Hindus should be able to live in this country with pride, says party mouthpiece
In highly controversial remarks, the Shiv Sena has exhorted Hindus to
act as “human bombs” and invade Pakistan, and said that its founder,
Bal Thackeray, had instilled the “fear of Hindus” in other Indians.
The comments came in the context of the controversy over the latest
issue of the weekly magazine Tehelka depicting Thackeray as a
terrorist. Taking umbrage at the cover story, the Sena, in an
editorial in its mouthpiece, Saamna, on Tuesday lambasted the
magazine, and said publishing the objectionable article against the
Sena founder was as good as “spitting at the sun”.
The editorial eulogised his strong-arm Hindutva ideology.
The Tehelka cover pictures don Dawood Ibrahim, 1993 blasts convict
Yakub Memon, who was hanged recently, Sikh extremist Jarnail Singh
Bindranwale and Bal Thackeray, with a primer, “Who is the biggest
Objecting to the depiction, the Saamna editorial says that while the
first three were religious extremists propelled by blind faith
(dharmaandh), Mr. Thackeray was proud of his religion
(dharmabhimaani). The people were proud of his nationalism, it said.
“Hindus should be able to live in this country with pride. A Hindu’s
voice should be like a lion’s roar. Hindus will have to be highly
religious if they want to answer Pakistani extremists,” it said.
Though the Saamna asked Shiv Sena cadre not to get incited by the
“provocation”, as it would only give the magazine undue publicity, the
newspaper warned that if people’s anger rose further, they would be
“dancing on the grave” of the publication.
The Sena raked up the rape case against former Tehelka Editor Tarun
Tejpal and alleged that its latest cover story was a publicity stunt
as it had lost popularity.
The Saamna editorial elicited condemnation on social media, with many
taking sarcastic jibes at the Sena leadership.
It is difficult to say whether the Shiv Sena takes offence or feels proud when its founder Bal Thackeray is spoken of as a terrorist with a religious cause. After the weekly Tehelka carried a cover story with pictures of Thackeray, Dawood Ibrahim, Yakub Memon and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale above the legend, ‘Who is the biggest terrorist?’, the Sena responded in a rather strange manner. While condemning the depiction of Thackeray alongside those who engaged in violence in the name of religion, the Sena organ Saamna, in an editorial, asked Hindus to act as “human bombs” and invade Pakistan. Thackeray, the editorial wrote approvingly, had instilled the “fear of Hindus” in Indians of other faiths. Far from defending the Sena founder against the charge of being a Hindu terrorist, the editorial appeared to be defending his support of violence in the name of Hinduism. What differentiated Thackeray from the others? According to the editorial’s reasoning, the Sena founder was a dharmabhimaani, a person who took pride in his faith, and not dharmaandh, someone who was motivated by blind faith. This line of defence, whether true to the facts or not, would have been fine but for the editorial’s exhortation to Hindus to turn themselves into human bombs and attack Pakistan. In one stroke, the disputes between India and Pakistan were turned into a Hindu-Muslim issue. By arguing that Hindus would have to be highly religious if they wanted to respond to Pakistani extremists, the editorial, in effect, identified nationalism with Hinduism.
The veiled threats aimed at Tehelka and the exhortations to violence are typical of the politics of the Sena, which is mostly a combination of Marathi chauvinism and Hindutva. Normally, the Sena when in power is less virulent than when it is out of power. But of late the party has been under pressure in Maharashtra, having ceded political space to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Having been for long the senior partner in the alliance of the two Hindutva parties, the Sena ended up as a poor second to the BJP in the Assembly election last year. Although its breakaway group, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena led by Raj Thackeray, is no longer serious competition, the Sena doubtless feels obliged to push the limits of its extremist politics. As the senior partner in government, the BJP, which usually bristles whenever there is talk of ‘Hindu terror’, saying the phrase is an oxymoron, will have to ask the Sena to give up its aggressive brand of politics laced with threats of violence and talk of communal hatred. The Sena must be made to necessarily tone down its rhetoric, and behave more like a responsible party in government.