A Mirror To Ourselves

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We have seen this picture in our text books. Happy Indians, of all shapes and colors, holding hands, extolling the ideal of unity in diversity.

Hum Sab Ek Hain. We are all one.

It is a comforting gajar ka halwa national narrative.

It is also, like Santa Claus, patently untrue.

In reality, there are deeply visceral schisms that split us Indians apart on multiple axes—money, language, religion, education, Salman-Shahrukh. If we could take a bullshit-filtering lens and put it on the collective national psyche, we would see a picture that resembles a fifth day Cuttack pitch with its deep fissures, serpentine fault-lines and no binding top-soil . Hell, we don’t even need to do that. Go to Rediff/TOI, pull up any random article, and run through the comment board. You will know exactly what I am talking about.

Before we get all self-flagellating Manu Joseph on ourselves, one should do well to remember that the fear of “the other” is not confined to just India . After Obama’s victory, Bill O’Reilly, conservative political talk-show host on the right-wing American TV channel Fox, droned on as to how “traditional white America” has been changed irrevocably by the changing demographics of America, how “they” (meaning Mexicans and Americans and other assorted immigrants), want “stuff” (as opposed to traditional white America which does not) from the government and people like Obama will keep on winning elections by promising them that stuff, no matter what the long term fiscal consequences. What O’Reilly was articulating, without any of the soft politically correct soap, is that “they” have the numbers and the motivation to come out and vote. And “we” don’t.

The underlying fear being expressed here is rather universal—“They” are going to swamp “us” and we are not doing enough to protect ourselves.

Assign the value “Muslim”, “Bhaiyyas”, “Dalits”, “OBCs”, “Hindus”, to the variable “they” and you will essentially get scraps of conversations from all parts of India, from Kashmir to Mumbai, from Kolkata to Chennai. What makes India different from the USA though, is the legal and political system we have here, one that penalizes dissent in the isolation, through draconian “must not hurt sentiment” laws that severely strait-jacket free speech, and incentivizes violence for the collective.

To understand this, consider the case of a girl who posts a message on Facebook, gets charged by the law for inciting violence and ill-will, while “provoked mobs” go and vandalize her uncle’s nursing home, smashing expensive equipment and inflicting grievous economic hurt, and they will, in all possibility, get away scot-free. (At the time of writing, nine arrests have been made, it though remains to be seen what comes of it)

In other words, exercising the right to dissent, when done by a individual, is deemed “inciting violence” and hence considered illegal.

Executing violence, when done in a group, is not. Well not in practice anyway. The ridiculous rates of prosecution for communal riots and mob violence in India tells us this.

The reason why this incongruous system persists is because an overwhelming number of Indians are perfectly comfortable with extra-constitutional measures, like mob violence, when it is done in the name of a cause that they agree with.

“Well violence isn’t supportable, but then, come on, people do get provoked. One must exercise caution while expressing opinions.”

“If we do not thrash this thief we caught, the police will just let him go. Hence let’s tie him to a lamppost and beat his head in with a brick”.

“Violence? Well what about the violence engaged in by <insert identity of other here>”

“When a big tree falls, the ground shakes”.

“Some isolated incidents may have happened. People do get out of hand sometimes. But the media, which is in the tank for <insert identity of other here> has greatly over-exaggerated the scale.”

Outrage at violence is thus always selective. Those who are frothing at the mouth over Hindu Shiv Sainiks trashing a nursing home will be found to be ominously silent when hordes of Muslim miscreants, united over a communal cause, run rampant at Azad Maidan. If not silence, there will be a mumbled “I do not endorse violence but…” bromide before the inevitable diatribe on how minorities are persecuted by both policy and police and how, given their historic marginalization, spontaneous conflagrations of violence are inevitable.

The outrage over the laws that inhibit free-speech is equally uneven. Those who are silent today because “the girl should have shown respect to a great man loved by millions” were Sunny Deol voluble when the same draconian IT act was used to send the cops to the door of someone who had said something against Karti Chidambaram.

Balasaheb Thackeray, like other consummate politicians, understood all this. The selective outrage. The double standards. The political capital of having well-identified bogeymen. Where he stood apart from his contemporaries, was the sheer number of bogeymen he militated against in the course of his stellar career—-South Indians, Muslims, Gujaratis, Bhaiyyas, trade-unionists and I am sure I have forgotten some group from this list. There was always someone trying to humiliate his core constituency of the Marathi sons-of-the-soil, always some group that needed to be taught a lesson. It was not an accident that the Shiv Sena mouthpiece is called Saamna. Confrontation. The core of his political message was always this.

