Sunday, July 09, 2006

Shiv Sena Goes On A Rampage And The Party Ends


It’s a little difficult to fathom. Some miscreant/s desecrated Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s late wife’s statue in Shivaji Park in central Bombay (Mumbai) on Sunday morning. Shiv Sainiks go on a rampage burning buses, stoning cars, heckling citizens and smashing store fronts in Nashik, Pune and Aurangabad, towns several hours away from the commercial capital.

Shiv Sena leaders emerge from their houses to challenge the ruling state Congress-NCP government to find the culprits within 24 hours or else..its not clear what the hanging threat means. It surely does not mean that the Shiv Sena will go to the High Court with a Public Interest Litigation. Its evening and I've stayed at home this Sunday. Not out of choice.

Bombay is under siege again, albeit for just half a day. Its restless, frustrated and angry populace is out on the streets. Some seem genuinely angry at the defacement of the statue. Mrs Thackeray was like a mother to them, they say. But it seems difficult to believe their anger is only directed at the defacement. More likely, it is at the perceived enemies of the Shiv Sena, old or new. And most likely, it is new. The Shiv Sena has been hunting for a cause for a while now.

What's The Real Motivation ?

Watching the young men hurl bricks into glass store fronts in the northern suburb of Thane, one wonders what could be the possible motivation. Actually, several come to mind. The obvious one is that the shops did not close down when the Shiv Sena asked them to. In India, a bandh or a shut-down is a way of expressing anger. Through brute force. So much for democratic protests. In any case, shops were closed already. So, why were bricks being hurled ?

To settle old scores, like jobs not given. Or, to find an easy outlet for a rising frustration against all the glitz and glamour that they can see and almost touch but not experience. In India, its almost always been the latter. Destruction of physical property is a leveling experience. It allows the person to think he can conquer and vanquish. And bring those who dared rise above him economically or otherwise back to ground.

Its not the first time we’ve seen this phenomenon - dismissed as "spontaneous reaction of the angered masses" by the leaders who instigate them. It won’t be the last time either. Parked buses, private cars and taxis are traditional targets. The latest targets are the malls and multiplexes, the new glass and steel manifestations of prosperity. Unfortunately, on days like this, they only highlight the disparities inherent rather than the goodies they house within.

The Party's Over ?

Hang on, isn't this the commercial capital of the country where we are talking of ? Where opportunities abound, where no resident whether living in a highrise or on the streets goes without a meal. Where there is a spirit of carmaderie, kindness and trust. Where the civic system can fail, but the people won't. All true and yet, helping people in distress and watching helplessly as the economy shifts from under their feet are two different things.

I have another working hypothesis..if there is one sign that the last three or four years of economic euphoria are about to take a breather, this, perhaps, is it. The widespread vandalism is just a manifestation of the problems bubbling beneath.

5 comments:

PS said...

I absolutely agree with the final analysis that vandalism against the 'symbols' of prosperity is a way for those who are not part of it to vent their anger. A peculiar trait of Indian vote-banks which the political classes of India very often nurture.

I have to cite Bangalore since it is one place that has seen this sort of move from a 'green' city of calm to one that's just brimming with disgruntled locals and 'sons of the soil'. Being an 'outsider', and by that I mean someone who is not from Karnataka or worse, who does not speak Kannada, I feel that a sense of civil disquiet has slowly but surely crept into Bangalore in the last 10 years. As the recent incidents in Mumbai and other parts of India show, Karnataka and Bangalore are not isolated instances. This is a strangely cultural thing that permeates India as a whole but rears it head more frequently in states which have some sort of regional movement going on.

India has just too many "cultural" problems to really be able to find it's way in the world. We were ruled and plundered by too many empires and that 'plundered', 'exploited' mindset is still very much alive. It is visible in the many divides of the country - the language divide, the regional divide, the religion divide, the ideology divide, the caste divide, etc. But instead of evolving a tolerant, meritocratic society that is able to bridge these divides, we have decided to deepen the disconnect. I suspect that these are signs that as a nation, more than half a century later, we still refuse to believe that we are free from the shackles of history that had pinned us down hopelessly for centuries. We are still fighting those ghosts but in the process we are maiming ourselves.

PS

vivi on 2:46 pm said...

Hey Govind, I have been a big fan of you for sometime now. I have enjoyed your anchoring, interviews and GD’s on CNBC. I don’t get to see enough of you these days; frankly it’s robed my charm for the channel!! Do let me know where I could get to see/hear more of you? I am thrilled that I came across your blog!!

Bombay Addict on 3:01 pm said...

Govind - needless to say I agree.

I've linked you up in a brief post I just did on the Mayor of Mumbai joining hands with protestors and staging a rail roko.

The Mayor of the city getting down on the tracks and stopping trains.

Surely a new low.

Anonymous said...

Spot On. The Sainik has always aspired to be at the top of the economic pecking order - sadly this has meant that those willing to work in meritocratic mumbai -the southies of the 60s, the gujjus of the 80s , the bhaiyyas of the 2000s have then become soft targets. I beleive the SS is a symbol of every native who resents immigrant acheivements, be they the kannada koota of bangalore or the bhadralok of bengal.

Ila

ashishchandorkar on 10:47 pm said...

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I have written on article about Shivsena and uddhav thackrey also. Please read it and comment.

 

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