Senas: Marathi ‘Kazhagams’ of Maharashtra
by B R Haran on 02 Dec 2009 4 Comments

Prejudice, not pride

The latest exhibition of Marathi Manoos by both the Senas (MNS & SS), one inside the State Assembly and the other inside a media house, is a shame on the nation. The ugly exuberance of the Senas has crossed all limits. The saddest point in the continuance of the decades’ old sordid saga is that the Senas have brought disrepute to the land and language of great men like Shivaji, Tilak and Ambedkar, who were adored and appreciated by the entire nation.


Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray has grown with disgrace by whipping up chauvinism and regional parochialism. He instigated Marathis against all others in general and southerners in particular, terming them ‘Madrasis’, and attempted to drive them out of Bombay after giving them ‘special treatment’, typical of the ‘Marathi Manoos’. Shiv Sena’s history is fraught with ignominy and profanity and the party has not done anything constructive for the development of the people, language and State of Maharashtra.


Recent episodes of infamy


In September 2008, Jaya Bachchan’s casual remark at a cinema function that being a ‘UP-ite’ she would speak only in ‘Hindi’, invited the wrath of Raj Thackeray; the next moment MNS goons were on the streets indulging in violence and vandalism. Raj Thackeray, after leaving Shiv Sena, came in to the limelight purely by following the same chauvinistic policy of Bal Thackeray, but with more vigor and venom. In January 2008, he instigated his men to destroy public property and physically assault Hindi-speaking poor people from UP, Bihar and other northern states, who were surviving in Mumbai by doing menial jobs. He and his men went to the extent of saying North Indians should not celebrate ‘Chhat Puja’ in Mumbai! He also tried to disrupt the Railway Board Examinations by resorting to violence.


Despite this fanaticism, his party grew and has reached the stage of winning Assembly seats. This has emboldened his lieutenants further to indulge in an unprecedented and brazen act of assaulting a Member of the Assembly from another party for taking his oath in ‘Hindi’ during the swearing-in-ceremony. Ironically these MNS legislators made a “nationalist” out of an “Islamic fundamentalist”! Though the four MNS legislators were suspended for four years, Raj Thackeray felt happy and appreciated them! He had the audacity to warn the largest public sector bank (State Bank of India) to conduct its Recruitment Board Examinations in Marathi inside Maharashtra.


As Raj Thackeray usurped the politics of Marathi Manoos and took away a considerable share from his votebank, the aging Bal Thackeray was left with no other alternative but to compete with his agile nephew, as his son seems too passive. He stupidly chose to show his ire on cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar for making nationalistic remarks, going to the extent of writing an editorial in his party organ Saamna, which was condemned by the entire nation. Notwithstanding the editorial, Shiv Sena cadres vandalized the IBN office for going overboard in criticisms of their chief Bal Thackeray. As the violent acts of Shiv Sena drew more condemnation, Sanjay Raut, SS MP and Editor of Saamna, penned another column against Sachin, comparing his cricketing record with the sacrifices made by Tilak, Rajguru and Bhagat Singh. His brother and mastermind of the attack, Sunil Raut, is cooling his heels in prison!


Farcical nationalism and whimsical regionalism  


Protesting against the Pakistan cricket team, digging the pitch and vandalizing the stadium do not make Sena men ‘nationalists’. Threatening Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar and keeping mum about Dawood Ibrahim and his gangsters will not help gain a ‘nationalistic’ image. By assaulting fellow countrymen and denigrating other languages, they can never be nationalists. Moreover, these “ultra nationalists” have not spoken a single word in support of the ‘Rama Setu’ in the last two years’ struggle for protecting this national heritage. What nationalism are they talking about?


Stabbing its long time ally (BJP) in the back and joining opposition ranks to elect a controversial and undeserving person to the Presidency, just for being a Maharashtrian, amounts to phony pride. What counts is the contribution to the growth of the language and State; in this regard, Senas’ performance is far from satisfactory.


There is nothing wrong in celebrating nationalism with a regional flavour, but when regionalism exceeds limits it becomes a danger to national integrity. It is stupid to limit one’s acceptability on one’s mother tongue. It impedes progress. It is unfortunate that the Sena men have sullied Marathi and Maratha icons like Shivaji.

