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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2582

Youth Sena attacks Mumbai ‘Bhaiyyas’

By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features

Just where the pursuit of petty parochial politics can lead to was reminded by the deplorable violence that followed a diatribe against north Indians of Mumbai by the leader of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Raj Thackeray. The considerable north Indian population in Mumbai may have come under direct strain but others who are not Marathi-speaking could have spent equally anxious moments. A handful of followers of MNS may have picked on people they thought were ‘Bhaiyyas’ from UP and Bihar but they could well have come from other states.

Raj Thackeray and his followers have mocked at the Indian constitution which allows citizens of India to move freely find employment and live in any part of the country. But when the MNS activists in Mumbai, once hailed as the most cosmopolitan city of India, set upon unarmed people from other states who have been going about their avocation peacefully they had smeared the image of the megapolis and harmed the interests of the very Marathi-speaking population on whose behalf they threatened the north Indians.

The thriving entertainment industry of Mumbai, the world’s largest, largely benefits the local population even though most (not all, though) of the top actors and singers come from other states. Most of the employees in cinema halls that the MNS attacks for showing Bhojpuri films are Marathis. Mumbai’s status as the financial capital of India was possible because of contribution by the ‘outsiders’.

If the MNS wants people to believe that it is dedicated to the betterment of the Marathi-speaking population in Maharashtra it would have earned real appreciation if the party youth had fanned out into the countryside to look after the farmers, a large number of whom have been committing suicide. If the cause of their death had something to do with the government, the MNS would have been within its rights to start an agitation against the state government. But the MNS finds it convenient to pick on easy targets, exhibiting its loutish skills before invited TV cameras.

Raj Thackeray finds it wrong that the film star Amitabh Bachhan continues to show his love for his native state (UP) even though he made his name, fame and fortune in Mumbai. It is hard to see what is wrong here because after all Amitabh Bachhan has never done anything to show disrespect to the city or the state of his adoption and it is nothing unusual to find someone loving one’s home state.

The more objectionable part of Raj Thackeray’s vilification of the ‘Bhaiyyas’ is the gratuitous advice to them not to observe their religious festivals like the ‘Chaat Puja’ if they want to live in Mumbai. Next, one might see Raj Thackeray asking Bengalis in Mumbai not to celebrate Durga Puja or ask the Punjabi population not to celebrate Baisakhi. Frankly, the diktat against ‘Chaat Puja’ coming from an exclusive party like the MNS is a bit surprising since it is not a festival associated with another religion.

The foolish act of MNS vandalism also showed a lamentable aspect of politics in India. Politicians will compete in routine denunciation of their rivals who indulge in any indiscreet or despicable act in order to derive political mileage but will do little or nothing to strike at the root of the evil or do their utmost to stop its recurrence.

The chauvinistic pro-Marathi sentiments were first heard in Maharashtra, Mumbai in particular, 40 years ago from the mouth of a nascent political outfit called the Shiv Sena and its supremo, Bal Thackeray. The Tamilians and Keralites of Mumbai (Bombay then) were the special target of hate at the time. Over the years Bal Thackeray, now an octogenarian with failing health, modified his stance on the non-Marathi population in Mumbai for reasons of political expediency, not under pressure from any party.

If all the political forces that claim to have disapproved the son-of-the-soil slogan, first unleashed by the Shiv Sena in its peculiar aggressive fashion and now magnified by the MNS, had united to exert their collective pressure it is quite possible that Bal Thackeray’s nephew, Raj Thackeray, would not have been able to raise a force that allegedly seeks to watch the interests of the Marathi-speaking people by driving out the north Indians from Mumbai.

It is not enough to tell Raj Thackeray that what he is preaching is bad politics. He needs to be forcefully told the obvious truth: the antics of MNS only harm Mumbai and the Marathi-speaking population of the city apart from embarrassing an overwhelming number of peace-loving Maharashtrians. In fact, Maharashtrians in UP and some other north Indian states might even have been worried about possible retaliatory attacks by local goons.

One political party that should have been in the forefront of drilling some sanity into the ears of the Marathi-speaking ‘Sainiks’ (soldiers) is the Shiv Sena but the MNS being an offshoot of the Shiv Sena that task may be difficult to accomplish. Besides, the Shiv Sena draws its support mainly from the same constituency as the MNS. On the other hand the BJP with its ‘all-India’ character could have played a more constructive role in handling the situation. The MNS and the Shiv Sena do not even pretend to have a national agenda. The BJP does.

The BJP has been struggling to prove that it also has a pan-India outlook. But in Maharashtra the party remains reluctant to challenge the narrow, illiberal and intolerant policies of organisations like the Shiv Sena and the MNS. As partners in a ruling coalition, it was the smaller Shiv Sena that often dictated terms to the ‘big brother’ BJP in the state.

Ideologically speaking (stress on Hindutva) as compared to other parties the BJP is closest to both the Shiv Sena and the MNS. The latter is really a collection of rebel Shiv Sena members led by Raj Thackeray who is obviously unhappy because his uncle after showing a lot of love and affection for him suddenly decided not to anoint him his successor in the Shiv Sena, preferring his son.

The BJP criticism of the MNS attack on ‘Bhaiyyas’ in Mumbai sounds hollow when the party spokesman did nothing more than make some familiar noises against violence, refraining from even mentioning the name of Raj Thackeray, but was vehement in demanding the resignation of the Maharashtra chief minister. The resignation or the sacking of the chief minister might satisfy the BJP but will not induce the MNS to change its colour—the real need of the hour.

- Syndicate Features -

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