievement’’.
On Tuesday, the Sena had ransacked the Railway Recruitment Board office at Mumbai Central, demanding that “outsiders’ applications” be cancelled. Two days later, party chief Bal Thackeray wrote a stinging editorial in party mouthpiece Saamna that the dangers posed by outsiders snatching Maharashtrians’ jobs were “unimaginable”.
“Why is that north Indians are getting a better deal and local Maharashtrians are victimised in their own land,” Thackeray asked. “The rules have to change and the Maharashtrian youth is willing to shed his blood for that,” he said.
“If Biharis are as hardworking as Laloo Prasad Yadav says, why don’t they work hard in Bihar,’’ Thackeray asked.
His nephew Raj, a student leader, has threatened harsher action against “outsiders’’.
‘This is just the trailer, just see what happens to these Biharis and bhaiyyas (people from Uttar Pradesh) if they don’t heed our warning,’’ Ravi Kapote, the Kalyan Sena chief said.
The Sena has been emboldened by the failure of the Maharashtra government to act against it and the discomfiture of other parties over the emotive issue.
Kapote said the “movement’’ to drive away outsiders – dubbed Bihari ani bhaiya bahar kada mohim - would continue. He said the Sena will later target all Biharis and bhaiyyas, who generally work as waiters, tea stall owners and taxi drivers.
Shankar may have decided to stick it out, but he doesn’t know if he will be allowed to sit for the exams. “They (the Sena) took away my identity card and my hall permit,’’ he said. “I will talk to the authorities and beg with them to at least let me give it a try. I will tell them my father is an old tailor and my mother is blind in both her eyes.”