When Osama Bin Laden spouts his venom, he insinuates to speak for all Muslims. We (rightly) get frustrated by the fact that mainstream muslims do not do enough to repudiate him and yet claim that he is not representative of them. Well… it seems that Osama Bin Laden is not the only vicious dog in the pen. There are others like the Thackerey-trio who have made a career of operating in the sewers and expounding their gutter minds in public.
Most of the time I have been content with treating them with a quiet disdain because I knew that the primary purpose of their fulminations is cheap publicity and I did not want to contribute to their goal of being the subject of conversation. However, it seems that they are no longer satisfied with being in the gutters and are discovering new depths in the nether-reaches of public discourse. What makes this intolerable is their penchant for indiscriminate violence and bloodshed. Of late, they seem to be showing self-righteous outrage at Indians immigrants being harassed in Australia while conveniently overlooking the fact that they are practicing the same xenophobia themselves.
This is THE time to rise and denounce these vermin. Every thinking person – and more to the point – every thinking ‘Marathi Manoos’ needs to criticize and marginalize this filth of the sewers that claims to speak in their name. So here I am – a Mumbaikar and a Maharashtrian – unequivocally rejecting and repudiating the venom spouted by Bal Thackerey, Raj Thackerey and Uddhav Thackerey!
Rooted in separatism.
The Shiv Sena (and its mutant progeny, the MNS) have always been exclusively rooted in separatism. It has ALWAYS been their approach to harness the hardships and difficulties of ordinary folks and re-cast it as an evil conspiracy of “outsiders” to subjugate them and to mis-appropriate their wealth.
Undoubtedly Mumbai’s glitter and razzmatazz is mesmerizing to most of its inhabitants. But, the ‘Marathi-manoos’ (Marathi-speaking person) is told that he has a “special entitlement” to the prosperity that Mumbai projects – simply due to the accident-of-fate of having been born into a Marathi-speaking family. Moreover, he is told that the only reason such prosperity eludes him is because of the “outsiders” who have flooded the place and deprived him of his “rightful” prosperity.
Of course, the Thackereys NEVER carry the burden of being sensible. So, it is immaterial that Mumbai is Mumbai because of its inhabitants who are from ALL corners of the country. They ignore the fact that Marathi-speaking people have done nothing that non-marathi speaking people have not done in making Mumbai great. Its convenient for these paper-tigers to overlook the fact that Maharashtra is NOT a country and neither is Mumbai. The ONLY political entity that is relevant is INDIA and the only national identity that is pertinent is INDIAN. Dredging up all this nonsense about Mumbai v/s “outsiders” is pure BULLSHIT.
When have the Thackereys shared ANY of their immense wealth for the betterment of the Marathi-manoos? They own extraordinary amounts of PRIME PROPERTY. Have they built high-caliber schools so that Marathi-kids have an advantage? Have they built vocational-guidance for the Marathi-youth? Have they done ANYTHING for the upliftment of the Marathi-manoos and his capabilities? No! But they are at the forefront to decry the fact that nothing was done. In doing so they have created the impression that the hardships that Marathi-speaking people face are somehow different and more tragic that the hardship that ANYONE ELSE faces. The technical term for this is ‘demagoguery’. The dictionary defines it as a “leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power“.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale did the same thing in Punjab when he demanded Khalistan. The Kashmiri separatists are doing the same thing when they call for a distinction to be made in terms of their national-identity. The Thackereys find themselves in august company.
Let me be clear – I am not indifferent or callous to the hardships of Marathi-speaking people. My point is that this hardship is NO different than the hardship of any other Indian or Mumbaikar. A more sensible approach would be be agitate against the powerful forces that keep the masses repressed (irrespective of linguisitic affiliations). Instead, the Thackereys decided to vilify and torment the masses themselves.
Driven to publicity.
It would be reprehensible if the Thackereys actually believed all of their own bullshit. But it becomes even more repugnant when one sees that these are just empty slogans and pathetic attempts to get themselves in the news. After a brief stint in power, the Shiv Sena returned to political oblivion. They do not have a SINGLE good idea or a SINGLE program which would propel them to any political prominence. They have been repeated routed at the polls simply because they DO NOT have anything of value to offer. To counter this political marginalization, they have whipped up this Mumbai-for-Marathis platform. Its the ONLY idea they have. In fact it is the BEST idea that has ever germinated in an otherwise barren mind.