A comparative study of Maharashtra’s Sena politics with Tamil Nadu’s Kazhagam politics is instructive in this regard.


The split and the growth


The Tamil chauvinism practiced by the Dravidian Kazhagams is similar to the Marathi chauvinism of the Maharashtrian Senas. Just as Thackeray’s Shiva Sena protested the presence of southerners in Bombay, the Dravidian Kazhagams (DK & DMK) led a bloody agitation against Hindi, causing death and destruction. Till now, the State has not opened up to Hindi, because of which millions of Tamils suffer as they cannot communicate with fellow countrymen when they move out of Tamil Nadu.


The Marathi Senas’ politics is similar to that of the Tamil Kazhagams. The precedents for acts like attacking media houses and assaulting journalists were set by Kazhagams as early as the 1970s and ‘80s in Tamil Nadu.


The Dravidian Kazhagams thrived on the ‘Aryan Invasion Theory’ and painted Brahmins and North Indians as Aryans. For six decades, they have been trying to alienate Tamils from the Hindu fold, to the detriment of Tamils when they move out of Tamil Nadu. The atheistic ideas and Dravidian leaders’ diatribes against Hindu Gods, religion and culture have made other states’ people look upon Tamils with contempt. A Tamilian is respected outside Tamil Nadu only when he identifies himself as a God believing Tamil Hindu! The Dravidian parties have to be credited for bringing such ‘repute’ to Tamils across the country. 


When MGR had a tiff with Karunanidhi, moved out of DMK and started his own party AIADMK, he almost followed the same policy, making some improvements here and there, and the end result was that the vote share of Dravidian parties grew and now we have half a dozen Dravidian parties (Kazhagams) with a very high percentage when joined together against the combined strength of national parties. The main culprit, which helped the growth of Dravidian parties, was the Indian National Congress which lost its status, image and pride due to effete and imbecile leadership (after Rajaji and Kamraj), and lost track by riding ‘piggy back’ on a Dravidian party for four decades.    


The Senas may similarly have a chance to grow because of the split, but they have to face stiff challenges as Maharashtra has two national parties and one local party, all equally powerful. Here again, if at some point of time the NCP decides to join Siva Sena, then both BJP and Congress will start waning in course of time. The Congress which was instrumental in creating the rift in Shiv Sena, first by pulling leaders like Sanjay Nirupam and Narayan Rane, and second by manipulating the internal feud between Raj and Uddhav, is likely to lose ultimately for following an opportunistic policy.


Family is party and party is family


In Dravidian politics, in course of time, family growth surpassed the party’s growth and the same seems to be happening in Sena politics too. This kind of family-centric growth will only be a temporary phenomenon. Once Karunanidhi took over the DMK party after Annadurai’s death, he slowly and steadily caused the exit of many leaders and in due course his family became the power centre. Now nothing happens in DMK without the consent of his family. The same is true in Shiv Sena.


Once the patriarch moves out of the scene, sibling rivalry leads to disintegration and death of the party. DMK is destined to such an end after the exit of M. Karunanidhi from TN politics, but in Maharashtra sibling rivalry has started even before Thackeray has exited from active politics. The latest instance is Smita Thackeray’s love for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, and her desire to join the Congress. Bad days are ahead for Bal Thackeray.       




The growth of the Dravidian parties has been hastened by the unholy relationship with minorities, as they joined hands on the plank of anti-Hinduism. That kind of relationship is not possible in Maharashtra and the Senas must understand that by antagonizing fellow Hindus from South and North, they are only helping the consolidation of secularists and minorities, which is detrimental for the state as well as the nation. 


Due to the onslaught of Dravidian politics, Tamil Nadu has lost out heavily in the fields of politics, literature, art and culture. The same should not happen to Maharashtra. The Senas have the strength and capacity to become a great nationalist party if only they shed their chauvinistic and parochial policies. All chauvinists must understand that they belong to a great civilization and abide by its ‘Dharma’. A strong, united and broadminded Sena will be a great asset to nationalism in the pure sense of the word. One only hopes it understands and respects the peoples’ aspirations.


The writer is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai

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