Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bangalore: The Insider/Outsider Debate

In the wake of the recent riots in Bangalore following thespian Dr. Rajkumar's death, there has been some soul-searching in the Karnataka legislature, in the newspapers and on the internet as to who or what was responsible for the total breakdown of calm and order over two whole days in the city. Finger-pointing is in full swing. As is to be expected, political parties blame each other, residents blame the government and the police.

What I did not expect was the blame laid at the feet of "non-Bangloreans".

In his Last Word column in The Week magazine, Mahesh Dattani, author and playwright, writes in an essay titled "Winds of change" this week (April 30, 2006),

This wasn't an outpouring of grief that we witnessed. Perhaps this is the shape of things to come. Violence as an outpouring of anger and frustration.

What else can it be? Forcing the city to close down was actually a very perverse act, but a cry for justice nevertheless. Dr Rajkumar, unknowingly, became a mascot for the oppressed indigenous people who feel their language and identity are slowly being eroded by the winds of globalisation. The IT industry is not the villain. The villain is Time. And no one can fight Time.

You wake up one day and find that your neighbour speaks a strange language; your job is taken over by someone who moved into town last month and has an utter dislike for all things south Indian. Your job in a government office as a peon was a matter of pride and achievement, until the office boy working for an MNC boasts of a pay five times more than you earn because his English is better. It just seems so unfair. Maybe it is. But it is to the credit of the indigenous people that they tolerated this unfairness for a very long time.

A few months ago, it was the new weekly, Bangalore Bias, expressing similar sentiments in its manifesto. I had then provided longer excerpts from the manifesto and had written an essay countering the arguments. Here are some brief tid-bits from that manifesto:

The time has come to ask, "Whose city is it, anyway?"

[...]

Where there was time and space for libraries, literary debates, science fairs, Sunday beers, bicycles, Karaga, Christmas carols, kadalekaayi parise, jazz evenings, dolls' exhibitions and the grace of it all. In a city of seven million, there should still be that "Island of One Million" that knows what Bangalore was, but more crucially to the point, what it ought to be. We believe this community of one million cares for a lifestyle of grace and charm beyond the transactional logic that threatens to become the sole basis of our civic society.

[...]

The Bangalore community could well feel that it is now under siege. The City's sensibilities have been invaded by unfamiliar, sometimes unwelcome strains of attitude and affectations. There are new people that now claim to represent Bangalore, but the Bangalore community is justified in feeling unrepresented.

I fail to understand the logic of these arguments.

First of all, who is a citizen, who is an "outsider"? Everyone that lives in this city, no matter how far the generations that have lived here go back, came from somewhere. The earlier generations shaped the character of this city as they saw fit, now the current generation is shaping the city as it sees fit. A city is a living, changing, amorphous creature that cannot be frozen in time and that image taken to be its true representation. "Whose city is it, anyway?" Well, it is the city of every single person living here, whether they landed here yesterday at the airport, bus station or train station and are setting up homes as we speak, or whose families have been living here for generations.

If the "oppressed indigenous people" (meaning what, exactly? How long does one have to live here to become indigenous?) don't have jobs or have lesser jobs, who is to blame for that? Or more pertinently, given the drift of the Dattani essay and the Bangalore Bias manifesto, how are "outsiders" to blame for that?

Are employers asking to employ "non-indigenous" people? Are they going out of their way to look for "outsiders" to fill their positions? From the "office boy" to the CEO? That contention holds no water. Businesses look to cut their operating costs and the cheapest hire for them would a qualified person already in the city. It makes no business sense to have to advertise in the media in outside cities, set up out of town interviews, have potential recruits travel or have the company's HR person travel to conduct interviews, pay for an eventual hire to move to Bangalore from Haryana or wherever and then pay some more for them to settle down in this city.

So perhaps these employers are getting out-of-state hires because they cannot find a qualified employee pool here. How can "outsiders" take jobs away from locals if the locals are qualified and willing to do the jobs that are required of them?

There are at least one or two articles a month in the daily newspapers here and abroad about the shortage of labor supply, not only in the IT industry, but in the construction industry as well (both at the day laborer level and at the engineer level). Why are the locals not rushing up to sign up for these jobs?

The argument that follows from this is that all this employment boom and success is limited to the IT industry. So what about the rest of the "indigenous" people who have no skills in this area?

Well, while the IT industry is spearheading the boom, in its trail follows a long list of service areas and other industries that are reaping the benefits of the activity generated in the IT sector. As mentioned above, the construction industry in Bangalore cannot keep pace with demand for housing. Then there are the peripheral service industries - restaurants, grocery stores, malls, clothes shops, book stores, relocation agencies, transportation (there's a whole new industry in transporting the call center employees to and from work every day) even down to drivers, house maids, etc. who all see an increase in business stemming from the IT sector activity.

You can just imagine just how much employment is generated not just in the areas mentioned above, but in each of the offshoots of those areas. "Outsiders" are not coming in to take every single job in every one of these sectors and their offshoots, are they?

Ironically, while the idea that the "city's sensibilities are being invaded" is making its rounds in certain quarters, the most striking sensibility of this city has been its arms-open-wide welcome it affords to anyone coming here, whether from Tamil Nadu or Andhra or Maharashtra or America or Africa, whether a menial laborer or a billion-dollar multinational company. Just as a community cannot thrive by suppressing a portion of its members, so cannot a city thrive by negating the contributions of a portion of its citizenry, newcomers or not.

And these are not small contributions, mind you. The newcomers to this city are, each in his/her own way, contributing to the financial health of this city. The companies are bringing jobs, jobs are bringing people, people are bringing money that they are spending in the shops and theaters and restaurants, and as mentioned earlier, the money is bringing construction, and more jobs. I dare say that the companies are also driving a lot of the improvements that we are seeing in the city today (Bannerghatta Road being a fine example, perhaps the only one of public-private partnership in Bangalore).

It is this financial health that will encourage people to look beyond their immediate basic necessities and move on to the dolls' exhibitions and jazz festivals and Sunday beers and the lifestyle of "grace" and "charm". And why blame the newcomers for these habits fading away? Why did this "community" of one million let go of that lifestyle in the first place? May be it's because all the old timers, who had property in the heart of Bangalore city, in Charmarajpet and Basavangudi and Gandhi Bazar have sold out to the highest bidder (in bidding wars brought on by the IT boom) and are now living out in what used to be the boonies and find it too far to make it to the dolls' exhibitions.