Like any 3rd-rate political dynasty, the Shiv Sena imploded over succession issues. It revealed itself to be a paper tiger with lots of growl but no bite. Having being banished from the Thackerey enterprise, Raj Thackerey licked his wounds and struggled to find a foothold. Manifestly bankrupt in ideas, he formed the MNS (Maharastra Navnirman Sena) and resurrected the old and tested wail of “Mumbai-for-Marathis”. This was an old slogan previously engineered by his uncle (Bal Thackerey) which brought him political prominence. He took his show on the road and predictably garnered some press-attention. He soon noticed that the press attention is directly proportionate to the celebrities that he can attach scandal to. This is when he directed his self-righteous indignation at Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and his family. Mr Bachchan is a MEGA-STAR and even reflected glory from him would be unimaginably more radiant than his current gloomy and dark days.
Meanwhile, the other testicle, Uddhav, was busy trying to get electoral success for the Shiv Sena – which ultimately eluded him (because he had nothing of value to offer to the electorate). This failure pushed the Sena further into political backwaters. This is when the old Thackerey gene for pointless indignation got activated. He climbed atop the shoulders of the Marathi-manoos and wailed about how the Marathi-manoos was being exploited. Evidently, the Thackerey gene is blind to irony.
Married to bigotry and violence
To demonstrate how much they cared about the Marathi-manoos, they launched a blood-n-fury campaign against “outsiders”. And pray who are these outsiders? Other Indians!
The swine of the Shiv-Sena and MNS adopted the Taliban as their role models and unleashed mindless and brutal violence upon other Indians (non Marathis) who reside in Mumbai. Since they don’t have ideas, they make it up with thuggery. This is their idea of restoring the pride of the Marathi Manoos.
All publicity is good publicity
Some months ago, Mr. Sachin Tendulkar completed 20 scintillating years in test-cricket. He has been an icon of gamesmanship and holds an extraordinarily high stature. In keeping with his sagely temperament, Tendulkar repudiated the pettiness of the Shiv Sena mindset. What made it pertinent is that Sachin Tendulkar is a cricketing legend, a Mumbaikar and a Maharashtrian.
Thackerey saw another opportunity to get press-time through the reflected glow of a true hero – Mr. Sachin Tendulkar. Since there is really no depth that the Shiv Sena will not descend to, Bal Thackerey himself took on the position of “rebuking” Tendulkar.
I want you to pause a moment and watch this in slow-motion so that you see and understand the stage-craft of a paper tiger.
The goal was to assume importance and prominence by posturing as though he were “rebuking” Tendulkar. He stated that young master was not even born at the time of Maharashtra’s creation (as though his two testicles, Raj and Uddhav were). He also stated that Mr. Tendulkar was not aware of the 105 people who lost their lives in the struggle that culminated in keeping Mumbai within Maharashtra (as though Mr. Thackerey was personally present at that struggle and that he was among thousands who sacrificed their lives in getting India her freedom).
The important thing to note is NOT the flimsiness of Mr. Thackerey’s argument. The thing to note is how he accrues attention and legitimacy by attaching himself (or his supposed cause) to prominent people and thus basks in their reflected glow.
Recently the Thackereys have waxed apoplectic demanding that all non-Maharashtrians living in Mumbai leave. They have vandalized cinema theaters that have screen movies of Shah Rukh Khan. They have hurled invective at Aamir Khan and called them “anti-national”. This is not driven by substantive ideology. It is driven by the simple fact that it gets them attention and publicity. In their pathetic world-view, bad-publicity is better than no publicity. To that extent the Thackereys are a political equivalent of 3rd rate porn star who gains attention by flashing her undies. The only difference is that she has something to offer.
The Thackereys do not seem to notice that they are lighting their own pyres. Their quest for political prominence has been so craven that they have not only alienated Mumbaikars (Marathi and Non-marathi) but they have also effected a breach with their erstwhile electoral cousins (other fascist organisations and parties like the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha etc.). How long will it be before they immolate themselves?
Mr. Thackerey is not an unknown country bumpkin. He is a well-known political entity. His party actually won a majority in a state election once. He and his party can be a force for good if they choose. The problem is that they have NO IDEAS. NO PROGRAM. NO DIRECTION. And so, they languish at the rock-bottom. Instead of re-building the party, re-branding their message and making it appealing to the masses, they have chosen to fabricate a problem and raised hell over it. Since they cannot or will not pull themselves out of the gutter, they would like to drag the rest of us into it.
This is precisely the thrust of the Thackerey/Sena platform – to make the public discourse into a sewer. Once it becomes a sewer, the sewer rats will always hold an advantage. We should treat them with the contempt they deserve.
Also See : Ram Sena – the Saffron Taliban