Sig­nif­i­cance is a tro­phy eas­ily bought. Great­ness de­mands a higher bar

Bal Thack­eray’s death has as many dif­fi­cult lessons for our democ­racy as did his life.

Tehelka - - 20 - BY SHOMA CHAUD­HURY

SHIV SENA supremo Bal Thack­eray’s death was met by a sham­ing arc of hypocrisy and ca­pit­u­la­tion in the In­dian me­dia. Its sub­se­quently shrill dis­tress over the fate of the two Mum­bai girls who dared mild hon­esty on Face­book com­pleted that cir­cle. All week­end, as they placed lav­ish ver­bal flo­rets at the “tiger’s” feet, who did our pub­lic com­men­ta­tors think they were fet­ing? The Mum­bai Po­lice def­i­nitely de­serves to be hauled up for the out­ra­geous ar­rest of the girls, but what about ev­ery­one else’s col­lec­tive am­ne­sia and timid­ity?

For four decades, Thack­eray’s cor­ro­sive po­lit­i­cal em­i­nence has been a re­buk­ing re­minder of our democ­racy’s un­fin­ished project. In a polity riven by jostling de­mands, he did in­deed give voice to a ver­sion of Marathi dis­af­fec­tion, but his idea of Marathi pride was built on plinths of in­tim­i­da­tion, not achieve­ment. In the name of jus­tice, he roused ri­ots, not self-re­spect. In seek­ing cor­rec­tives for his own, he sought only in­jury for oth­ers. His speeches tore at the fab­ric of In­dia and led to the death of many. He urged rage against south In­di­ans, Gu­jaratis, Mar­waris, Bi­haris, UP-ites and Mus­lims; sup­ported the Emer­gency; was in­dicted by the Sri Kr­ishna Com­mis­sion; and ac­cord­ing to au­thor Suketu Me­hta, once in­fa­mously de­claimed that he’d piss on court judg­ments. His cadres — drunk on his rhetoric and buoyed by the idea of his in­vin­ci­bil­ity — ran­sacked cin­ema halls, out­lawed plays, and van­dalised me­dia houses. For a few peo­ple with pri­vate ac­cess, he may have been a charm­ing man, but his pub­lic legacy was one of fear, big­otry and ar­bi­trary fief­dom. Peo­ple revered him be­cause he could be­stow favour and with­draw harm at whim. He may have been a gifted car­toon­ist, but he failed the car­toon­ist’s most ba­sic covenant: a de­fence of ev­ery­one’s right to dis­sent. His famed forthright­ness was a ter­ri­tory he sav­agely re­served only for him­self.

So one can un­der­stand the grief of those whose

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.