Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Statement: Shame on Maharashtra Govt for giving State Funeral to a Fascist Demagogue

- Statement Issued by New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

On November 18, 2012, Mr Bal Keshav Thackeray, the founder and leader of Shiv Sena was cremated with full state honours in Mumbai. State Honour in death is meant to pay homage to someone whose work in life contributed to the values espoused by the state. Why did a liberal democratic state proclaiming Gandhi to be ‘Father of the Nation’ give such an honour to a self declared admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nathu Ram Godse? The Constitution of India guarantees freedom and liberty to every citizen, irrespective of religion, caste, gender, place of birth or language. Against this, for nearly 46 years the politics of Mr Thackeray and Shiv Sena were based on selectively targeting communities, openly spreading hatred and perpetrating violence against them. What Shiv Sena calls Thokshahi, its method of doing politics, is brutal use of group muscle power, justified in the name of majority, against vulnerable minorities. Shiv Sena started its political journey with attacking Tamil speaking inhabitants of Bombay in the late sixties. It burnt down their restaurants, because, it argued Tamils were taking jobs away from Marathis. In early seventies it brutally attacked Dalit Panthers, the group of radical anti-castiest dalits who had risen against opportunism of mainstream dalit parties. It was also accused of the murder of Dalit Panther leader Bhagwat Jadhav. With the support of big business and police it attacked left trade unions of Mumbai, and to spread its terror killed the popular trade unionist and sitting CPI MLA Krishna Desai. Mr Thackeray was one of the few Hindutva leader who publicly gloated over the destruction of Babri Mosque in 1992. The pogrom of Muslims in Mumbai during the 1992-93 riots was planned and executed by Shiv Sena. Lately, it and its progeny, the MNS, have started attacking Hindi speaking migrants in Mumbai. It has burnt their taxis and shops. Along with the use of group violence, Mr Thackeray perfected the art of protection money racket, a rank criminality that partially explains the phenomenal growth in the personal wealth of top Shiv Sena leadership.

While the politics of Shiv Sena’s is diametrically opposed to the principles of the Indian constitution, its success is premised on the functioning liberal bourgeois politics of the country. A host of big Congress leaders and elected Chief Ministers of Maharashtra have actively courted and encouraged Shiv Sena and turned a blind eye to its crimes. Judiciary has refused to take cognizance of anti-muslim hate speeches of Mr Thackeray. Police has consistently failed to arrest Shiv Sena leadership over their involvement in riots. What passes off as liberal democracy in India is an open ended factional squabble among socially powerful. Protection of citizens’ rights is among the last of its priorities. It legitimizes use of violence by the state, and economically and socially powerful. Liberal democracy of India provides enough ground for the growth of fascist demagogues like Mr Thackeray. Fascism is an aspect of mass politics under capitalism. It nurtures its base by providing an opportunity to dis-affected sections of lower classes to vent out their frustration and feel powerful by attacking other weaker sections of society. Shiv Sena and MNS are the most successful examples of fascism in post independent India at a local level. The roots of their success however, must go much deeper. What explains flowing tributes given to Mr Thackeray by icons of Indian popular culture like Lata Mangeshkar, Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan? Why do such established names, who certainly do not need political patronage from gangs organized under Shiv Sena, flock to Mr Thackeray as if he was their guardian angel?

Hindu caste society legitimizes hierarchy, discourages any feeling of equality and fraternity among diverse groups, and espouses violence against ‘outcastes’ and women. Its dharma, based on moral opportunism robs individual humans of their autonomy and freedom. Prescient observers like Dr Ambedkar had long ago seen the fundamental conflict between modern democracy and caste, and advocated latter’s annihilation. Caste Hindu society is the cesspool that sprouts fascism in India, which then grows with opportunities offered by politics under capitalism. Success of Shiv Sena and state honours given to some one like Mr Thackeray show that the liberal model of governance adopted by the rulers of post-independence India has failed to dissolve the casteist bedrock of Hindu society. It has also failed to usher in an era of equal citizenship rights to all that its constitution guarantees. It is high time people of India start thinking of alternatives.


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