The never-ending narrative of conflict was also necessary for another reason– the total control of Bombay/Mumbai, its “industry”, its real-estate and, of course, its “glamour”. This had always been Bal Thackeray’s opening as well as end game. It necessitated the subjugation or at the very least, an equality of forces, with every other group that was fighting for the same prize be they Lal-Bhais or Bhaiyyas or the predominantly Muslim gangs of Lala-Haji-Dawood. And for that he needed armies of angry young disaffected men, mobilized and indoctrinated.

If this strategy for power sounds straight out of the pages of William L. Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, it was. In this case, the comparison with Hitler is not Goodwin’s Law overkill. Balasaheb himself approved of the analogy since he never made secret his admiration of Hitler’s methods of mass mobilization. Like his hero, he was a master demagogue, with that rare, oh-so-sought-after ability to rouse his audience to great passion through the force of words and the power of expression. Sarcasm, mimicry as well as humor were the tools of his trade. As well as undiluted vitriol.

Unlike other right-wing outfits who had to tone down their rhetoric keeping in mind their pan-Indian audience, Balasaheb felt no such compunctions. He could say the most provocative things imaginable, mirror the sentiment of the street, and not care for any negative political consequence.

For his fan base, which was considerable, this was perhaps the single most endearing thing about him—-his so-called plain-speaking and steadfastness of opinion. Unlike other politicians, they said, he never prevaricated. Nor did he ever back down from a stance. (According to legend, his only objection to the Tinnu Anand character that was obviously modeled on him in the film Bombay, was that unlike the character, he never repented his actions during the riots.)

Violence, in his world-view, was something more than a mechanism for getting rid of a pesky opponent, obtaining a signature on a deed or breaking a strike in a mill.

It was, effectively, a currency of respect.

When he was started out making his name busting unions, his political masters in the Congress pulled strings to keep him out of legal trouble. The more violence he got away with, the greater became his street-cred. The more his street-cred, the more people flocked to him.And given how in India, violence engaged in by a collective is always feared by the law and rationalized by society, the larger his numbers became, the more violence he could incite without fear of judicial retribution. His original political masters quickly became superfluous and were promptly dispatched to the dustbin of history, leaving Balasaheb standing alone in Mumbai, the remote-control, free to enjoy the pomp and pageantry of power with none of its consequences.

He was acceptedly not the only super-constitutional authority in town. Unlike his rivals though, or so the Thackeray-spun spin went, his power did not stem from a phone-call from Dubai or from the shadowy patronage of “outsiders”. No. His power, while as terrible and as destructive , stemmed from the local Marathi manoos and from the righteousness of his cause. Balasaheb was the tiger, benevolent when put in good mood, but capricious in his anger, something that could be set off by the slightest perceived transgression.

Which brings us to the final piece of the puzzle. Bollywood. Bollywood and the Balsaheb had a symbiotic relationship. He provided them security from the “Bhai ka phone-call” and from inconvenient labor trouble on the sets. They, in turn, fed into the Balasaheb projection of power by grovelling at his feet, or as they called it “taking advice and obtaining blessings”. And they made hagiographies like “Sarkar” where Balasaheb’s grand justification was immortalized in celluloid (it can be argued that anything else would not have been allowed to see the light of day): We live in a near-apocalyptic system where the laws have ceased to operate, extra-judicial violence is a fact of life and where super-men like Sarkar/ Balasaheb use violence and intimidation for the good of the “people” (i.e. the local population) against the bad (“them”).

More than the man, it’s this Thackeray hero narrative that I find ceaselessly fascinating; the way it was created, the way it was sold and what its acceptance tells us about ourselves—- our admiration for authoritarianism, our justification of extra-constitutional violence (so long as we are not targeted), our mistrust for each other and, the biggest enabler of them all, our legal and political system that runs scared of the fury of the mob while grinding into dust the basic rights of the individual.

 

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67 thoughts on “A Mirror To Ourselves

  1. Once someone on Mumbai said that without Thackeray Mumbai would have become something similar to Karachi by now (if it already hasnt) ….not sure if that was true

  2. I was waiting for it with some interest and it did not disappoint me at all. This coming from a Marathi Manoos!!!.
    Easily the best obituary on BalTy after the one I read by Kumar Ketkar.

