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Dangerous Drapes... & other stories


The saffron drapes donned by Balasaheb before his death and the tricolor drapes placed on him after his death are both dangerous to the unity and integrity of India.

With the demise of Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, an era of turbulence came to an end. An era in which non Maharashrians were hated as much as Pakistanis in the name of Maharashtra's "asmitai"; an era in which anybody who did not pay tremendous respect to Shivaji and the saffron drapes was ridiculed beyond redemption.

Through most of his political life Balasaheb clad himself in saffron drapes. He founded the Shiv Sena, the right wing Hindu Nationalist and Marathi ethnocentric party. This party only managed to spread its tentacles in Maharashtra and mainly in Mumbai. This is where Balasaheb spat his marmik venom against the growing influence of Gujaratis, Marwaris and South Indians. Niz Mumbaikars called him "Hindu Hridaysamraat" while non Maharashtrians respected him out of fear of oppression by his fanatic followers.

Shiv Sena spewed its anti socialist and anti communist venom and wrested the control of trade unions in Mumbai from the Communist party of India. Then there were allegations that Sena demanded protection money from Gujarati and Marwari business leaders in Mumbai.

On June 28, 1999 Balasaheb was banned from voting and contesting any election for six years from December 11, 1999 till December 12, 2005. This was on the recommendation of Election Commission.

In his interview to Asiaweek Balasaheb said, "I am a great admirer of Hitler and I am not ashamed to say so!"

In an interview to Indian Express published on 29 January 2007, he said, "Hitler did cruel and ugly things but he was an artist and I love him for that!"

In 2002, Balasaheb issued a call to form Hindu suicide bomber squads in response to Islamist suicide bombers and other terrorists. In response, Maharashtra Government registered a case against him for inciting enmity between different groups.

He told India Today in an interview published on June 15, 1984 "Muslims are spreading like cancer and should be operated upon like cancer" "The country should be saved from the Muslims"

In an era where technology is rapidly and relentlessly trying to turn this world into a global village, here was a man who preached division of Maharashtra's society on regional as well as religious, communal lines for his own selfish motives !

Balasaheb had absolutely no qualms about what has been enshrined in the  Constitution of India which declares in Article 1(i) "India that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States". Mind you, UNION, not a confederation where each State is dependent on the Center only for currency, defense and foreign policy. Article19(1)(e) "All citizens shall have the right to reside and settle in any part of India" Of course reasonable restrictions apply.

Balasaheb's policy treated non-Maharashtrians as outsiders in Maharashtra. This is unconstitutional and therefore illegal.

I find it little illogical to call such a leader of fascist nature "Hindu Hridaysamraat." Well, it's my personal view I should be allowed to express in a democracy, if not in any fascist regime. 

I am a Hindu and I am happy to say that Balasaheb was an anti India leader that spawned in Mumbai taking advantage of the confused bhumiputras who wanted the fat salaries and security.

India already has three senas -- thal sena, nau sena and vayu sena. What is the need of Shiv Sena and Ram Sena ? Are we preparing for a civil war?

There are people who say Balasaheb's seniority should be respected. All I have to say is respect is commanded, never demanded. Respect,to me is associated with morally sound work.

Should the 21 year old Shaheen Dhada have respected Balasaheb? No. Not at all. But the 21 year old Shaheen Dhada should respect the Constitution of India. Indeed every Indian MUST respect the Constitution of India and act in the manner enshrined therein.

The saffron drapes donned by Balasaheb before his death and the tricolor drapes placed on him after his death are both dangerous to the unity and integrity of India.

The question however remains is: despite all these negatives, why did this "Saheb" succeed in Mumbai ? Why did two and a half million people gather to pay their respect to him ? Can success of Balasaheb be termed failure of Indian democracy ?

Balasaheb's political debut came in late 1960s. At this time the managements of Mumbai's industries were struggling to tame the belligerent trade unions. It is no coincidence that the name "Shiv Sena" was invented by an industrialist and Balasaheb's mentor Mr Ramakrishna Bajaj. Shiv Sena in those days was called a puppet in the hands of the industrialists who used it to intimidate the union activists who were mostly communists. Again in 1960 the Samyukta Maharashtra movement succeeded in securing a Marathi speaking province. Sena derived automatic legitimacy from this movement. To this Balasaheb shrewedly added the fodder of his Bhumiputra policy. This heightened the popularity of the Sena and legitimised the Sena's modus operandi.

In defence to Sena's intimidation the Communists devised their own self defence squads organised by their valiant CPI legislator Mr Krishna Desai. In 1970 Desai was literally chopped to pieces. Left wingers were furious and demanded an organised campaign against Sena's violence. However CPI General Secretary Mr Sripad Amrut Dange vetoed this idea. This one act of omission catapulted the Sena to invincibility in Mumbai. Sena's next step was perhaps to infiltrate the police. This further protected them and enhanced their legitimacy in the eyes of the average Niz Maharashtrian. Next the Sena conditioned the popular Bollywood into submission by its reward and punishment tactic. Thus with the blessings of Mumbai's rich and famous and with the police under their command the Sena soon mastered the art of shutting down Mumbai.

Balasaheb's political shewedness and foresight again came to the fore the way he used the Ram Janam Bhumi issue to embrace distilled Hindutva and, according to Srikrishna commission, literally directed the 1993 Mumbai riots.  In its report the Commission eloquently and unambiguously opined " from January 8, 1993 there is no doubt that Shiv Sena took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders from the Sakha Pramukh to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackerey who like a veteran general commanded the loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organising attacks against Muslims". 

Balasaheb thus became the de facto king of Mumbai. To his aid came the facts that he was a brilliant tactician and a charismatic orator.

In fact can Balasaheb's success be also a failure of Indian Judiciary? Balasaheb's hate speeches and Saamnaa editorials ended without conviction despite cases filed in Mumbai High Court.The High Court, in 1994, dismissed his petition and held that the editorials immediately after the Babri Masjid demolition were "not against Muslims but against anti-social elements and the attitude of the police, army and government" and therefore did not fall under sections 153A or 153B to cause ill-will and communal disharmony. The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal against the High Court order that was passed by a bench of Justices C R Majithia and M L Dudhat on September 26, 1994.

It was thus Balasaheb's shrewd use of the ongoing political environment coupled with sheer luck and a few court decisions that made him what he became to Niz maharashtrians -- a SAHEB !

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.


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