I do agree that as new people come in, and as a city grows to accommodate them, there is a definite strain on the infrastructure and resources. Moreover, from a newcomer's point of view, as I know from personal experience from having lived outside, it is very difficult to profess knowledge of a community's various concerns within the first few days of moving in. It takes months, even years, to understand the nuances that are at play in any community. There is bound to be that initial period of tension. But once you feel even half comfortable in any surroundings, you look around, make friends and jump right in. That's human nature.

There is no reason to believe that the newcomers do not have an equal interest in having a rounded, complete, fulfilling life in the city they have chosen to make their home. Newcomers also definitely look for signs of welcome. If given half a chance, many of them would do just that, jump right in. They too would like to live a life of grace and charm, I assure you. They too would like to see the infrastructure improved. They too want the crime rate down. They too want fewer accidents, better schools, better transportation, fewer power cuts and water shortages, parks for their children, safe roads, and justice and liberty for all.

It just makes no sense to believe that all the problems that this city may or may not have are to be blamed on "outsiders". They may be convenient and handy scapegoats, after all no "indigenous" person uses any of the roads, any of the infrastructure, does not pollute the waters, does not throw trash on the streets, etc., etc. Right?

Instead of looking outward for the sources of our problems, we would do well to look inward, at our own feeling toward this city we've called home for generations. What are our strengths and capabilities? What are our weaknesses? Let's assess those and act accordingly. Let's not blame our weaknesses on "outsiders". Let's not act in haste and look for scapegoats. Let us be a city worthy of our heritage, if we so care about it.

Crossposted on Desicritics.

47 comments:

Mallik said...

Outsider is Albert Camu, and the Insider is PV Narasimha Rao or Dr. Wigand (Russel Crow). Everybody else are just living. Where they get a job they go there and they live there, and thats what matters and nothing else. If anything else matters, everything comes out of that jeopardises everything else.

Sujatha said...

Mallik, good take on the issue!

gawker said...

"Blame the immigrant" has always been the battle cry of the disaffected anywhere you go, be it India or America. All it does is play on the emotions of other disaffected people, giving them an outlet for their frustrations and a tangible entity to blame for everything that is going wrong in their lives. So it simplifies the problem. Instead of now sitting down and pondering over what to do, we now have people with self-satisfied smirks on their face saying nothing can be done because every problem can be traced to immigrants, so lets just sit tight and whine.

Great essay.

MumbaiGirl said...

As Gawker says, blaming the immigrant is always the name of the game. I was shocked when my husband and I were registering our marriage in Bangalore and we were referred to as outsiders. I thought we were at home.
The quote from Dattani is deeply disturbing.
But your essay is wonderful.

Sujatha said...

Thanks CG and MG. The thing is doing that (blaming immigrants in a knee-jerk fashion) really does a disservice to the city. It prevents us from objectively trying to figure really what is wrong and how we can fix the problem.

Pradeep said...

The term outsider is an anachronism today, when you can be "there" and still be "here" and vice versa. There is nothing wrong in trying to find the reasons for the violence, but barking up the wrong tree serves no purpose.

The one reason I see for violence was the administrative breakdown. When every one knew of the possibility of violence, why no pre-emptive action was taken is what should have been discussed. Unfortunately, all the discussion had gone off tangent trying to analyse the crowd behaviour.

A crowd of lumpen elements __ from whichever part of the globe they be __ whether in Bangalore, Bucharest or Boston, will behave the same way. It's a sound administration that gives a society orderliness. Why law and order broke down? Because, there is only government, no governance.

Has to be me said...

I am an NRI as well (but a big time Indian @ heart), waiting to come back home & settle in India. Been away for abt 6 yrs now. After reading this post of urs, I am wondering if I wud also be considered an 'outsider'? That doesnt make me feel good one bit :(

Sujatha said...

The term outsider is an anachronism today, when you can be "there" and still be "here" and vice versa.

Pradeep, totally agree with that. Thanks for your comment.

HTBM, you should not let an incident such as this hold you up from coming back. If you want to come back here, you should and do whatever you can to get integrated into the city and its life quickly. We've been here for a while now and now this routine seems like it's the one we've been following for ages!

All of one One for all said...

Well - Similar to what has been happening in Mumbai since decades. Every Mumbaite has been given an identity by other one - Bhaiya (anybody frm North), Ghatee (local marathees now divided into Mathadis, agris, upper class etc), Lungee/Anna/Madrasi (Anybody from south), Bawa (Parsee) and so on and so forth. Time and again a party or a politician can pick one of them to shout against and reach their vested goals. So, it is not the commoner who migrates to do a job who is much bothered...may be he is more bothered to reach back home to visit his ailing parents.
This can be cured only when each one of us become very aware of not referring any body else like this - for our day to day frustrations, instead this partitioning should be looked down upon - I am sure this will dissuade our (selfishly) motivated politicians.
Bangalore will also have if not already having subdivisions into North Indians/ Tams/ Kaanadigas etc....but mind u, this made us slave long back and sends wrong singals to the global community.

Mogolov said...

Your quote "...who is a citizen, who is an "outsider"? Everyone that lives in this city, no matter how far the generations that have lived here go back, came from somewhere..." is exactly what the so called illegal immigrants are asking in the ongoing saga here in the states. The native americans say that every single person here is an "illegal" immigrant. I guess what you say about the "city" bring a "living, amorphous creature" is true of an open society like the US as well..Are these the drawbacks of being an open society that one day in the future the very people who decided to open it up will be chased out? Even if that happens, is that wrong?? We have a spanish version of the US national anthem creating a furore here...What is "taking it too far" in this issue? Do the benefits of an open society outweight its problems?

Good piece. Could just change the names of the cities and this could be about the current situation in the US.

Mogolov

Sujatha said...

One for all, very wise comments. Those kinds of divisions were what prompted the invaders to exploit us so thoroughly for centuries.

Mogolov, thank you for raising the US immigration angle. I have been out of the loop a little bit on that and intend to read up. But what you say rings true. The world is moving irreversably towards global integration, and really borders will not matter anymore, whether they should or not is open to debate and entirely depends on how open a society is to change. Of course, from experience, we know that societies resist change. Whatever it is, my main grouse in this piece was that the wrong cause is being attributed to the probelms of a section of the population.

Naveen said...

