Saturday, October 25, 2008

The drama over Raj Thackeray

The drama over Raj Thackeray is reaching a new high. Raj Thackeray, once he split from the Shiv Sena had to make a separate image for himself. So, one of the ways to do this was to try to appeal to the parochial nature of people; blame outsiders for whatever is the economic poor condition and try to inflame their sentiments. He has managed to be somewhat successful in this quest, inflaming sentiments and overall leading to a situation where immigrants from North India have been attacked inside Mumbai and other parts of the state of Maharashtra. In the past, this led to panic and the temporary stoppage of many industrial units with many of their workers running away.
And how does the Chief Minister handle this whole situation. The Shiv Sena has long been a thorn in the side of the Congress in Maharashtra, with their more pro-Marathi position and higher propensity to appeal to populist sentiment. The Congress cannot afford take such positions, since it needs to appeal to all sections of people, and cannot afford to antagonize the voters of North Indian origin. And of course, taking a more extremist position in Maharashtra would expose them to a backlash elsewhere; and their chief Sonia Gandhi would be targeted for such positioning; so if you get a person all ready to be more extremist than the Shiv Sena, you can imagine the scenario of a Congress Chief Minister salivating over the prospect of the Sena's divided vote.
What this has resulted in is the Congress treating Raj Thackeray with kid gloves; they come out with empty soundbeats about 'The law will take its own course', 'We will protect everyone and not let violence happen', and so on. And yet, they allow the lumpen elements of the MNS to attack and do violence in broad daylight, they do token arrest of Raj Thackeray, keep him in absolute comfort and let him out by the next day (first time, they let him out within a few hours, and the next time overnight). The police officers claim that they have nothing against Raj Thackeray. And they can see the campaign working, the Shiv Sena is now unsure of how to behave and is trying to take credit for the campaign of the MNS. Read this report of the treatment of Raj:

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray need not worry about being arrested during Diwali, at least in the case filed by the Kalyan railway police. A Kalyan sessions court on Friday extended its interim protection to Thackeray till the next date of hearing, which falls on November 11. Sessions judge K K Tantrapale, however, emphasised that one of the conditions for the interim protection was that Thackeray will have to refrain from giving provocative and inflammatory speeches.
The judge questioned whether the state would be able to ensure the smooth functioning of the court if Thackeray was ordered to remain present in court. ‘Is the state machinery ready to provide adequate bandobast in the court premises,’ the judge asked the prosecutor. The judge further told the prosecutor that on Tuesday MNS activists had managed to forcibly enter the court premises and shouted slogans and created a commotion. Salian assured the court that the police would put in place adequate security.

This whole situation has seen a woeful lack of an attempt by the State Government to try and prevent the violence, and the whole atmosphere of intimidation that is equally bad. Even after large scale condemnation by various parties (including allies of the Congress), there does not seem to be any clear attempt to show Raj Thackeray the violations of law that he has committed. Instead, after seeing the repeated
statements of Raj (followed by direct action of his partymen), I am reminded of the way that the militants expelled most of the pandits from the Kashmir Valley. It is like a 2 step process, where Raj does not directly state violence, but leaves nothing else to be desired, and then his partymen carry out the actual violence.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 10:36 AM