Vantage point

Monday, June 19, 2006

40 Years for Shiv Sena

The Shiv Sena completed 40 years of its existence recently. People outside the state have a very simplistic idea of what the Shiv Sena is. A group of zealots commanded by a dictator who use might to enforce their definition of right. Infighting has recently taken the wind out of their sails, and their relevance has largely dminished. But people who lived in and around Bombay during the turbulent 70s, 80s and 90s will have a much more nuanced understanding of the Sena. To me, the reality and the relevance of the existence of the Shiv Sena, especially during the 80s and 90s, is best captured by citing Jessep's speech from A Few Good Men.

You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

The Sena just filled a vacuum. Most of the educated Maharashtrian middle class doesn't like the Sena. But most of us also shudder to think of an alternative scenario in the 80s and 90s without the Sena's existence.

Sena's problem was the growth trajectory. An army is useful during times of conflict, but put it in charge during peace times and you have a cauldron of nitroglycerin in your kitchen. The last decade or so has been a time of relative peace, and it is peace time that has discredited and vilified the Sena in the eyes of its most ardent supporters.

Most people, including me, think that Shiv Sena will disintegrate and wither away after Thackeray dies. The process of decay has already started.

But remember, the Shiv Sena filled a vacuum. Nature abhors vacuum. As long as the vacuum remains, it will be filled to ensure relative stability. What name fills the it is irrelevant.