The most surprising thing is the opinian expressed by two crime related programmes in two kannada TV channels. In both programmes they ehere blaming police.i didnt understud what the hell they where speaking.who eill make preperation for somebodies death when they are alive.and after the death who will expect this king of uncivilised behaviour from the people. it is totally unjustifiable to blame the police

N said...

I never expected this to happen in Blore of all the places!!
I just hope this remains an isolated incident.
This seems like racism of lower order!!

remainconnected said...

Sujatha,

I know that many have been troubled by the recent riots in Bangalore, and I know that it was unnecessary. The reasons for the riots were many - most of the rioters were just drunken rowdies out to have a good time. Added to it, total mismanagement by the police, resulted in a totally chaotic situation, which caused agony to many. Everyone just was cribbing we never expected this from a city like Bangalore,a city that houses simple people yet accepting modernity and the effects of globalization. This is taken by the educated and the moderate people with ease and calmness as they know that all the change that is visible is a logical outcome of the rapid growth this city is undergoing.

But how does a common man respond to this. Everyone doesn’t earn a 5 figure salary and moreover everyone doesn’t work for a MNC or own a lucrative business. So when the negative effects of all this kept on piling for a long time,it needed a vent tube to release the same. So it took the form of the violent attacks witnessed on the demise of thespian Rajkumar. If you would have noticed,the soft targets were IT and software offices,banks,petrol bunks,etc.Thespian Rajkumar would have never ever wished things to go haywire as it did in the wildest of his dreams.

If someone loved,adored and respected him so much,why would he go after the rampage, he would never have done that. The reason of this violence was the sudden rift that is visible in this city among the various income groups.(These are my views though)

Bangalore is a city for everyone,for a Govt employee,an investment banker,an ITES professional,a lawyer,a doctor,a scienctist,an autowala, a sweeper, an iron man (he presses my clothes), a driver, the list is endless…

Many would bemoan,this incident, and discuss about how silly and pointless everything was. But please refrain from making sweeping and unfair generalizations about how "these people are blind and crazy", "people are movie fanatics", and more comments like that.

Yes, there are many things wrong with Bangalore. Like any other place,this city also has its problems and we should solve it .We should not complain,rather try instead, to find out what is right with it, and enjoy staying here. But also note that most "outsiders" do not return to where they come from, and make this city their home.

We are all Bangaloreans,its naama Bengaluru, for heavens' sake,let's not waste our time in demeaning each other, and instead, try to understand, respect and appreciate each other.

This is what I felt of all that happened and which I feel no-one would ever wish to happen in this "Garden City" ever.

Rgds,
tanay

Harish N Jeyavel said...

The riots in Bangalore were a shameful act! I wouldn't actually like to get into the death of Dr. Rajkumar or the riots, but then we do have a problem, a problem of discontent and the worst thing is that its growing!

It is a fact that "some" insiders are blaming all this on the "outsiders". I guess "we" Bangalorean have to interpret it as something like this, Yes there is no doubt that people are blaming others but its not necessarily true, in fact in some instances, it could well be the other way round!

Sujata, I consider myself a Bangalorean, no Kannada is not my native language, I'm not a language freak, but then one can presume that i'd be biased towards Bangalore, so please put with me as I try to discuss your post (hope you or other readers dont take this as me arguing for a particular group). The fact is like a spectrum, people live here, some call themselves insider and brand others as outsiders, but then there is no criteria to divide people.

Mahesh Dattani is right, "Time" here is playing the villain, well the people cant fight it so some chose to fight the people, time seems to be favoring. Again time is favorable to many locals, but then who cares.

Who is a Bangalorean? (no necessarily a local or insider)
Subir Roy, talks about Bob Hoekstra, something like this,

...Then, there is this syndrome about Bangalore. Outsiders come to it noncommittal, curious maybe, but nothing more. Then as they get to know the place, they fall in love with it. And over time the ardent commitment turns them into crusaders, ready to risk being misunderstood, if only to do one’s bit to keep alive what’s good in the city...

Bob, was a Bangalorean among other things he represented, when he was here.

Whose city is it, anyway?
I guess the city is open to anyone who wants to live here for whatever reasons, lets not compare this place with other indian cities.

You call yourself an expatiate in your own hometown, I suppose you could have a view of local as well as an outsider.

Before entering in to the discussion of the second part of your post, I'd like to point out that, just because someone created problem by dividing people for their own perceived benefit, the solution does not necessarily lie in giving into the division or trying to question the division. I think we as Bangaloreans can do a better job by simply being a Bangalorean.

Logic of these arguments
This division is completely illogical, as a small example, the other day a young college kid felt bad because he was considered an outsider, though he was born and brought up here, but he was not a kannadiga, like me but i'm sure i'm a local or better a Bangalorean.

Subir Roy's description of Bob Hoekstra could describe a Bangalorean, Lets see how the local indigenous people fit in,
Though, India happened to achieve the political unification of the states before or during independence, at a different level, a person from a particular place or region considers himself / herself different from others, while this would not be so contrasting with the regions and cites with the western world especially US.

Sujata, you have a very credible argument about the employment scenario, and the changing demographics, the outsiders do help the economy here, there are bad locals here who bribe their way for their benefits, how does this explain the whole scenario? all this projects is an imaginary coin where the heads has nothing in common with the tails but what about the other imaginary coin (played by the locals) good locals vs bad outsiders

what I mean to say is while the bad local people created a coin, you discussion creates this another coin while the problem happens to be like a cube with many faces, lets face it , when we say there are good people who happen to be insiders or outsiders, it goes without saying that there are bad people in both the groups. Now dont you think, that the Bangalorean happens to the persons who are good in both the groups? This is the reason, I feel these issues has to be solved by a Bangalorean by being a Bangalorean, here is how I feel a Bangalorean could be like,

http://bengalooru.blogspot.com/2006/04/bangalorean.html

I dont intend to further the classification of insiders and outsiders, you have done a good job of showing the flaws in the insider, here are a few examples where an Insider including a Bangalorean feels bad,

Recently in a Bangalore centric blog, a person asks what the red and yellow flags stand for? the person refers to the insane actions by the rioters during Dr. Rajkumar's death, but dont you think the person crosses the line when the persons words look like this,

"The guys with the red and yellow flags riding on bikes beating shopkeepers and other people up?

