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.