Vantage point

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More on Sena and Walls

Reproducing here my comment on my namesake's blog

The Shiv Sena's rise was mainly because of the paucity of jobs under the license-permit-quota raj. When young men from small town or rural Maharashtra went to Bombay they found that in many places, they were being passed up for appointment in favour of other communities. often the person appointed would belong to the same community as the person taking the decision. So jobs like clerks, secretaries, ban tellers etc, which did not involve a high level of merit which can be cited as grounds for selection, were seen as being distributed on a parochial basis.

The Sena rose and gained prominence mainly because of this issue.

Post-91 though, white collar jobs are not an issue, so it doesn't rouse passions any more. But to get an idea of how the support to the Sena was more a reaction than an initiative, recall the incident from a couple of years back when the Sena thrashed up folks who had come to apply for small jobs on the railway stations in Central Railway. Apparently the Railways issued an advertisement about the jobs only in papers in UP and Bihar. No ads in papers in Maharashtra. Naturally when word about this got out, folks were pissed and the Sena just spearheaded the angst.

Sena does control trade unions, but it was a by-product of their muscle power.

80s onwards, support for the Sena widened amongst Hindus in Bombay because of communal tensions, and it peaked during the babri riots where most people, not just marathis, feel that the Sena "protected" them from the fury of the Muslim mobs. It is this wall that i mainly refer to. the hindu-muslim war in times of riots.

By the way, the opposition to migrants, at least after the jobs thing has lost relevance, is limited to illegal immigrants and slum dwellers. Thackeray said in an interview that he and his party have no problems with people who come to Bombay, buy or rent a house legitimately, and get a job on their own merit rather than through a parochial "sifaarish". Most Bombayites share that view.

That Bombay is bursting at its seams is undeniable. But the solution to the issue is a lot more complex than the Sena, or most Bombayites believe.

The way the Sena is viewed as the wall-protector by many marathis and hindus, the fundamentalists are also viewed as wall-protectors by the Muslims in times of conflicts. Inter-community conflicts, i.e riots can be a very tricky situation and when you live under the risk of being discriminated against, be it while refusing you a job, or being killed because you belong to a particular community, it is only natural to feel sympathetic about your protectors.

The fall-out of that is obviously the fact that these wall-protectors will not limit themselves to just protecting walls. They will start banning Valentine's Day, and destroying private property to protest some cartoons in a land far away.

The way to eliminate their rise to prominence is to improve the rule of law. Why should you have to depend on the Shivsena or the SIMI to protect you during riots?