Just curious. What are the flags supposed to signify? And are these streetfighters temporary members of any organisation? Or is it something like a bharatised version of the KKK? Where can I meet any of these people one-on-one?"


The first and the last sentence are OK, how about the middle part. Cant the educated have time to search online for the flag or common sense to rephrase the lines? I dont want to cause some diversions but I do have the link to the post.

What do you think of people ignoring the Kannada Language. The activists who deface the banners that are only in english are insane, but people speaking Kannada in the malls are really not treated at par with the people speaking English. There is a huge part of this world that does not speak english as their primary language, Eg, china, japan, Europe (minus UK), Latin America... Again I'm not a kannadiga but I do feel bad when two educated men make fun of an elderly person when he tried to help them with directions in Kannada. They mockingly ask, Dont you know English!

I mentioned the US for the reason, aren't people there like us, the people here both, a fraction of locals and a lot of outsiders had a lot to rejoice for the job opportunities at the cost of the people there, Just like the people there are really not justified for their outcry (in a globalised world), The locals have no justification in blaming the outsiders for the state of the city and similarly the outsiders need not be so ignorant of the local sentiments. -- oops the division really does not work!

Another thing people expect deep within their hearts is an Urban American setup in Bangalore, the problem is we are nowhere near them, be it economically, or in infrastructure. Modern America has had to go through 200 plus years for its present day status, we only have a few decades, Yes we have come a long way, but we do have to go a long way to be there!

You are right when you say,

And these are not small contributions, mind you. The newcomers to this city are, each in his/her own way, contributing to the financial health of this city. The companies are bringing jobs, jobs are bringing people, people are bringing money that they are spending in the shops and theaters and restaurants, and as mentioned earlier, the money is bringing construction, and more jobs. I dare say that the companies are also driving a lot of the improvements that we are seeing in the city today (Bannerghatta Road being a fine example, perhaps the only one of public-private partnership in Bangalore)

but a city need not be defined just by an occupation or the other things that come with it. Even in the American history, the rich and powerful have tried to dominate the course of the city or region, like the oil companies in texas and the conditions of the poor.

I agree with your next paragraph about the growth of the city and the ending lines of the post couldn't be better.

In the end, all I want to say is
While I agree with your post, and going with the classification, you could have pointed out the flaws in the outside community, to have a more balanced view.

The classification needs to be discarded, it divides the Bangalorean, not just the people.

The solutions you give, could be given without reference to the division of the groups, like we(insiders and outsiders) need to make this a better place.

Finally I'm sorry if I understood your argument the wrong way! I'm trying to improve my way of expressing things.

Sujata, there are other things i'd like to clear with you, but it may not be appropriate to discuss here, is there any other way of off the blog discussion like , email or closed / Private blogs(like the one here). I have been following your post for the last 5 days, just was not sure what to discuss and what not to.

last but not the least how many people are willing to take stock of the Mayhem.


PS:, I agree with Tanay(remainconnected). Here is an explaination for the movie icons in southern India.

sty1975 said...

Having stayed in Blore previously am saddened to hear such retoric . Blore was a laid back city then maybe the change in the pace of the city has caught people unawares so they are clinging on to sights and sounds familiar to them so as to retain their identity . But if we are so critical of discrimintion in the western world why are we practising in on our home turf ???

Harish N Jeyavel said...

Here is an interesting article,
it discusses the advantage of branding a city,

Why some cities attract more talent than others?

Anonymous said...

Well-written sujatha. everyone "insider" or "outsider" has contributed to the city's growth. No one can take anyone else's job if he/she is qualified enough. Moreover India is a free country and all of us a right to live in part of the country. Anyone (even policemen inclusive) claiming that only natives of a state should live and not others, are carrying secessionist views and MUST be dealt severely in a court of law.

praveen77 said...

Well written Sujatha. However I can never concur with your thoughts about Bangalore being a global city and that anyone who crosses Bangalore is a Bangalorean. We are not on Mars or for that matter, in the "land of opportunities." Every city has a brilliant past and every city has certain unique features that differentiate it from the other cities. A mumbaikar swears by "aamchi mumbai" and a madrasis and mallus swear by their home towns. We are at least the "swalpa adjust maadkolli" types and I guess we have stretched way too ahead. I worked in different parts of the country and the world, and always tried to acclimatize to the environs and culture of the people with whom I share the same air and water. The natives accept you and it works to your advantage and good will. Unfortunately, our Karnataka govt was very benevolent then and accepted Hindi as our national language and every Thimma, Dinesha, and Hari talks that lingo and makes a person visiting Blore comfortable.

There has been some talk going around that, Blore has improved after IT stepped in.Yeah Blore has improved, but only for the IT folks and their dependants for the hypocrite lifestyles. Blore was cosmopolitan ever since we hadmajor PSUs set up here and there was influx of people from other parts of India then but they tried to gel with the natives here. I am a part of the IT industry unfortunately, and am sorry that though IT has helped the growth, but is also the reason for the downfall of the city.

Being born and brought up here, I am at a loss to explain the incident that happened after Anna's death. It was a blot on our city's image. All said and done, I only hope and wish that my Bengalooru is again green and I enjoy my stroll down the boulevard of MG road nonchalantly without crowded people jostling for a foothold.
N.B: My mother tongue is not kannada...but I am a proud kannadiga!!

-praveen

Has to be me said...

Thanx for the reassurance! :)

Ravi said...

Praveen seems to feel ashamed that Karnataka Govt. has accepted Hindi as national language. My dear friend you are not staying in an alien land, but in a nation which is part of India. I belong to another state, where I have seen people coming from all parts of the country and gelling well together. I was born and brought up there and never had any feeling that this fellow belongs to north/south/east/west India. Everyone moved there because of one sole reason, EMPLOYMENT. As a nation all the citizens have the freedom to move and stay in any part of the country. Accept the fact that the present situation in Bangalore is mainly because of most corrupt government officials who drain the entire public money in their pockets. Also it should be attributed to the government as when they were promoting the city to IT industry, why were they not futuristic to think in advance about the inflow of people and expansion of infrastructure. The state government has one of the highest taxes in the country, but where is the money going???
Stop blaming outsiders for spoiling the city and the culture. No one ever force locals to not follow their tradition.
This disturbing act that happened in Bangalore was because of some anti-social elements that enjoy breaking and destroying good things. How can anyone dance in front of camera after beating a local policeman or after burning buses?
Please find the answers to these questions and you will understand what was the reason for all this problem.

