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Chauvinism – the bane of Indian politics

November 14, 2009

This is nothing new. Bal Thackerey of Shiv Sena did this in the sixties and the seventies. His nephew Raj Thackerey is doing it in the first decade of the twenty first century. The mantra is the same, the players are different. If we go back a few decades earlier Mohammad Ali Jinnah did this in the name of religion. This is a quick fire way of distinguishing oneself from the rest. One stands out, if only for the lunacy of it all. That is good enough in politics. Many would contend that this is the USP that politicians are looking for. In a society that is so diverse and the difference between the have and the have-nots is so wide, such postures pay rich dividends – at least in the short run.

I am talking about chauvinism of all kinds that the Indian people are subjected to by those aspiring to making it big in the Indian political landscape. Chauvinisms are of different kinds. Some are linguistics, others are caste based and yet others pander to the religious sentiments of the people. This is not an attempt at casting aspersions at any one individual but trying to point out a sordid trend that can lead to strife and discord in the society.

Bal Thackerey of the Shiv Sena first raised the issue of outsiders versus the Marathi manoos (people) and he targeted the Tamilians who had been a part of the Mumabi landscape for decades by then and most of them were fishermen and worked in the docks. He then turned his attention on the North Indians, especially those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Shiv Sena became a force as a political outfit and even came to power with their allies the Bharatiya Janata Party in the nineties when Manohar Joshi became the Chief Minister.

His nephew who for long was a part of the Shiv Sena later formed his own Maharashtra Navnirman  Sena (MNS) and is doing an encore of what his uncle did in the sixties and the seventies and even later. He has made a mockery of law and has taken this regional chauvinism to ridiculous extent. His contention, as was his uncle’s, is that Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians, especially Mumbai and outsiders are not welcome. He is targeting the people from UP and Bihar, which is nothing new. He made his first such violent ‘protest’ when his men started manhandling boys who had come from North India to write exam for railway recruitment board.  Somehow the media came to know of what was going to happen and the assault on the boys and girls who had come from thousands of miles to write the test was captured in camera. The helplessness of these young men and women was pathetic and they were seen running helter-skelter trying to escape the wrath of the MNS goons. It was a very sordid way of gaining popularity and to make a political point.

The second salvo by Raj Thackerey’s MNS was when the man gave an ultimatum to all shops and business establishments to put up their sign boards in Marathi. This was a diktat given by the strong man and soon enough most shops and business establishments had their boards and hoardings in Marathi. This was again an attempt at showing the people of Mumbai that there was the MNS that cared for the Marathi manoos and the Marathi asmita (pride).

Then there was this case of a film maker having had to apologize to Raj Thackerey for having overlooked the fact that Mumbai was called as ‘Bombay’ in his film. Raj Thackerey made it clear that he would not let the film be released in Mumbai unless the ‘mistake’ was rectified. The film maker not only redubbed those lines but called on Raj Thackerey to personally apologize for the oversight!! This not only did trivialize the Marathi people but also the politics of the state.

Come the state elections, and the MNS did particularly well and won 13 seats in the assembly. Clearly, the Mumbaikers are suckers for this variety of politics, though it may not be anything new. This has emboldened the man. The other fact is that the MNS cut into the Shiv Sena – BJP votes such that the Congress-NCP alliance romped home effortlessly. Chauvinism of the regional kind had the last laugh. Having ensured a Congress-NCP victory, the MNS has been let loose by the powers that be and Raj Thackerey is playing to the galleries again. In politics, it is power any which way. If that means that the social fabric of the society is being torn apart, so what?

The latest diktat from Raj Thackerey is that the State bank of India should not recruit anyone from outside Maharashtra for positions within the state. This is ridiculous. The fact is that the SBI, the Indian Railways and many other such institutions are pan-India bodies and it is impossible for anyone to restrict the appointment from any one region or state. These are Indian institutions and the selection is based on merit and nothing else.  It will be impossible for any of these institutions to select on the basis of region. This is demeaning and absolutely impossible demand and if the SBI or the Indian Railways were to bow down to the diktats of such rowdy elements it will start a wrong precedent.

