Bal Thackerey is no more. His funeral attracted lakhs of people. Mumbai remained shut for so many days. It is time to sit and ponder over the what really is the legacy of Sena. The champion of Hindu Nationalism enjoyed every damn thing which we claim as 'western' influence while spiting venom at 'outsiders'.
Mumbai's biggest event management show is over as the person who converted a cosmopolitan Bombay to a parochial narrow Mumbai was cremated with State Honor. A man who did not hesitate to violate the very principles of Indian tricolor was taken in the state carriage with his body wrapped in the Indian National Flag and was finally provided Guard of Honor before his mortal remains were consigned to flames. Is not it a tragedy that the Indian state that the man who should have been asked to account for his role in various riots in the city actually was seeking the same from others? A modern city of Bombay actually pathetically turned into a medieval one where fear became the buzz word.
The crowd assembled there was undoubtedly huge and it also shows how the issues raised by Thackerey touched the chord of the people in Maharastra. It reflects the failures of the secular leadership of the state which needed a Thackerey to legitimize itself to fight against 'communal' Shiv Sena. The party though wanted to dominate Maharastra politics yet never believed in democracy itself. The fact is that Thackerey was not a believer in democracy but Shiv Sena was necessary evil for him through whom he could run his 'Sarkar' and bargain with political parties particularly Congress which gave him strength and protection.
Often we hear from commentators that Thackerey was unambiguous and spoke what his heart wanted. Yes, that was a great quality but it is also a fact that those who believe in democratic voices and dissent can never speak like the fascists who damn care for anything and are ready to even kill people for dissenting with them. There was no space for dissent in Shiv Sena as party never really believed in democratic values as its core values were absolutely fanatic and fascist. That is why funds and crowd was never a problem for Shiv Sena as their core constituency ensured that 'everyone' participate in their programmes. Hence it was not out of 'love and affection' that people kept their market closed in Mumbai but out of fear. And here the elected government of Maharastra remained complete failure. It may have handled the situation politically but it allowed the atmosphere of fear to grip the city and that was condemnable.
The hypocrisy of the Indian elite from Bombay Film world as well as political class was visible. From the day when Thackrey's was on ventilator, Amitabh Bachchan tweeted and asked for prayers. If anyone who follow politics know about Amitabh Bachcchan then he turn out to be the biggest hypocrite who can keep one 'secular' Mulayam in his pocket on left side while the absolute right winger Narendra Modi on the other side. It is the same 'bhaiyaa' from UP, who would always flaunt his Hindi background in puritanism while dining with Bal Thackarey in the evening. How these contradictions are managed by these stars are well known to us but the people who throng at their films and shows must ask this question whether Amitabh Bachchan support Thackrey's fulminations and hate propaganda against the North Indians? Whether they and others who feel that Mumbai is now 'anaath' without him support Sena's digging the pitches before an Indo-Pak match? Whether Thackerey's threat to throw
Maharastra is the land of extreme contradiction. It was land where Tilak and later Sangh Parivar grew up. They always used the religious identities to build huge crowds during Dushara festivities. In true sense Maharastra was a purely brahmanical land. But this Brahmanism also got the biggest challenge in Maharastra and in the heart of their places. Right from Jyotiba Phule to Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Maharastra was a land of revolution of also. It created a new wave of assertion among the Dalits and other marginalized communities. Those commentators who are making the entire issue as unprecedented must visit Diksha Bhumi on every Dusshera day in Nagpur and Chaitya Bhumi on every December 6th to see what is unadulterated devotion to leadership and ideology. If the crowds are the measurement of popularity then definitely many in India can be unparalleled in that and particularly the cadre based parties are managers in bringing people but the crowds that throng Nagpur on Dusshera and Mumbai on December 6th come at their own to pay their respect to Baba Saheb Ambedkar. How many times, we report this event on our TV screens. Hence it is essential to understand why our political class as well as 'mainstream' media loves to create a larger than life size image of even the so-called 'undemocratic' people who it was crying against just few months back on the Marathi Manus issues. It want to create an impression that Brahmanism and Hindutva have got wider support in India and government must understand this but then Karunanidhi, Maywati, Lalu Yadav, Communist Parties can always manage huge crowds and have shown that too. How many time, we had live broadcast of their meetings and programmes?
There are few things about Thackerey, which most of the commentators portray that he was very unambiguous about his views and that he never hid his words, he spoke what he wanted. But that is exactly the quality of fascist characters. Since, they do not believe in any dissent and democracy they do not care what other think. A person like Thackerey was promoted by Congress to protect its own interest. The more his abuses and fulminations against Muslims and North Indian, the biggest was the opportunity for the party to project itself as the 'well-wisher' of this section. This has resulted in the marginalization of the Muslims in particular because their issues never got that much highlight as the north Indian media went on the other issue of Thackerey on the issue of Marathi Manus. For the votaries of Hindutva, Thackrey's anti-Muslim rhetoric made him an iconic figure but when the same Thackerey spoke against the North Indian or Mumbai becoming 'dharmshala' then the same clientele of Thackerey turned against him.