Sujatha said...

Dear all, thank you for your comments. They are well thought out and well argued. I'm frazzled for time a little bit now and am running around trying to do a few things. I will respond to your comments in a short while. In the meantime, please do keep the dialogue going. We need to air out these issues. That's one way of understanding what happened and why.

Anonymous said...

rajendra said

Why these people remain outsiders even after staying so many years in
Bangalore.

1) they never learn the local languauge.
2)they have contempt for every
thing local.
3) they want every one from officeboy,grocer,and even police
men to speak in their languauge or
english.
4) they call themeselves cosmpolitian which means any other
language other than kannada is ok.
5) I have heard several northies
commanding people by "'HINDI MEEY
BAAT KAARO''.
6) These people who enjoy Kannaddigas hospitality never miss
any oppurtunity to belittle and
insult them.
7) Is it necessary that even
driver/S.Guard/Office boy should
speak in only English/Hindi.
8) They forget that Bangalore is not any ''IT COOLIE''city but also
the capital of Karnataka.
9) They behave as if only because
of them only Bangalore was developed(may be before that kannadigas were living in jungle)
10)IT-COOLIES behave as modern day
brahmins,and believe that Software
is the solution for everything,including head-ache and
ass-pain.

Anonymous said...

This is first time on this forum for me and I like the discussion and find it pretty high level, intelectually. Congrats to the participants.

I left Bangalore for the US over 30 years ago and visit my family in Bangalore quite often, especially in the last ten years. I find it changed a lot, especially in the last 15 years.

Contrary to what people are saying about native speakers, I find that there are more of them and they a are more confidant bunch than 30 years ago. Yes, there are a lot of non-native speakers (outsiders?) who seems to live in Bangalore now. They seem to live in a slightly different world. I am not sure where their center of culture is. English plays? Hindi movies? Pubs?

The thing I really liked in this discussion is what the two people (jayvel and Praveen) said. For me they are true Bangaloreans - tolerant, respectful of native paople, culture, and language. Many non-native speakers who have lived in Bangalore for many years and do not speak Kannada are either generally too old, not capable of learning other languages, too arrogant and chauvinistic of their own language (read Tamil and Hindi here), too insecure to learn and speak Kannada for not to be mistaken for local loser. I have seen many Kannada speakers meekly trying to accommodate the non-native speakers. This is more due to tolerant and non-chauvinistic attitude of Bangaloreans. This include non-native speakers such as Praveen and Jayvel on this fotum

I hope the attitude of the 'outsiders' will not make these tolerant, sweet natives into those Shivasena type in Bombay.

Sujatha said...

Naveen, you're right. In hindsight, it's easy to say that the police should have anticipated these riots, but if you stop to think about it, how does any expect violence as a response to mourn the natural death of a person, even if the death being mourned is of an icon?

N, I second your hopeful thought as well. Not clear though how this is racism.

Tanay, your thoughts, particularly those that exhort people to work together to solve problems are commendable. That is the ideal way to address an issue. Labelling people as "indigenous" or "outsiders" does nothing to even start addressing the problems faced by Bangalore.

Sujatha said...

Jeyavel, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I'm putting my thoughts down here as I follow yours.

just because someone created problem by dividing people for their own perceived benefit, the solution does not necessarily lie in giving into the division or trying to question the division.

While I agree that the solution does not lie in giving into the division, we do need to question it and try to figure out the reasons for arriving at the conclusion that a division does exist. If we don't question it, we might as well say that we are accepting that the division exists for the reasons given by the person creating the division.

similarly the outsiders need not be so ignorant of the local sentiments.

Absolutely. As the saying goes, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." And we Indians are very good at that, generally, when we go abroad. We stand in lines, don't crowd around the counter, take on an American accent, Australian accent or British accent, learn to hold the door open for the person following us, etc., but we fail to do that in our own backyard.

I do feel bad when two educated men make fun of an elderly person when he tried to help them with directions in Kannada. They mockingly ask, Dont you know English!

Yes, I would feel bad in that situation too. And it is a sure sign that those residents of the city that do not know the language or local customs do need to make every attempt to integrate themselves within the city. But this is a problem that is very different in character than the one described in The Week essay I quoted. Even if two impolite people ridicule someone for not knowing English, there is no justification for blaming them for the unemployment problems in the city. Can the sort of violence we saw be attributed to this? My view is, yes, there was violence, yes, there is frustration among a section of the people, but blaming "outsiders" for the problem is not doing right by anybody.

I do agree that we need to arrive at a definition of a Bangalorean without resorting to the "indigenous"/"outsider" classification. I like your approach on your blog. Rather than even having a list of what makes a Banglorean, if everyone who lived here just starting thinking of himself/herself as a Banglorean, things would certainly be heading in the right direction.

the ending lines of the post couldn't be better.

Thank you!

Thank you also for giving this issue the consideration it deserves. Feel free to write to me or leave comments here about whatever you'd like to discuss.

Sujatha said...

Sty1975, that's a very good question.

Anon, thanks and well said.

Praveen, thanks. No matter where we live in the world, people are going to gravitate towards where the opportunities are. Mumbaikars may swear by "aamchi mumbai", but people from other parts of the state and country flock to that city as well in search of opportunities. Whether residents of those cities end up living in harmony or not really depends on the mind-set of the people, but the "indigenous" ones and the "outsiders". As Rajagopalachari once said, "we can't change the weather, but we can control our attitude towards it."

Ravi, thank you for your comment. I do agree that we need to assign the correct reasons for what happened, no matter what they may be.

Rajendra, thank you for your comment. Yes, as I've mentioned, people need to respect and follow local traditions whereever they may be, but, again, how does not following local customs translate to blaming "outsiders" for the gap in standard of living between "indigenous" people and "outsiders"?

Anon, thanks for visiting and commenting.

Anonymous said...

The violence that followed the death of Dr.Raj was shocking and in complete contrast to the values held by this proud son of karnataka. Our Bangaloru has been known since ages as a haven for peace and civility and deserves that these qualities continue as integral qualities of this city. I am a proud Kannadiga and cherish the little time that I now get to spend in Bangalore, away from the US

Harish N Jeyavel said...