  3. “and incentives violence for the collective”

    i believe the verb form is incentivize, even though ms word doesn’t recognize it.

  4. Nice post.
    What you probably left unsaid in the conclusion is the absolute lack of faith in our “rulers”. Not really sure if it has anything to do with our pre independence history or the post or may be even a process of evolution of a modern nation.

  5. “Once someone on Mumbai said that without Thackeray Mumbai would have become something similar to Karachi by now (if it already hasnt) ….not sure if that was true”

    Nice try at justifying the unjustifiable..

    Fyi, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and many other cities haven’t become similar to Karachi despite not having a tyrant lording over them. That Dawood had a stronghold over Bombay wasn’t because of absence of Thackeray on the scene, but because of the kind of politicians the city had suffered from for decades..and these are the very politician who created him and allowed him to rule unchallenged as he was convenient for them.

  6. The last paragraph is worth a read thousand times. Brilliant. Although i expected some wittyness, but i assume no wittyness allowed for an article on Bala saheb. #ArrestIdeas

  7. Is India, Bharatvarsha, Hindustan changing or am I imagining things?

    Riots
    1) 1984 Delhi: Total 442 rioters convicted including 49 for life. BUT, some high profile names continue to be under the (at least the Sikh) public scanner but apart from political oblivion, have not faced any legal punitive action. I cannot recall any big shot ending up in Jail.

    2) 1992 – 3 (Dec – Jan) Bombay / Mumbai: 10 July 2008, a Mumbai court sentenced former Shiv Sena MP Madhukar Sarpotdar and two other party activists to a year’s rigorous imprisonment. M S died before he could serve anytime at all. I am not aware of any one apart from the three who were convicted.

    3) 2002 – Gujarat – 29 Jul ’12, 32 people convicted , including former state minister …….. Additional 31 people convicted in another case pertaining to the same riots and at least few other cases AFAIK are still undertrial.

    Mob Violence

    1) 24 Jan ’09, Sri Ram Sena attacked girls in a pub in Mangalore. “A year after the vicious attack, the 30 accused are all out on bail and women say the situation is no safer.” – http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/mangalore-pub-attack-one-year-on-15262. I could not find any more recent updates.

    2) Valentines day attacks / attacks on media offices – perhaps common place now?

    3) 2012 – Vandalism of the offices of the relative of the two girls, who posted a message related to Mumbai & Late Balasaheb Thackeray – 9 people arrested. I doubt if they would get away scot free, this time around.

    Corruption

    1) 1947 – 2011 – I can’t recall a single politician, of any stature (well above the stature of municipal corporator) facing any long term adverse effects due to corruption

    2) 2011 – A. Raja – 15 months in Tihar as an undertrial!

    3) 2012 – The First Son – In – Law of the Country and the President of the Main Opposition Party, are under the public scrutiny!

    On the case pertaining to the arrest of the businessman who posted something illegal (as per the provisions of the present IT ACT) against K.C.:

    The concept of “Tipping Point” was much vaunted when propounded in the west a short whiel ago.

    I fail to recall, precisely which Indian thinker & artist, whether B. R. Chopra or Manmohan Desai or Ramesh Sippy, but some genius surely introduced me to the concept of “Paap Ka Ghada Bhar Jana” three decades ago. Some surprising similarities between the above two concepts.

    Regarding the IT Act, I think there still someway to go before the tipping point is reached. The businessman who got arrested & the two girls who got arrested, are BOTH, victims AND martyrs for the cause of freedom of speech.
    I am hopeful, that later (not sooner, it WILL take another Kejriwal – Anna to break the nexus between political parties holding up different strawmen to strangle free speech) this draconian law will be sufficiently modified to allow & even perhaps, facilitate, civil dissent on the internet.

  8. “Once someone on Mumbai said that without Thackeray Mumbai would have become something similar to Karachi by now (if it already hasnt) ….not sure if that was true”

    I was born in a city called “Bombay” in the early 1970s, a great place, a Cool Place. I grew up in Bandra (W).

    An only child of FOB, middle class, rural (from the maternal side) Bengali parents, the home was more “Bengali” than most upper middle class drawing rooms of Kolkata.

    But my first memories of a song are convulsing (our idea of dancing) on Baltimora’s Tarzan Boy, at another Bengali friend’s place, when we were around 9 or 10 years old.

