Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Maharashtra Govt hesitant to act against Raj Thackeray

We are in an age of globalization, with Indians traveling all over the world. The Indian Government routinely takes it up when they see any country trying to put restrictions on Indian citizens working over there (as an example, witness the (though so far unsuccessful) attempts of the Government to get a reversal of the new flawed work permit system for medicos in the UK). It is taken for granted that this is our country, and one can go and live anywhere in the country. There are some exceptions to this, such as the inability of outsiders to buy land in Kashmir, Himachal, etc; but these were special exceptions to prevent these small places from getting swamped by outsiders and retain their character.
To argue a similar thing for a leading metro of the country, on the other hand, is incredible. What Raj Thackeray is doing is almost equivalent to sedition, when he argues that outsiders essentially have no place in Mumbai. Mumbai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in India, a place that is sought to be converted by the Government into a leading financial center of Asia. Arguing that outsiders are not welcome, and provoking attacks on them is not just criminal, but is going against the whole oneness of the country, and is equivalent to sedition. Mumbai has developed, and continues to develop, because of the movement of talent and people to that city.
The sad part in all this is that even Raj Thackeray knows what he is speaking is gibberish, and due to political reasons. The Shiv Sena itself is one among the leading players in the state, and the political chances of a radical offshoot of the Shiv Sena (headed by a junior politician such as Raj) are very low. The only way to generate enthusiasm for one's party is by taking an extremist position, and trying to appeal to people who feel somewhat threatened by the influx of outsiders.
However, such sentiment needs to be met quickly, and not by treating it as a case of letting off steam. This is not a mass movement that needs to let off steam, this is a cold calculated position that has been taken in order to accrue political advantage, and the quicker that the state takes action, the better:

Raj Thackeray's supporters on Monday continued to carry out sporadic attacks on migrants on Mumbai's streets even as the state government sought to dispel concerns that it was not making a serious effort to quell the violence.
At Worli, taxis owned by Uttar Bharatiyas were stoned and their drivers attacked. In Dadar, hawkers were roughed up and warned against doing business in the area. The conflict even spread to other parts of the state as MNS workers burnt effigies of Raj Thackeray's detractors in Nashik, Beed and Nagpur. The government, under pressure to arrest Raj Thackeray and use tough measures to prevent the conflict from snowballing, sought to defuse the situation by booking him in a case of criminal intimidation.

It seems like the Government does not want to be seen as taking tough action and is hence giving Raj Thackeray a political lease by not cracking down. However, if this violence and action continue, it can have a ripple effect due to corresponding reactions in other parts of the country. The Government cannot afford to play politics with this case, it needs to take action. There will not be many people who will be offended by any crackdown and prosecution of Thackeray.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:54 AM