Sujata, here is an explanation for my comments,

questioning the division - a better solution
Lets take an example of building a road from point A to point B, if there is an obstacle, say an hill, what are the options we have,

1. Give up construction and forget the road (that is like giving into the division)

2. Constructing a road on the surface of the hill along the slope (impractical, there is nothing on top of the hill)

3. Doing away with the hill (that is like questioning the division, we will need a lot of resources here)

4. Circumventing the hill, not the best of solution but it does achieve the purpose in connection the two points.

later on, when there is enough resources, a tunnel through the hill, would be a good option, Lets face it in our case, we can't do away with the hill its going to be a part of landscape!

Besides by questioning the division, though one takes a moral stand, the issue is only going to polarize the people, thereby not serving the purpose!

Lets not forget issues like this have something more than two sides of the coin!

The example of the two men mocking the elderly man, for not knowing english, was meant so bring to notice that "the outsiders" are not only bring money and development but also not so good feelings, these outsiders are Indians, our own people, I'm not targeting any sect or group of people but... Would the educated men expect english from everyone even in places like Delhi or Mumbai? Even the foreigners behave well with local people who don't speak english!

In your post you list all the good things the people from outside Bangalore have contributed, it is true, but don't you feel it would be right to present the other side too? You do take a moral stand when you question the division, that does not mean one should support only one group, a few instances of outsiders misbehaving with locals does not discredit your arguments. You could have even added how the outsiders are harassed by the police, like a couple being taken to the police station, and the woman is charged of being a prostitute and the man seeking her!. Presenting both sides of the issue, especially the trouble one goes though regardless of ones origin will help people come closer!

We need locals to support outsiders when they are harassed, and outsiders need to blend in with the locals without losing their identity.

My explanation is not intended and does not justify the blame game!

finally, some people especially the youth, have very wrong idea about the term Cosmopolitan,

A place is not Cosmopolitan, just because one can have his / her way with anything (though many stay within legal limits, many cross the moral lines)! Indians have a wrong notion that speaking English is more cosmopolitan, If Bangalore were to be an english speaking town, we would not be what we are today! Australia has a handful of wonderful cities, how many of then are really Cosmopolitan? on the other hand, aren't some cities in Canada a shade better because of the french?

The page on wikipedia gives a better explanation of the term Cosmopolitan.

Mallik said...

Hey, guys I have been following this post since it began. Though I am not so good with words and all, I can confirm one thing that the people that took part in the riots are not those that can understand or aware of what we are talking here. I love everything that is going on on this post, all your comments, say debate and thoughts. Are blogs here only to express what we think ? Is our responsibility ends here ? If the answer is yes, I dont think the very existence of this post hardly can make any sense. I dont know what kind of people, and what kind of influence you guys have, or not even know if you live in this city. But, what I would liek to see is, let your thoughts and intellectual analyses reach the folks who really need them, needed to be educated in real sense of living-together, the true bridge between "insiders" and "outsiders". I dont see any value to any argument or proposal until unless it manifests itself where it should be. If blogs are here only to discuss, pat and feel good after reading them time and again, I suggest better we are off from this kind of issues, and post on travel info, birds, animals, places, lakes, buildings, cine actors/actresses I love them that they are very true. But the stuff so complex like this, some social issues, they need action, not words/books, they are there hundreds, written by intellectuals and finally read by intellectuals again. No use. :). Take up something, organize co-bloggers, and conduct seminars and healthy debates, let people know how to live amicably with their different identities in the same city. I am sorry, I might have sound a little emberrassing suddenly.

prashanth said...

Hi there,

I have been in bangalore for almost 20 years now, though not born here. I remember bangalore in those days, when it was considered as a "pensioners paradise". all roads seemed big, places were all clean, people never had an issue with the city...

Everyone seems to agree that the main reason for the breakdown of the city is unplanned growth.

"Unplanned growth", what did the governments do about this?? Can't see much to date..

Successive governments use minority appeasement to come to power. Use the same trick to stay in power.

One man tried to change things some years back, by re-organizing the largest growing sector(IT sector) in the city. He gave the IT-BT Sector a dedicated area to start-up companies, introduced a lot of innitiatives for this sector.

What happenned to him?? He and his party was branded "anti-farmer" . The opponents again used the appeasement theory at the next elections. Its outcome saw the hard working CM out of the state govt. and even out of state politics. He was made the governer of a neigboring state.

Matters still havent changed with the change of govt.Dirty politics are still being played at the expense of growth in this city.

If this goes on, then i guess we may be witnessing the death of a beautiful city.

Vinay said...

Well i agree that everyone is welcome to stay wherever he wanst in india. But each region has its own culture, language, and traditions. When people dont accept the local culture, language, and traditions the they become outsiders. Todaty we have a situaton wher in we see people making fun of the local language and its culture, then why would they be considered as insiders or as one of you. Wat i cant understand is that the same person when he travells to US tries to follow the culture her, but he wouldnt change when he moves to Bangalore.

I think a change in the mind set of the people would actualy help in reducing the insider outsider debate

Jaggi said...

This is a great topic -- insider and outsider-- for a Bangalore person. It's up to the person what he or she wants to be. If you are secure and want to learn and ennoy all the local culture, people, arts etc, learn the local lingo, become an 'Insider' and enjoy. If you are stuck up, and insecure (aping US, Uk or any 'white' culture), sure speak in "English" and don't identify as a local and be an 'Outsider.'

On another matter, I was in Bangalore when the Rajkumar died and there was reports of all this riot and mayhem. I was visiting a friend near Yashwantpur on that evening and bumped into a whole lot of poeple returning from the funeral and walking to the bus station and railway station and were asking direction to get there. They seemed like sweet and simple rural folks. I can't believe these reports broadbrushing all those who were there for Dr. Rajakumar's funeral as fanatics and anti-IT anti-'Outsider' etc. It's just plain laziness of the writer's part to characterize the people as fanatics. I think it's just a few bad apples who took advantage of the situation to break windows of some offices.

Sujatha said...

Anon, thank you for sharing your views.

Jeyavel, thank you for your comments. I understand and agree with what you are saying. My point was that, some sources are trying to create divisions and the attributing the frustrations of some portion of the city's residents to that division (here, the division between "indigenous" and the "outsider"). That is plain wrong. Yes, both sides have their faults and have their virtues. But no matter how many vices the "outsiders" have (including not being nice), my question is, how does that explain why the "indigenous" people have no jobs? Why should the "outsiders" be blames for the "indigenous" people not having jobs? This is a very narrow allegation and does not even attempt to address the larger philosophical questions.