    In the colony there were boys whose parents were associated with the film industry and I remember encating film sequences as a part of playing in the growing up years.

    The Bengali friends Mom (the daughter of a Jnanpith awardee) went to attend a Public Ganpati Visarjan, alone! Apparently no one thought it was unsafe or a stupid thing to do for a upper middle class or perhaps even well to do individual.

    Till the late 80’s if you did not play Dandia till past midnight, you must have been the offspring of Bengali migrant parents!

    Delhi, THE CAPITAL of India, was a beautiful, planned semi – urban place, somewhere in the northern part of the world, where people were fast trying to become Cool. Those of us living in Mumbai were pretty sure that Delhi was a great place and would be as cool as us, in about a 1000 years.

    Today, thankfully away from Mumbai, I sometimes wonder what Bombay could have been, perhaps a New York?

    If only there had been no ……

  9. Heres something interesting:

    I live in Mumbai, India but watch a lot of American news television because i find it entertaining and the level of discourse is much higher than Indian television.

    On the one hand there are the far left pundits(Bill Maher, Chris Matthews,Rachel Maddow) and on the other right wing extremists(Sean Hannity, Bill O Reilly, Megyn kelly, Rush Limbaugh etc). I adore the first kind and love it when the latter gets punked or “owned” by guests and others. This is because there is a chance i might come as a student to the US and settle down there. I need the tolerant far left kind of open minded people, cause the right wingers dont exactly like me not least of all for the colour of my skin.

    Heres the twist: I believe an equivalent of the far-left kind of people in India are BaDu,SaGh,RaSa etc. And right wingers..well RajT, NaMo etc. I do not like the former kind since i believe they are “too liberal” and too flexible with respect to the “other”. This makes me a bit like Bill O Reilly with respect to these people doesnt it? I consider my idealogy flat “center-right”. Nothing to the left of that, sometimes to the right. I want to be made to feel like “this is my land, my country and its for people like me”. Thats where the right wing psychology stems from. It when people want to feel like this is a place “for them”. Its their house, where nobody can question them, discriminate against them etc. And therein lies my hypocrisy and failing. Im very liberal in an American context, because itll suit me. And im centre-right in India, well again because itll suit me. Is that a failing or is that just me looking out for my best interests?

    Finally, this is why i also admire the independents in the US especially those from the “rust belt” Iowa, ohio, Michigan etc…They look at both idealogies and decide which one is better for their best interests and then vote for that idealogy.

  10. +10 to the comment by Rohit. Its India, people who enter the crowded bogie a couple of station earlier don’t want anymore people to come in when the train stops at the next station.

    Besides we are a mob not a nation.

  11. I am curious about one thing. So the masters of Thackeray in the dawn of his career were rendered superfluous. These are the lawmakers and the movers & shakers of the country. The very laws (or absence thereof) that allow people like Thackeray to exist were made by them, these shady politicians who now fear the dog they bred. Why haven’t they changed these laws yet? What’s in it for them??

  12. “And therein lies my hypocrisy and failing. Im very liberal in an American context, because itll suit me. And im centre-right in India, well again because itll suit me. Is that a failing or is that just me looking out for my best interests?”

    It’s rare when someone who admits admiration for right-wing ideology confesses being a hypocrite. If only there were more of your types, people would realize that essentially there was no difference between BT and Kasab. Both terrorized and killed a few hundred Bombayites, didn’t they?

  13. Very well-written, and alarming in the mentality it uncovers.

    One quibble, though – given that you, too, seem to consider him a thug, what’s with the ‘Balasaheb’? His name was Bal. One hardly refers to Hitler in print as ‘Adolfji’. Just curious about that – was it incidental, or a deliberate use of the honorific ‘saheb’ given the grand presence of the odious little man you mention in the article?

  14. Balasaheb Thackeray was a one of a kind leader. Oncs Kashmiri militants declared no Amarnath yatra or else. Balasaheb immediately declared no Haj from Mumbai. He was the only politician who provided reservations of kashmiri pandits in maharashtra. He even opposed mandal commission which cost him is strong leader Chaggan Bhujbal who joined NCP.

    Balasaheb protected hindus from muslim riots in 1992-93. He provided a balance in mumbai if you know what I mean. He stood by hindus and he was the reason why muslims were under control in mumbai. Otherwise mumbai ko hyderabad banneh jyada time nahi lagta.

