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India: Of Bal Thackeray, His admirers and His victims’

by Tapan Bose, 24 November 2012

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Bal Thackeray the self confessed admirer of Hitler and Nathuram Godese and a lover of Hollywood Westerns is dead. Over the past four decades he ruled over Shiv Sena, a party that targeted non-Marathi workers, petty traders, shopkeepers, Muslims and Dalits and migrants – harassed them, tortured them, killed them, looted their property and burnt down their homes and shops in the city of Mumbai in the name of protecting the interest of Marathi ’Manoos’. As the news of his death spread, Mumbai closed down fearing a repeat of the post Babri Masjid demolition pogrom which held Mumbai to ransom from December 5, 1992 to January 19, 1993. A young Muslim girl from Palghar who questioned the shutdown of Maharashtra on Thackeray’s death was arrested by Maharashtra police on charges of hurting religious sentiment and violation of the Cyber Act. Considering the role of Maharashtra police in the Mumbai pogrom of 1992/93 and its “successful” identification of Laskar-e-Toiba and SIMI as the main perpetrators of Malegaon bomb blast of September 2006, and the arrest of nine Muslim youth, one can understand why “Thackerayism” is religion for Maharashtra police and the Shiv Sainiks are their “brothers in faith”. In 2006, the Anti Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra police had categorically denied the role of any Hindu ultra nationalist groups in the Malegaon blast. In November 2006, Director General of Maharashtra police had announced evidence of involvement of two Pakistani terrorists in the same blast.

After the arrest of a Hindu God woman Shadvi Pragya Singh, Lt. Colonel Shrikant Purohit of Military Intelligence, Naba Kumar Sarkar and Swami Aseemanand and recording of their confessions in 2011, the involvement of a Hindu terrorist organisation in the terrorist attacks in Malegaon in 2006 and 2008, terrorist bombing of Samjhouta Express and Ajmer Sharif in 2007 and the bomb attack on Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad in 2007 was established.
While the Muslim youth spent seven years in jail under false charges, the Congress-NCP coalition government of Maharashtra is yet to punish a single police man who conspired to implicate the innocent. Earlier the Shiv Sena-BJP government had suppressed the findings of Justice Shrikrishna Commission of Inquiry into the Mumbai pogrom of 1992-93 and promoted all those police men who were indicted for their involvement in the killing of innocent Muslims. It is not just Shiv Sena, the Congress Party and or the National Congress Party also does not want to hurt the sentiments of “Marathi Manoos”.

Since Thackeray’s death, the media has gone into overdrive to tell all and sundry what a great man he was. Pranab Mukherjee, the President said in his death the nation lost a veteran leader who worked relentlessly for the ordinary man. Manmohan Singh the Prime Minister, praised him for inculcating a sense of pride in his people. Not to be outdone, Sharad Pawar, the NCP supremo and union Agriculture Minister praised Thackeray for his fierce pride in Maharashtra – a magnanimous leader who was ready to pay any price for his belief. Indeed Pawar was a recipient of Thackeray’s magnanimity. In 1982, at a public meeting in Parel’s Kamgar Maidan, Thackeray had anointed Sharad Pawar as the future chief minister of Maharashtra. President Pranab Mukherjee was another recipient of Thackeray’s “magnanimity”. Mukherjee had gone to Thackeray’s residence to seek his “blessings” during the presidential election. During the 2007 presidential election, when the Congress party did not have the numbers, Thackeray had extended similar blessings to Pratibha Patil. In 1975, Thackeray supported the Emergency. In 1977 general election, he campaigned for the Congress party. Thackeray also supported A. R. Antulay, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who had to quit office after being indicted by Bombay High Court for extortion of money. Antulay was made the Minister of Minority Affairs by Manmohan Sing in 2006

It seems that from Thursday the 15th of November, nearly four days before his death, Mumbai’s film studios remained shut as the stars, producers, technicians and the workers were praying for his recovery. Amitabh Bachchan tweeted, “each day he continued his struggle with a grit that was baffling even for the doctors on hand...I sat by his bedside for hours these past few days, a prayer in my heart”. And, after Thackeray’s death, Lata Mangheskar said, “When Bala sahib was there, Maharashtra was there. When he’s not there, there’s nothing. No one can equal what he has done for Maharashtra. We needed him to be with us for many more years.”

Thackeray began his political career in the late sixties by intimidating and attacking South India residents of Mumbai who worked as clerks, in small restaurants and as daily wage labourers for taking away the jobs of Marathi people. In his writings and cartoons he lampooned the Tamil and Telugu speaking people as “yangduguwalas” and “lungiwalas”. Thackeray’s began attacking the homes of these people and began a campaign to drive out the “Madrassis”. He directed his followers to picket cinema halls which were showing Hindi films produced in Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh. Thackeray then turned against the Muslims whom he derisively referred to as the “Katuas” the circumcised people. Justice Sri Krishna, in his report on the Mumbai pogrom of 1992, said that the communal passions of the Hindus were aroused to fever pitch by the provocative writings in print media, particularly ’Saamna’ and ’Navaakal’, the mouth pieces of Shiv Sena edited by Thackeray. Justice Srikrishna asserted that magazines published exaggerated accounts of the MathCAD murders and the Radhabai Chawl incident and floated rumours of imminent attacks by Muslims using sophisticated arms.

The truth is that the difference between pro-Khalistan, Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwalle and pro-Marathi Manoos, Thackeray is that of degree and not of kind. The only difference is that Bhinderwanwalle was killed in a battle he waged in defence of his cause, where as Thackeray died in his bed and has been hailed as “veteran leader”. Obviously his victims do not matter.

New Delhi November 20, 2012

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