I do say in my essay that "outsiders" should try to integrate into their surroundings, and most of them do try, they are all human after all. It's human nature to try to fit in. Of course, there may be some bad apples, like the two immature kids who make fun of the guy for not speaking English.

No matter how much we all feel that "outsiders" are not doing their bit to integrate or that they make fun of the local culture or that they are bad, bad, people, it in no way serves as an explanation for why they are blamed for the bad employment situation in the city. Will the "indigenous" people find it easier to swallow the bitter pill of unemployment if the "outsiders" are perceived to be "nicer"? Will food magically appear on everyone's tables? Will the guy who has a peon's job in an ond-style company suddenly feel generous about a young "outsider" making five times more than he does in an MNC? Will the "indigenous" person feel better if his neighbor speaks Kannada but still takes away his job?

Sujatha said...

Mallik, that would be a great initiative. Talking about this issue on blogs is certainly one way of kick-starting it, though. I wouldn't think it is wasteful at all. What you are suggesting requires a loooootttt of energy, something I will have in short supply for the next few months (for good reasons). :)

Prashanth, I think you are on the right track.

Vinay, agree with what you're saying, but please see my response to Jeyavel's comment above.

Jaggi, you say "I think it's just a few bad apples who took advantage of the situation to break windows of some offices.

I agree. Instead of laying the blame on this issue, some quarters have gone off on a tangent to lay the blame for the frustration on completely undeserving people.

Naveen said...

I don't think anyone blamed "outsiders" for things that happened post rajkumar's death. And neither were IT cos. targeted by the vandals. Microsoft's office was attacked coz it was close to rajkumar's house and because a glass facade is rather inviting for stone throwing goons.
The only places where things were vandalized were the areas close to his house and the areas through which his mortal remains were taken in procession. Yes, Bangalore was shutdown for two days but such things don't happen always right? It was a momentous occasion and frankly, even a well-armed police squad couldn't have done anything considering the size of the crowd that had gathered at that point of time.
And the national press happily described all the fans of rajkumar as arsoning goons. I was stunned by such broad generalizations. For the hundreds of goons out there, there were millions more who were shedding tears silently at home, both for his passing away and for the mindless violence thereafter.
The some quarters blaming the IT crowd for their uncaring attitude isn't true because I have been following the vernacular press for sometime and nowhere have people blamed anyone else for the incidents. Pls don't go by the national press because they don't know the city or its pulse very well. To them, B'lore is very cosmopolitan (without understanding what cosmopolitanism is all about) and very open-minded. But in reality, B'lore like most Indian cities is very conservative in its outlook. Conservative is not necessarily backward looking. People are very helpful and friendly but will definitely misunderstand you if you start showing anti-local attitude and think that B'lore starts and ends at MG Road, Brigade Road and the IT corridor.
Frankly, most blogs talking about the incidents have been very condescending about the localites and painting them with a broad brush of anti-IT, anti-globalization etc. I wonder how many bloggers have even ventured into the older areas of B'lore which house more than 75% of the population to understand the city and its soul. Does anyone know that nearly 40% of the IT crowd (acc. to some survey done one or two years back) hail from North, West and South B'lore which are the old B'lore areas? B'lore isn't just Whitefield, Koramangala, Indiranagar and Electronics City. If you happen to stay in these areas, there are very high chances that you wouldn't have visited the actual cosmopolitan areas of B'lore where a Sindhi, a Kannadiga, a Tamilian, a Telugu or a Punjabi coexist side by side. All such people should come off their high horses and know the city better before lecturing people on cosmpolitanism.

Sujatha said...

I don't think anyone blamed "outsiders" for things that happened post rajkumar's death.

Naveen, that is precisely what Dattani's essay is doing.

Naveen said...

Thats why I said that the vernacular press which knows the pulse of Bangalore better didn't get into any blame game with "outsiders". The national press knows very little about B'lore, atleast going by the week long coverage sometime back on CNN-IBN. As far as I know, even the Banaglore/Karnataka editions of English newspapers didn't play the "blame the outsiders" game. One essay on some weird hypothesis about "who to blame" is not enough to say that the localites are blaming all and sundry except themselves for the incident.

Sujatha said...

Naveen, it is heartening to see your comment. I do hope that it is an isolated case.

Jaggi said...

As I follow this discussion on 'Outsider/Insider,' I am reading the book "Bangalored - Expat Story" by Eshwar Sundaresan which I picked up in Bangalore last month while visiting the city. It's an interesting book about the experiences of the expats (non-Indians) working and living in Bangalore. Since it is mostly case studies, we don't know what the impression of the general expat population is. Having grown up in the West and Northern part of Bangalore (there was no East in those times), I am fascinated by all the new parts of Bangalore and its inhabitants. I can't wait to go and see those places the next time I visit Bangalore.

Are there any articles or books on the impressions of the Bangalore residents who have arrived in the last five years or so and not yet fluent in local (non-English speaking)culture? It would be interesting to read and compare it to our own impressions. This may help us to define who and what is a 'Bangalorean'

Anil P said...

When numbers matter, and if those numbers look the same as you, speak the same language as yours, and go back together a long way the place becomes 'theirs' and the rest are 'outsiders'. And because 'outsiders' left their hometown, leaving behind their comfort zone, and their culture for a new place it goes without saying that they'd be more enterprising, possibly more driven than those who haven't. And this can hurt the 'locals'. Enterprise, guts that bring glory always hurt the entrenched.

Sujatha said...

Hi Jaggi, thanks for your comment. I've not come across any such articles. If I do, I'll leave a comment here and would appreciate it if you did the same.

Anil, good take on the issue. Immigrants go to a new place because they have something to prove or achieve.

Anonymous said...