  15. The last paragraph summed it up nicely. But I wonder if it is a basic human instinct which will always work that way. Or is there a way to change it ?
    Be it the Third Reich or the Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo, I wonder if this behavior is self ingrained in our psyche.

  16. To echo sadaf above : about time, but also excellent @ the right time.

    Whether BT or NaMo or their self proclaimed idol Hitler, what they have is a huge talent in channelising the angst and tension of the middle classes to hate … suitable targets. You brought that out well. I didn’t know whether to laugh or puke when I read that paragon of defiance SRK groveling on Twitter about his hugs and kisses with BT.

    From the title though, I expected to read what it depicts about ourselves, that we feel the need to celebrate the murder by state of Kasab. Sure, no regrets, due process of law and all that, but celebration ? What does that say about us ?

  17. great!
    you didn’t disappoint after all :)
    i feel sad looking at the sainiks; driven by extreme hatred and wonder if it’s frustration of their unemployment or really the destructive behavior that sena bred in its stables; How are they different from the jehadis anyway?
    and bollywood,despite its glamour,could never join hands against him.

    i’ll give it a generation more,before mumbai belongs to India and not some odd ‘manoos’.

  18. Why the panga with Manu Joseph? Quite frankly your writing doesnt hold a candle to his.
    Or I wonder if that Anna article started off with a paragraph that was too accurate for comfort.

    And.. the point of this Thackerey rambling being?
    ‘Goodness’ is overrated. Children should not believe that the picture in the textbook is real. They can learn how to be a cynic, a GB or a Thackerey.

  19. When there are hyenas hounding you, you need a stick scare them away.

    Balasahab was the stick to the Hyenas like Haji mastan and Dawood and abu azmi.

    He steadily chipped away at the control of the islamic mafia over Mumbai’s backlane economy. whether it is the brothels of Bhendi bazaar, or the movie rights to Bollywood hits.

    He did what a fair and honest government should have done. The intellectuals and deconstruct him as much as they want.

  20. @ Fizza rahman…”Karachi is a thousand times better than Mumbai/Bombay” there can be no rational reply to that …i assume you live in Karachi and have lived in mumbai/bombay for a while too..)

    @ Just another idiot …Wasnt trying to justify anything. Just mentioned something a lifelong (non-maharashtrian btw) bombaywallah once told me..i found that interesting as i assumed most non maharashtrians would be opposed to BT but wasnt the case as i found out

  21. @s ghai- “Why the panga with Manu Joseph? Quite frankly your writing doesnt hold a candle to his.”

    You would say that because you are a fucking moron. Anybody who says Manu Joseph is a good writer is a moron. He is just one of those wishy-washy writers who grossly over-generalize and whose writing has no “meat”.

  22. The main reason for the prevalence of the crazy right-wing is the implicit approval of the large frustrated Hindu middle class(mostly Brahmin and other upper castes). Which is why it’s necessary for the liberals to permeate intellectual discourse through society, and be more firm in their stance against extremism, or a Third Reich is very much a possibility. In desperate times, people are easily seduced by extremism. It happened in Germany, it is happening in Islamic states, and India is always operating on the edge of chaos. It was sad to see the media lacking collective balls during the BalT’s funeral. We need more aggressive activism against conservative intolerance, the voice of reason needs to get louder than the voice of hatred. Sadly, we don’t have anyone with integrity among our culture-makers. Not vapid cunts of Bollywood, nor the coward douchebags of news media.

  23. @ Restitution –

    Shiv Sena was hand-in-gloves with Dawood during the 1980s. In fact, its MLAs like Vithal Chavan used to run protection rackets with Guru Satam. It was only when Thackeray realised the ‘political utility’ of Hindutva ideology that Shiv Sena distanced itself from Dawood. By the way, Thackeray is the same guy who once proudly claimed, “If you have Dawood, we have Arun Gawli.”

  24. Been a fan of this blog for quite many years but lost interest in between and today visited this blog after 8-10 months and I am disappointed to see that you’re still talking about ‘problems’… ranting about the problems with the exceptional command over the English language. Where are the solutions sire?
    Disappointed to see that a person with insight like you, with a blog as powerful as this, is still embroiled into… problems and don’t know may be is making a living out of waxing eloquence on… problems

    btw…
    that FB arrest incident:
    1) If you had read (because obviously now you cannot as its ‘edited’ now) the very first and early articles on that news, the FB comment which the gal posted was mentioned, say ‘X’ and the subsequent articles which are floating now have ‘Y’ (with news item obviously ‘edited’
    2) The ‘Shiv Sainiks’ arrested for vandalism include 2-3 Muslim names… ahem. Yeah..