There may be some Maharashtrians who may be proud of Raj Thackerey but there are many others who are absolutely embarrassed by the man’s chutzpah. The limit was crossed when the MNS legislators barged into the well of the state assembly shouting slogans, threw aside the mike and assaulted Abu Azmi of the Samajwadi Party. Their grouse was that the man was taking the oath in Hindi. It appears that Raj Thackerey had issued a diktat that all MLA’s must take oath in Marathi. Azmi was manhandled and there was a ruckus in the house. These are attempts at scoring cheap brownie points and playing to the galleries in the most disgusting way. I know that Abu Azmi is no saint and he is by no means a parliamentarian worth emulating, but this does not give license to anyone to assault the man for taking the oath in Hindi. It may be added that there were others who had taken the oath in English, prominent among them was Baba Sidique. But that was alright with the MNS. It was Hindi which is the national language that was difficult for them to digest. It amazes me as to how low can one stoop to get political mileage from an issue that is of no consequence. Legislatures in Maharashtra assembly taking the oath in Hindi is nothing new. Many Maharashtrian legislatures have taken oath in Hindi in the past as it is our national language, though they knew Marathi. Such chauvinism may warm the cockles of the heart of some deprived sections of society but there are others who hang their head in embarrassment when such postures are taken by regional parties. Raj Thackerey is successful as there is a void in Maharashtra politics now that Bal Thackerey is in semi-retirement. This politics of regional chauvinism would not work if there was a credible alternative to the old man of Maharashtra politics ready to fill the gap. Udhav Thackerey is at best reacting and emulating Raj and has reduced himself to B team of the MNS. Were Udhav able to communicate effectively and firmly that he was for Mumbai for Maharashtrians as well as those from other parts of the country Raj Thackerey would be singing a different tune. The fact is that if the outsiders were to withdraw from Mumbai the city would come to a standstill. MNS is pandering to a section of the society and playing cheap politics. There is a political void and he is trying to fill in, or claiming to fill the gap. It is more a crisis of credible leadership than anything else. The shortcut is to be as outrageous as possible. Another attempt at asserting his Marathi lineage was when he insisted on giving all interviews in Marathi only when the man can speak Hindi fluently!!!

Regionalism is one issue, the other is religion. Religious chauvinism is also pandered to by the various political parties. Muslims are encouraged to assert their separate identity and they are indulged by the various political parties purely for political gains and they call it secularism. The Muslims were in for a surprise when Baba Ramdev started his address to the Muslim audience in Deoband with “Bismillah Rehman-i- Rahim’, an oft used incantation by the Muslims before starting anything. They found this way of reaching out to the Muslims by the Hindu clergy touching. The clergy at Deoband then declared that practicing Yoga was not un-Islamic. This was a step in the right direction. There are a lot of misgivings and misinformation between the Muslims and the Hindus of this country and they need to be addressed.

It is easy for anyone to say that one is different because of language, religion, caste or region. It is those that say that they are Indian first and anything else later are the ones that need to be emulated. Sachin Tendulkar, a Maharshtrian has said this loud and clear. He is a role model in more ways than one. The Raj Thackerey’s of this nation could take a leaf out of the book of Sachin Tendulkar.

Update 16.11.2009: Bal Thackerey, the Shiv Sena supremo has chastised Sachin Tendulkar in Saamna for his comment about being an Indian first. Essentially, the Shiv Sena has shot itself in the foot when they went ballistic against the darling Maharashtrian cricketer. The man has lost it. It will be best for the Shiv Sena to keep their mouth shut and not try and prove that they are more for the state than their adversary, Raj Thackerey. This impresses no one and only makes Raj Thackerey stronger.

