Sena stumps Shivaji
by Sandhya Jain on 24 Nov 2009 17 Comments

Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has clearly lost the plot. His irate but innately vacuous tirade against cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar has not only failed to bolster his shaky status as regional satrap, but reflects sadly upon how far the Sena has drifted from its avowed goal of protecting Hindus from the physical predations of hostile forces.  


By indulging in puerile Marathi chauvinism to surpass nephew Raj Thackeray, who has dented the political stature of nominated Sena heir, Uddhav, Bal Thackeray has diminished a cause and a community held in high esteem. Unless speedy course correction is undertaken, the rising generation of Shiv Sainiks will believe that lumpenisation alone is the party goal and strategy.


Worse, the senior Thackeray will be making the same grievous error made by the Asom Gana Parishad, which allowed a nationalist sentiment to oust illegal Bangladeshi settlers from the State to degenerate into narrow regional chauvinism. The AGP refused to accommodate Bengali Hindus and Bangla Hindu refugees within the movement, with the result that it failed to achieve any objectives while in power, and was easily sidelined thereafter.


The Shiv Sena, Thackeray should remember, is not named after the great god Shiva, and need not behave like wild ganas. It was inspired by the great Maratha warrior Shivaji, who fashioned a Hindu kingdom amid a sea of Islamic sultanates, and rejuvenated India’s ancient civilisational ethos in the adverse circumstances of the seventeenth century. Shivaji struck a mortal blow at the Mughal Empire by challenging Aurangzeb, and established political agency for the beleaguered Hindu community.


Shivaji proved that Hindus had a sense of ‘Hindu’ identity (and were not, and are not, an imagined community, as secular historians desperately seek to establish). Kashi Vishwanath temple was razed in 1669; Krishna Janmabhoomi temple was converted into a mosque in 1670. The contemporary poet Bhushan quit the Mughal capital in 1671 and came to Shivaji’s kingdom where he composed Shiv Bhooshan, a biography which clearly states the king wanted to set up a Hindu Pad Padshahi.


As the aging Thackeray ponders his loss of political splendour, he would do well to enlarge his currently puny canvass to the mega dimensions of the original Maratha sardeshmukh. Shivaji strove consciously for power as an instrument for the resurrection of dharma (righteousness), and termed his quest as “Hindavi Swarajya,” a word with geographical and spiritual-cultural connotations. When in his teens in 1645 CE, he began administering his father's estate under a personalized seal of authority in Sanskrit, a hint that he envisaged independence and adhered to the Hindu tradition. A 1646 CE letter to Dadaji Naras Prabhu refers to an oath that Shivaji, Prabhu, and others took in the presence of the deity at Rayareshwar, to establish “Hindavi Swarajya.”


The Peshwa, in contrast, accepted the Persian script under the influence of a Muslim courtesan, and narrow-mindedly refused to convert her to Hindu dharma despite her keenness to embrace the faith. As a result, the Marathas bowed to the Mughal emperor when they reached Delhi and missed a historic opportunity to re-establish Hindu rule; a classic case of muscle without mind, power without political sense! The rest is history.


It is pertinent that Shivaji was deeply influenced by Swami Ramdas, who exhorted the people to rise against oppression and hinted in Dasbodh that Shivaji was an avatar who had come to restore dharma. Perhaps Shiv Sena’s greatest failing is that it has no known connections with Hindu preceptors. When the ‘secular’ Congress’ aspiring chief minister Ashok Chavan could invite Satya Sai Baba to his official residence and worship him, the absence of a spiritual mentor in the Sena pantheon is jarring.


Devoid of spiritual content, Shiv Sena is in danger of becoming as arid as the Tamil Dravidian parties; indeed, it may already be as culturally barren. This is sad, because only a few centuries ago some of the most powerful bhakti saints – Jnaneshwar, Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram, Ramdas – hailed from Maratha country. Guru Gobind Singh’s foremost disciple, Banda Bahadur, who fought valiantly on behalf of the oppressed in Punjab, rose from this land. All these men devoted their lives to defend religious and cultural freedom at times of immense danger.    


Shiv Sena’s raison d’être was to defend Hindu society from the Muslim underworld, and resist its creeping hold over the economy and polity of the nation’s financial capital. For decades the muscular Sainiks created their own brand equity; I remember that in my childhood days, if communal riots anywhere in the country threatened to get out of hand, one stern warning from Bal Thackeray was enough to bring tempers down within 24 hours. The Sainiks never moved out of Mumbai in those days, yet Thackeray was widely perceived as the ‘sword arm’ of the Hindu community. He has come a long way downhill since then.


Ironically, Bihar’s poor but enterprising labourers, most of who happen to be Hindus, are legitimate recipients of Thackeray’s affection and political protection, and his best bet against the strident regional chauvinism of nephew Raj. Such a stance would also have suited the quiescent personality of his son Uddhav. But he fell into the shrillness trap, and was soundly rebuffed by the rest of India.


Besides, Biharis are more sinned against, than sinners. Decades of political depravity and administrative corruption and sloth have rendered the state unlivable. As a result, all enterprising Biharis, from students to farm labour, trot off at the first opportunity towards cities and villages in other parts of the country where they survive by their own efforts. It is pertinent that Biharis are not noisy guests; they are hard working and disciplined, and deeply attached to their spiritual and cultural traditions.


In recent years, north India has suddenly become aware of the Chhat Puja, where the rising and setting sun is worshipped for six days after Diwali, in gratitude for its light, warmth and intimate association with agriculture. This is a profound symbolism, and Sena opposition to the public profession of Hindu faith in the land where Bal Gangadhar Tilak roused a sleeping nation with the public celebration of the Ganapati Mahotsav was both irrational and counter-intuitive. Thackeray must understand that all Indian natal traditions are part of a civilisational continuum and represent its intrinsic unity.


The author is Editor, 

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