  25. Hi GB,

    Will appreciate if you could respond to my comment since you too were once a wide eyed student coming to the US for a better quality of life or whatever right…consider me where you were all those years ago, fresh off the boat. Think my point is valid?

  26. Rohit,

    Im very liberal in an American context, because itll suit me. And im centre-right in India, well again because itll suit me

    One cannot compare the “Lefts” and the “Rights” between different political systems. In many ways, in the US, the person who is Left is pretty right by Indian standards.[Somewhat of a generalization I accept, but more or less true] For instance, in India, Arundhati Roy is mainstream. In the US, Noam Chomsky (Arundhati essentially copies his rhetoric Pritam style) is not considered seriously by the mainstream.

  27. I think the point that Rohit is making here is that a minority in a society is always ‘liberal’ because it suits them. They cannot be anything but liberal. That is the problem with Indian’s generally where they support Obama (some surveys have been done) but when it comes to India they are not so sure.

    Again left or right is in context of the center of a given country. Indian center is anyways right of centers of many western countries clearly due to non modernisation effect. As people earn money and have got that part out of their way can think of things like liberty, freedom etc. These are luxuries for a poor country like India. All rich western democracies have gone through some form of right wing ness before settling to liberalism, but only after they were comfortably settled in middle class dome.

    India on the other hand started its journey with a moralistic brigade, though good intention ed was not suited for India. That where this schizophrenia nation stands now. Not sure what is good and not sure what is bad. going in a haphazard direction all round. In this context people like Bal T are bound to arise as a consequence of dumping moral values on a country actually needing basic amenities.

  28. Arundhati Roy is not mainstream. In India, not a single leader in the Left or Right has come out in support of anything that Roy stands for. Most consider her a crackpot with untenable ideas.

    I agree that one cannot compare the “Lefts” and the “Rights” between different political systems. It is a bit weird. Consider Gun Control for example. The so called Conservatives are more liberal than the Liberals when it comes to Guns.

    @Rohit
    I think Conservatism/Liberalism or Left/Right are concepts which limit and obfuscate our thinking. The faster we let go of such labels, the easier it is to be Logical.

  29. Vikram, Arundhati is regularly profiled on news channels. She writes for mainstream media outlets like Outlook. I don’t know how you can get more mainstream than that.

  30. Yeah, a mainstream supporting Kashmir Azadi and all that jazz. So much so for ‘freedom of speech’, democracy and all that jazz

    SS and Balasaheb fed on dysfunctional democracy and pseudo secularism. He hit Gujjus, who had ensured in 60s that BEST buses and locals had only 2 languages written on them, English and Gujarati. Crowded local… a Gujju gets up, only a Gujju sits…He hit Shettys (‘South Indians’ as the media says) who by sheer goondaism were grabbing the real estate (‘Udupis’ etc.)
    And then came onto his target the Dawoods and Muslims. Balasaheb’s men formed the all important ‘mass people support’ mechanism who in hand with Mumbai Police (which was also in Balasaheb’s control to a large extent) demolished Dawood hegemony over Mumbai
    Islam, as a religion itself, does not support co-existence of other religions and hence, violence becomes the most justifiable means of suppressing and replying to their quest for achieving ‘Islam’s dominance’
    Balasaheb took on such Muslims in the only manner suitable (recount burning of Radhabai Chawal in Jogeshwari area of Mumbai by Muslim rioters which proved to be flashpoint for ‘teaching Muslims a lesson’)

    Why am I writing all this. Coz the moment I finished reading your article, I was like ‘So?… whats the point?’ Your article just repeats the oft repeated themes catering to the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ of intellectual armchairship…
    & that’s why in my previous comment I wondered that may be you are making a living out of waxing eloquence on the oft repeated… problems and may be catering to the bottom of the pyramid itself in the intellectual armchairship

  31. US, Noam Chomsky (Arundhati essentially copies his rhetoric Pritam style)

    i would disagree with you there – chomsky is a logician. he has an opinion (like everyone else) but he usually makes a rhetorical argument. unlike a polemical rant, which is what arundhati specializes in. rambling polemics combined with middle brow and somewhat purple prose.

    also i disagree with your pronouncement that arundhati is mainstream. I can’t say if she is or not, but i think your bias certainly precludes you from making an honest appraisal. you seem to really dislike her.

    which is fine, you’re entitled.

    but i would also add that Outlook is arguably pretty left-wing (if you check their roster of authors) and when arundhati does get mentioned by the mainstream press, it’s usually as some kind of shrill harpy. unlike, say, ramachandra guha.

    i don’t like arundhati, but i don’t think that’s fair either.