And that is why question may be asked as how has a person who spat so much of venom against Indian nationals from other state and different religion that he practiced, is given state honor in cremation and allowed the 'public' farewell. It has two meaning for me. One, that the entire Maharastra is sharply polarized like any other parts of the country on caste, religious and ethnic lines and that whatever Bal Thackerey spoke was accepted by the local Maharastrians particularly upper castes. Of course, it is also true that the Shiv Sena's largest vote share come from OBCs too who were used against naming of Marathwada University as Dr Baba Saheb University, against Dalits. Strange that we do not find much of the Bahujan politics in Maharastra where it originated in the form of vast struggles and social movements of Jotiba Phule and Chhatrpati Shahuji Maharaj. Is it not an irony that son of Prabodhan Thackerey, who was a devout follower of Joti Ba Phule and his Satya Shodhak Samaj rarely spoke about Phule and the struggle that he committed himself for social change.
It need to be analyzed whether we are witnessing an upper caste counter revolution in India these days which is being reflected in the form of Hindutva, anti-corruption movements or various other urbanized forums and then in the name of farmers, to make it rural also. There is a commonality among them. If the crowd at Thackerey's funeral or at Anna's Ram Leela or Arvind Kejriwal's dramas in Delhi, they are quintessentially upper caste middle class background people with deep prejudices towards the Dalits and Muslims. They were accused of not stepping out of their homes and were not a vote bank. Perhaps, it is an indication that they too are now becoming solid blocks so get their issues addressed by the power elite. Corruption never matter for Thackerey and the anti-corruption messiahs of India never bothered to touch him for it was clear that they know he never believed in niceties. As he was very clear about his perception, many times, it was felt, he spoke the language that suited political parties and other people.
The Babari Masjid was demolished on December 6th, 1992 in Ayodhya and Thackerey got an opportunity to spread his hate agenda in Mumbai. Another Maratha veteran Sharad Pawar was the chief minister of the state and yet when the communal riots began in Mumbai in January-February 1993, the police and administration was closely working with Shiv Sena gangs. Hundreds of Muslims were killed and there are proofs of the participation of various political leaders yet the state government did nothing. It never pursued cases against those culprits in these riots. What happen if the people do not get justice when their near dear ones are killed and butchered in front of them? We know international terrorism is there but we also know that this terrorism or ideas will never get support from people if justice is there. And in the aftermath of bomb blasts in Mumbai where underworld dons are considered to be the real culprits, the Mumbai police have been active in arresting Muslim youths. It is clear that the organisations like Sena were there to pressurize and communalise the entire administration and they succeeded. Today, Mumbai live in uncertainty as the underworld uses different guerrilla tactics to retaliate and avenge the attacks or discrimination against Muslims and Sena and its gang have active state support to protect the 'Hindus'. It is strange how they change their tactics. When the anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistani rhetoric does not work then Marathi Manus issue is raised so that non Marathis live in constant fear.
The dirty games of Sena are well known. Bala Thackerey was not just rabidly accusing and abusing Muslims but he stood against all forms of rights granted to Dalits and OBCs under Indian constitution. He vehemently opposed reservation for Dalits and OBCs and his Sena was responsible for bloody war in Aurangabad for the renaming of Marathwada University in the name of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in which thousands of Dalits came on the street and many sacrificed their lives for the cause. So, it is clear that the caste Hindus, afraid of Dalit assertion and rights of OBCs and Muslims found Shiv Sena 'candid' and 'unambiguous' but their own hopes were dashed when 'all of them clubbed' together in the name of 'Bihari' and were threatened with dire consequences. That way, Thackerey and his clans were helping Bihar's 'secular' leaders to get united under one umbrella shedding their caste identities which is still impossible for any state in India, leave alone Bihar.
In one of his interviews with Shekhar Gupta, on ' Walk the Talk' at NDTV, Thackerey was proudly drinking white wine with him which makes him different than others who will speak against smoking and drinking in public but will do the same in private. It is well known that he loved warm Indian beer. His Cigar was very famous and unlike other Sangh Parivar wallahs, he enjoyed life particularly with the glamour world and never hid his relationship with film stars. Irony is that the Hindutva brigade used Nehru's lifestyle to target him as a 'westerner' and always created an image as if smoking and drinking was the sign of an 'evil' person. Hopefully, with Bal Thackerey's open love for all these things, they will change their views and take people based on their ideology and action.
It was an open secret that he deeply respected personal relationship and fulfilled them. That is why even Sanjay Dutt who had problems in 1992 riots cases, got support from Thackerey. He admired Hitler though he said he was fan of his 'commanding' loyalty and communication skills. He admired Saddam Hussein and perhaps like them he too had a great fan following. Every fascist dictator world over has a greater fan following as they are attractive for many in the middle classes and for thousands suffering in poverty and misery find them as their real 'messiah'. In the democratic polity that we follow today, there are lots of ambiguities and pretensions but those who do not believe in these pretentions can speak unambiguously and challengingly and absolutely suitable for the status quoists.
Bombay had a historic legacy of labor movement and inclusive culture. It was a city which every Indian was proud of as it welcomed every one without making them feel insecure of their identity.
Today, it is Mumbai with Shiv Sainik being the real 'Sarkar' and the common men who came to the city for his life and survival is living at the mercy of these goons as the state government has completely abdicated its responsibility to protect the citizens of the state. The Thackerey legacy has ruined Mumbai. It does not matter whether there were two lakh people or two crore in his funeral, the only thing we all will remember that Thackerey's divisive and hate politics made a cartoon of Bombay where people are insecure, the infrastructure is crumbling and goons are roaming wearing political hats. Bombay was not created by Thackerey but he and his Sena ruined and handed us Mumbai with all its insecurities and parochialism.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
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