Sunday, June 16, 2024

Two Cheers!


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By Ananya S Guha


I can understand the late Bal Thackeray having a large following in Mumbai and the rest of the country including of course political parties like the BJP. I can also understand his unstinted support for a country based on a premise of religious ideology. Many believe in it. I or many others may not support it, but it is at least based on the notion of one country, although with more than pronounced rightist slant. Still, I will not quarrel, or quibble, as at least the notion of a country is upheld, although obviously it runs counter to the principles of secularism, which is upheld by the sacrosanct ideals of a Constitution. But who cares, we always had and will continue to have iconoclasts, so fair enough to the late Mr Thackeray.

But what I fail to understand is why there should be anger after his demise; this had been apprehended as harped upon by our inimitable national media? Why should there be lawlessness after a natural death? What kind of a brute strength of power is this? Why should there be lawlessness after his death? On what principles of ‘cracy’ were his party founded? Surely not ‘mobocracy’? Would not his followers chosen a path of tribute or respect? But apparently based on some reports the city of Mumbai experienced not so pleasant sights. If a leader exudes more fear than respect, then there is something abjectly wrong with both followers and followed.

Secondly a glance at his life shows that he led movements against Gujaratis, South Indians, North Indians and recently supported the anti Bihari stance taken up by die hards of populism in his state. This is the problem I have. How can one person uphold the concept of a nation or rashtra, and at the same time speak on behalf of a separate Marathi identity, based on animosity against particular identities? This is all garbled and certainly not the work of a rationalist. Which then is more important: the Hindu nation, or the nation state of a particular region of the country? This is to me is thinking, which is confounded, and not in consonance with the concept of an Indian identity. So it is all the more intriguing why he got the support of national organizations, or political parties. And, then we blame the people of North East India of being anti Indian, when people who matter, in the heartland of the country, in India’s most industrialized belt fire tongs and hammer against the disputatious mainland?

Power even political power does not come out of the barrels of a gun or on flimsy and specious grounds of hatred. There may be support, but this not exemplication of any power.

I accept the support he had, but I do not think he had any power. Power cannot instigate fear, fear of reprisal of a leader’s death, which is not murder or an outcome of state repression and killing.

This is the angst of India, silent workers go totally unnoticed, relegated to anaemic obituary pieces, megalomaniacs go down in the annals of history, thanks to a vibrant but ostentatious media.

An article in the latest issue of The Outlook magazine by Rohit Chopra on the legendary Bal Thackeray made much more than good reading. In fact it made a lot of good sense and shows how the Indian hierarchy capitulates to crass brow beating. That is an accepted phenomenon the author apprises us. Nothing could be more truthful and direct.

Thackeray had become an icon a scion, but at whose cost? What was the nationalism he projected; Indian or Marathi? Did he and his subjects, accept tolerance, or any form of criticism? No way says the author.

Yet his apotheosis was his crowning glory, the transformation of a journalist to a demi god. The very fact that he was given a state funeral testifies to his acceptance: acceptance by political leaders, the media and of course an insensate public. We need not blame only the people of his State for it, the vacillating Indian public did not understand that he was an iconoclast of people or communities he did not like. So he was projected, perhaps more out of fear than anything else as a ‘neither good nor bad’ persona. But perhaps, that is not the point; the point is that since the 1970s this political leader let loose terror against anyone he thought was incompatible in his state, for political, religious or economic reasons.

And after his death he and his obscurantism which were raised at the altar of hero worship. A bandh was called after his death, two college or university going students were arrested for venting their feelings on a social networking site. The media did more than its bit to project this ‘charismatic’ person. But what about the 1992-93 pogrom which he initiated against a particular community?

Such reprehensible actions, do not invoke our sentiments. We pay homage to icons we fear, or for that matter do not like. Our societies have been built on the fringes of such fear and terror. So if normalcy is disrupted in the city of Mumbai after his death we have to accept it, more out of a sense of fear than anything else. And if there is the mildest criticism, a vitriolic reaction takes place.

Such contingincies we have to prepare for, in India. We live in fear, terror and isolation. The honest are singled out for assailing rights with indignities. This is a slur on democracy; and then the paens of praise. He was a charismatic leader, a fascinating person our media lauds. The political leaders look funereal. Such is the macho man prototype that he presented.

As, E.M. Forster once remarked; only two cheers for democracy, the third is for ”Love the Beloved Rebublic”. We are devoid of that, and all the more, a big loser for this!


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