  32. @yourfan2: “You would say that because you are a fucking moron. Anybody who says Manu Joseph is a good writer is a moron.”

    Classy, my friend. And you are?

  33. Overcompensated in an effort to appear balanced, in my opinion.

    Thackeray was a thug lording over a criminal empire. The only thing that differentiated his methods from say, a Dawood Ibrahim, was his usage of populism to justify the hooliganism perpetrated by his hordes. At least Dawood is blatant.

    “Violence, in his world-view … was, effectively, a currency of respect.”

    Well, it is the world-view of the entire gamut of criminals across the world, throughout history, without exception…from genocidal tyrants to petty locality goons.

    I think we should call a spade a spade. A few lakh onlookers for a spectacle of a funeral does not a ‘beloved’ leader make. This man was hated with a vengeance outside the boundaries of Maharashtra, and dare I say, by a significant section of the population within it.
    His legacy belongs to the dustbin of history. And GB, if you’re still writing a decade later, I’m sure you’ll struggle to remember what influence this guy ever had on India, Maharashtra or even Bombay.

  34. i will agree shubs. Greatbong did in fact overcompensate. And he tends to not compare like with like. I mean to put it in context whitey saying nigger and nigger saying whitey is really not the same thing…pace the false equivalence of hindu perpetrated atrocity vs muslim perpetrated atrocity.

    the whole being liberal in the US and being rightwingy in India strikes me as not being the cognitive dissonance it’s made out to be though. in the US, iberals are pro-capital and social progressives. Cause that’s how the coastal liberal elites roll, and champagne socialism is easy to perform. In India, pro-capital folks are openly douchey about social progressivism because they can be, there’s no social stigma, and the alternative isn’t worth bothering with.

    It’s left to the pejoratively termed “jholawalas” to pick up the slack. although limousine liberalism is picking up in india, poverty is just so epicly stark it’s less easy to get away with. and jholawalas will never be an aspirational model to emulate, the way young people want to be hipsters here, as much as they are made fun of.

    anyhoo, re thackeray, this is pretty bracing. back when bollywood had some spine – http://www.sify.com/movies/the-filmmakers-who-stood-up-to-thackeray-and-won-news-bollywood-mlxroueggfh.html

  35. “Violence, in his world-view … was, effectively, a currency of respect.”
    Wasn’t it our rocket scientist president who said (the unfortunately grammatically incorrect sentence) “Only strength respects strength” during the Pokharan tests? Violence is the currency of respect throughout the world. You will never get a Nobel Peace Prize unless you had the potency to use violence (but chose not to, at least one one occasion). Given the jolly band who won NPP, someone will soon nominate BT.

  36. I don’t think Arundhati Roy is mainstream in India. Having spent nearly a decade in US I returned to India last year. In this year I have not seen Ms. Roy even once on any news channel or read her article on either TOI or Hindu (the two newspapers I read). Moreover, I have seen prominent news readers on Indian TV being quite unsympathetic to her ideology. In particular I remember Arnab of Times Now lampooning the likes of Ms. Roy on a news item.
    Those on the right here (BJP) are considered far-right in US. Almost every time Indian news was read out on international channels the BJP was described as “far -right wing Hindu nationalist party”.
    A comparison at this stage in impossible to make. The politics is completely different.

  37. Not having stayed in Mumbai, you so obviously lack the knowledge or perspective to understand or comment on thackreys importance to Mumbai (you are entitled to your opinions though, just the way i would have opinions about calcutta inspite of haveing visited the city only once). Most people in mumbai appreciate him for saving hindus in mumbai during the 1992 riots, at a time when even the cops seemed powerless to stop muslim mobs. It is thanks to thackrey that mumbai hasnt been run over by bangladeshi’s the way calcutta has been.
    And as for parochialism, you need to salute the ordinary ‘marathi manoos’ for never having voted him to power, which shows that they reject linguistic causes. The only time the shiv sena-bjp combine formed the govt was after the 1992 riots when the state communally polarised but apart from that thackrey has never enjoyed the support of the majority of the marathi population, specially in areas outside mumbai and thane. And for guys who will immediately point out raj thackrey and his men killing outsiders, then those killers were his party men, not representative of the generl marathi population (the same way the killings of sikhs were carried out in 1984 by congress workers, and not hindus who had a religious/ communal motive for killing sikhs).