Update 20.11.2009:‘At least 25 people were hurt when Shiv Sena allegedly attacked the offices of IBN7 and IBN Lokmat, the Hindi and Marathi news channels of the IBN Network on Friday afternoon. According to sources, several journalists were beaten up and office property was damaged. CNN-IBN sources quoted Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and State Police Chief D.Shivanand as saying that action would be taken promptly against the attackers. The attack on the IBN offices was in response to the channel airing negative reports about the Shiv Sena and its chief Bala Saheb Thackeray. Media networks across the country have condemned the incident, saying it amounts to a clear attack on press freedom.’ Source:  (ANI)

From being outrageous to absolute asinine – this is surely the nadir. The CNN-IBN offices in Pune and Mumbai were attacks in concert. It was a pre-meditated attack. It is said that such attacks have taken in the past too. The Shiv Sena has taken responsibility for the attacks and seven attackers have been apprehended. CNN-IBN is insisting that the people who have directed the attack must be brought to book – which means the top leadership of the Shiv Sena. The irony is that the Shiv Sena is taking the responsibility for the attacks as if its a feather in their cap. They fail to understand that such acts do not help them at all and chances are that these will backfire. Having said that, it is very unlikely that the top leadership of the Shiv Sena will be charged for these attacks. If the Congress does show this kind of courage it will be welcome. Sena has a bloated sense of grandeur. They should know that they are not a law unto themselves. Udhav Thackeray should relinquish any political ambitions. It is said that he is a good photographer – I am sure he will excel in this vocation.

Update 21.11.2009: There is a race to prove as to who is more for the Marathi manoos. After the attack on CNN-IBN by Shiv Sena the MNS has come up with a demand for a Marathi option in the stock market. This has some weight because if the site is in Gujarati in addition to Hindi and English, then a Marathi version should be there. What bothers most observers is the reason as to why this is being done. They are pandering to a particular audience and this brings in regionalism of the worst kind. Having said that all Indians respect Marathi and the people of Maharashtra have contributed immensely to Indian freedom struggle and have always been at the forefront as saviours of Dharma. The politicization of a people, a language is what irks most Indians.

MNS’s latest demand was reported by the PTI thus:

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) today asked Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to provide all the information in Marathi on its newly launched website. Arvind Gawde, MNS leader from Colaba, met SEBI”s Deputy Chief Executive officer Ashish Kumar Chauhan and submitted a memorandum highlighting the party”s demand.

SEBI has recently re-launched its website with options in English, Hindi and Gujarati, Gawde said. “It has conveniently forgotten Marathi despite having its headquarters in Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. shank permalink
    November 18, 2009 4:19 am

    First of all its Mumbai Not BOmbay go and give the same name to bihar if you are in love with the name which british gave and if it makes you feel something like you stay in english city…. and if it satisfies your wish to stay in england and no in INDIA… Court has already given the name “Mumbai” and its been people are dont even respect the court’s decision and you people say you are proud to be an Indian ??? … One more thing its your state what makes india be ashamed of being india… Maharashtra was very big thats why people migrated here… it wasnt the case that you people thought of making maharashtra big and thats why you migrated… had that been a case you people could have made something big about your own state…..You people are imposing your state language by saying its an national language….this is happening because of you people………did you get this straight if you have brains you must have got it by now…dont write such stupid blogs hence forth do something constructive for your own state …… dont belong here (MUMBAI)

    • sharma24 permalink
      November 18, 2009 10:30 am

      This is chauvinism. Thanks anyway!!!

  2. stupidseeker permalink
    January 3, 2013 3:27 am

    And chauvinism is also imposing the language of the majority on the linguistic minorities. No one ever asked me what the “national language” should be and yet they demand that I learn Hindi, a language no superior to any other language in the world, to demonstrate my “indianess”. Convenient for you sharma that Hindi happens to be your mother tongue as well as the “national language”. That way you get to keep your cake and eat it too. when you go to non hindi speaking states you can pull up the locals for not learning the “national language” and when they demand that you learn their local language you can say that they are regional chauvinists and then when they visit your hindi speaking state they will invariably have to learn hindi, a favour you never did them when you went to their state.

    Raj Thackerey has shown what should have been very obvious: that Hindi is the regional language of the Hindi belt and has no more claims to being “national language” than say Garo or Khasi.

    Learn to treat all cultures equally before ranting against this or that communitiyt and calling them chauvinist.

    • January 3, 2013 10:04 am

      An RTI found that Hindi is not the national language. You may declare Telugu or Marathi as the national language, for all I care. Hindi is not sacred. You may even beat the shit out of them and I won’t mind. In fact they may even deserve it. I hope I have made myself absolutely clear.

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