Vantage point

Friday, July 12, 2002

So, what is a blog really?

Among other things, a forum for you to express thoughts that no one in real life would sit and listen to patiently. Today's post is going to be one such post. A political discourse, if you will.

It was set in motion after this chat I had with a fellow blogger last night about the Shivsena. For the uninitiated, it's a far right Indian political party that belongs to the ruling coalition at the Centre.

So this guy, a marathi from Mumbai, seemed to like the sena, and me, a marathi from Pune, dislike it. Here's a critique about the Shivsena.

How did it all start? From what my limited GK tells me, the Shivsena was started around the time the movement for "United Maharashtra" was going on. You see, under the Brits, there was just "Bombay Presidency" which included Maharashtra and Gujarat. In the 50's the gujarati domination, as also the southie and northie presence in Bombay grew. The marathi was sort of sidelined. Then the government decided to split the Presidency into 2- Gujarat and Maharshtra and there was a bit of bad blood about which state Bombay city should go to. It was during this movement that the Shivsena was born. Then, through the 70s and the 80s, the Sena worked at protecting the interests of the marathis who were apparently being discriminated against in Bombay, in many walks of life. The Sena was this typical reactionary rightist party that had presence only in Bombay. Then in the late 80s and early 90s, with the emeregence of the hindutva movement, the ramjanmabhoomi issue etc, the Sena found new frontier. their anti-south, anti-bhaiyya, anti-gujju tirade was converted to an anti-muslim, which again found echo in Bombay, but also elsewhere.

Till then, the Sena had been ignored in places like Pune and Nagpur, where the marathis were in an absolute majority and were not insecure like in Bombay. But this anti-muslim policy gave them a wider appeal. Through-out the 80s, there were these neighbourhoods in Bombay and other cities, where, whenever Pakistan beat India in any sport, there were celebrations. Add to it, the Shahbano case that made hindus feel that muslims were being pampered at the cost of equality. So just as the BKP rose to prominence, so did the sena.

So why do I dislike the Sena?

I believe that the Sena is a necessary evil.

Why evil?

Because the Sena has been bred only on hatred. It has always been anti-something. Anti-nonmarathis, anti-muslim, anti-congress, anti-western culture. There are no positives that they seem to possess. They have always been a reactionary force rather than a pro-active one. While such an existence might be enough for a bubblegum rightist party wanting 10 minutes of coverage, like the Bajrang Dal, Shivsena aspires to rule Maharashtra. I don't think that this anti-ist attitude can make a good government. Governance, at least good governance, stems from positive ideas. The Sena spent so much time in hating people, that by the time they came to power in 1994, they realised that they had no idea what to do as incumbents. So they got down to pillaging, looting etc. The corrupt Congress before them realised the simple fact that "to steal from the treasury, you need to earn something for it first". The sena ignored the earning part.

Add to it, their cocksure behaviour, especially the episode where Thackeray insulted Pu La Deshpande, Maharashtra's greatest author and most loved personality. The reason for this outburst was that Deshpande was being given an award by the government and in the speech he criticised the government's functioning. Democracy? Freedom of speech? No way, says Thackeray who longs for a civil war in India and lambasts democracy. he made churlish comments like "Deshpande spat in the very plate he ate from" and "In fact, I should have gotten the award, but I told the government to give it to him".

In short, power intoxicated them.

Shivsena was swiftly voted out in the next elections.

It flaunts it's disdain for democracy and gets away with it. It is ruled by just one man, Bal Thackeray, who indulges in gimmicks to entertain people. Make sensational comments and votes will follow. Nobody else in the sena has any voice. I dare the Sena people to logically justify their opposition to the labour reforms. No real reason, just oppose something. Because that's the way they've been bred.

I wonder if the Sena has an economic cell of its own.

In a place like Pune, the Sena has no foot to stand on. The marathis have always been at the forefront in most businesses. There aren't too many outsiders, not enough to threaten the interests of the locals. There has always been communal peace and harmony (touchwood!!) with no riots even during the 1992-93 imbroglio. So what do we Punekars need the sena for? To stop us from celebrating Valentine's day?

That's the height of hipocrisy. A man who invited the crotch-clasping-child-molesting Michael Jackson to perform at his nephew's pocket-money-fund-raiser, threatens to blacken the faces of couples who express their love for each other on Feb 14th, because it is a "western concept".

Anyway, there are a lot more points why i feel the Shivsena is evil, the recent kidnapping saga being one, but this much is enough.

Now into, why is it necessary?

There are elements in our society that are intolerant and xenophobic. I have always believed that bigotry and xenophobia are like the seven deadly sins. each one of us has them in some degree. It is up to us and our upbringing to conquer those vices and think like educated, secular (that's a dirty word nowadays isn't it?) Indians. But some people will need outlets. Rather than muddle the thinking of the mainstream with this hatred, it is better to express it through these right-of-the-right parties. They should not indulge in violence however. But the far-right is a necessary evil that should be kept within check.

I agree with a few things the sena propagates. I want uniform civil code. But I dont want it only in the anti-muslim way. Uniform civil code should include abolition of reservations, or at least a radical revamping to avoid misuse. But that's a post for another day.

So what is the alternative?

The Congress? I don't hold Sonia's Italian descent against her. I hold her stupidity and dumbness against her. She is so not qualified to even walk on Rajpath, forget living there.

The third front? What? Where?

Maybe time for you and me to form a party.