  38. JB has mentioned correctly. You cant judge the situation if you are not in Mumbai. I stayed in mumbai for 6-7 years and can understand this. It is true that He had done mistakes to oppose South and North Indians . But It is also true that He has kept mob silence. You may have not seen riot so You will never understand. Riots should not happen is true but if it happens then both side should be strong enough to protect their people.
    Also Its true that Girl arrest over facebook should have not happened, But One should not use his/her freedom of speech immediately after some person die.

  39. @ JB & Opinion,
    there is no way to verify (AFAIK) claims on the internet, especially by anonymous commenters, and therefore they are just claims.
    Thus, I can only claim and cannot prove, to be a person born in then Bombay and to have spent the first decade and half of my life there. Thence moved to a smaller city in Maharashtra, back to Mumbai in the early 2000s and then out to another city within Maharashtra. I can only claim to speak Marathi fluently and enjoy its society. I can only claim to be as Maharshtrian as Bengali.

    Along with all above, I also claim to empathize with many of the complaints of the Marathi Manoos. However, I am deeply confused as to the side the god in question was batting for, was it the Hindus of the World, Of India, of Maharashtra? The Marathi Manoos? His Family? Himself?

    I will spare you the thoughts of a muggle as myself, but rather shall direct you to a link for a write up by a genuine Dhartiputra, one Shri Vidyadhar Date.

    http://www.rediff.com/news/column/view-thackeray-a-close-ally-of-the-capitalists/20121129.htm

    Cheers.

  40. The policy of violence and lawlessness of any party are completely wrong and cannot be supported by any sane person. The need of the hour is to open our minds, not close our borders. Having said that, I sincerely feel that one particular party / its offshoots have given Maharshtrians a name that they do not deserve. This then is a piece to present another perspective of the state I call home.

    Within Maharashtra, there is a pressure of internal migration, i.e. rural poor moving to Mumbai just for subsistence. Agriculture is not all that great here, especially in Eastern Mah. These uneducated, dirt poor people with no marketable skills in an urban milieu, are then pitted against people from other states who have also come in for subsistence. Hence the lower class Maharashtrians eye with resentment perhaps, the Bhelpuri Vendor, Rickshaw Driver, Cart Puller etc speaking Bhojpuri and criticizing local food!

    Adjoining states in India have some similarities, especially in food & language. There is a gradual transition that happens on the land / rail journey from one part of India to another. Thus when a Kannadiga or someone from MP comes to Mahrashttra there is a different impact than when a Bihari comes to Maharashtra.

    Further, with Mumbai being the hub of commerce for a while, the middle & upper class Maharshtrians, who like Bengalis & Tamilians, respect being an employee much more than being an employer, have had to face competition from the said Tamilians & Bengalis for jobs! I believe that those who migrate, like scores of Maharshtrian Engineers seeking higher education in the US, would likely be more ambitious & hardworking and possibly smarter than those who choose to stay. The above is partially true, but less pronounced of Pune & Nashik also.

    Thus there is a large section of urban Maharashtrians, who have had to face competition at heightened levels. Compounded with mediocre governance, this has resulted in a general degradation in the quality of life. One of the reasons I moved out of Mumbai the second time, was because I was convinced that the situation would only get worse in terms of civic amenities and infrastructure leading to worsening quality of life. Observing the situation from mid 2000s till date, I am glad I made that choice.

    Having said all of the above, I can vouch that none of my educated Maharashtrian friends support a party with parochial and violent policies. They are not as parochial as they are made out to be, though many amongst them, espcially those who have not stayed outside Maharashtra for a long time, would enrich themselves, by opening up their minds a lot more towards other cultures, languages, cuisine and people in general.

    While the solution is not to stop or even reduce mobility within India, which would affect Maharashtra itself adversely, it would be a good first step if our political masters at least acknowlegded that any city has a finite capacity and the balance of its resources’ demand & supply has to be met with proper planning.

  41. This is brilliant. Sums up my feelings about India when I came back from my first month long trip to the US recently. On an aside, where do you live now? I would have loved to write something along the same lines but living in India I am genuinely afraid.

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