THINKER SAID,
THE REASONS FOR RIOTS WERE DEFINITELY AGAINST OUTSIDERS.THERE R MANY REASONS.
FIRST IS "IT"- I COULD NOT GET INTO "IT" BCOZ OF OUTSIDERS.ANY AVERAGE PERSON WITH RIGHT CONTACTS IN IT COMPANIES CAN GET IN. NO NEED TO TELL ABT FAKE EXP,CERTIFICATES OF THESE OUTSIDERS-ESPECIALLY TAMILS & TELUGUS.I AM WORKING IN A MANUFACTURING CONCERN FOR LAST 12 YEARS.STILL MY SALARY HAS JUST REACHED(RATHER CRAWLED) 5 DIGIT. I AM FRUSTRATED,FEEL LIKE BASHING ALL THESE IT GUYS,STONE THEIR BUSES,BURN THEIR OFFICES-.THERE R MILLIONS OF KANNADIGAS LIKE ME WHO FEEL THAT WAY.
GLOBAL BRAND BANGALORE DOES NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE TO ME.YES,"IT"HAS MADE MY LIFE DIFFICULT BCOZ OF SKYROCKETING COST OF LIVING.I CAN'T EVEN DREAM OF BUYING A PLOT 20 KMS AWAY FROM BLORE! WHEREAS "IT" GUYS CAN BUY FLATS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY FOR ANY PRICE.THERE IS A VISIBLE DISPARITY IN INCOME LEVELS & IS INCREASING.
I HAVE TO HANG ON BMTC BUSES WHEREAS THESE IT GUYS ZOOM IN SWANKY CARS. THE TRAFFIC PROBLEM WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN SO MUCH HAD THERE BEEN A SIZEABLE NUMBER OF KANNAIDGAS IN IT-COS.
IN THIS KIND OF ATMOSPHERE DON'T EXPECT PEACE & TRANQUILITY."IT" GUYS R A SMALL SECTION OF THE SOCIETY AND NEED NOT BE GIVEN SO MUCH OF IMPORTANCE.
OUR PM LAYS FOUNDATION FOR A ROAD EXCLUSIVELY FOR THESE IT-GOONS AND SAYS BE OPEN TO OUTSIDERS.
AGREED MR.PM.WHAT UR GOVT HAS DONE FOR KARNATAKA'S INFRASTRUCTURE? U THINK BLORE IS KARNATAKA & VICE-VERSA.WHAT ABT RAIL PROJECTS? U R NOT ABLE COMPLETE EVEN GUAGE CONVERSIONS. RAILWAYS HAVE TAKEN 12 LONG YEARS TO COMPLETE BLORE-MLORE G.CONVERSN! BUT THESE PROJECTS R COMPLETED IN TIME IN NEIGHBOURING STATES,BCOZ THEY HAVE REGIONAL PARTIES THAT SUPPORT U.AND ARM-TWIST FOR THEIR JOBS.THEY HAVE SO CALLED UNION-MINISTERS WHO ACTUALLY R MINISTERS OF THEIR STATES PUSHING FOR PROJECTS FAVOURING THEIR STATES.
WE DIDN'T BEHAVE LIKE THAT AND PAYING FOR VOTING NATIONAL PARTIES.

WELL,ALREADY V R PAYING THE PRICE FOR BEING TOLERANT FOR CENTURIES.TAMILS WHO CAME HERE FOR A LIVING STARTED IMPORTING THEIR TRIBE, AND WANT TO DOMINATE THE AFFAIRS.WELL,THEY R GIVEN PROPER ANSWER BY KANNADA ORGANISATIONS TIME & AGAIN.

ON TOP OF THIS THEY DEMAND THEIR MOVIES TO BE SCREENED IN OUR STATE.WANT TO PROMOTE THEIR LANGUAGE.
THEREFORE, PEOPLE LIKE ME SUPPORT ALL THOSE RIOTERS. WHEN WE R NOT GETTING JOBS IN THESE IT-COMPANIES, WHY SHUD OUTSIDERS PROSPER AT OUR COST.
NO PLACE IN THE WORLD IS SO BROADMINDED TO ACCOMODATE OUTSIDERS IN SUCH LARGE NUMBERS,GIVING AWAY SUCH LUCRATIVE JOBS ON A PLATTER.
WE CARE A HOOT WHAT OUTSIDERS THINK.THAT IS HOW WE ARE.
THE INDUSTRY AND GOVT SHUD TAKE STEPS TO CORRECT THIS, ELSE THE SITUATION MAY GO OUT OF CONTROL.
IT IS NATURAL.IF U R IN IT-INDUSTRY U SUPPORT "IT" ELSE U OPPOSE "IT".

WE ALSO KNOW HOW OTHER CITIES ARE COSMOPOLITAN! TAKE BOMBAY,WHERE OUTSIDERS R BASHED BY SHIVSAINIKS BEFORE THEY ALIGHT FROM THE TRAINS.

DITTO GUJARAT,ANDHRA,KOLKATA, COCHIN, AND LESS SAID THE BETTER ABOUT CHENNAI. MAKE UR CITIES FIRST OUTSIDER FRIENDLY AND LATER GIVE LECTURE ON COSMOPOLITANISM.

THE PROBLEM WITH KARNATAKA IS V DO NOT HAVE A REGIONAL PARTY,WHICH I AM SURE WILL SHORTLY EMERGE GIVEN THE SCENARIO. THEN WE CAN HOPE TO THINK OF PROSPERITY OF KANNADIGAS.

AND FINALLY,WHOEVER KANNADIGAS MERIT MY ANSWER IS IT IS BCOZ OF KANNADIGAS U GUYS R HERE IN BLORE WHICH IS IT-CAPITAL.

Damn the northies said...

hey check out www.disinfectbangalore.blogspot.com

angada said...

I think...

'Insider' is a person who not only contributes to the city's development financially by paying taxes, but also contributes to the enhancement of a city's culture by adding his/her own values while preserving (or atleast respecting) the original outlook of the city. Just an example - B'lore has been a clean city. People have to take good care of it. The old guns have always educated their next-gen about the importance of keeping the city neat and clean. Anyone who does not follow that does not identify with the city and is an outsider.

It is sad to see a lot of natives and recent additions to the city not identifying with such a great city which set the standards for the most livable cities till a few years ago.

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kannadiga said...

Guys, you have to remember that Bangalore is the capital city of Karnataka state. It is not just some industrial city. If the people who move in to this city dont gel with the city's language and culture, there is bound to be a problem. The onus to adjust lies with the person who moves in - not with the existing people who live there. Do you think that if Chennai or Ahmedabad or Hyderabad are overwhelmed by people from other states to the extent that local language/culture become obscure, then the local people will keep quite and continue to co-operate with a smiling face? The locals are not forcing everyone in India to talk in their language or follow their culture. They just want to retain their language & culture in their own city. Is it wrong to do so? The word 'insider' - refers to anyone who understands/follows the local language & culture - no matter where they were born. Anyone who does not follow is an outsider.

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