Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Thackerays, Sachin Tendulkar and the ``nation''

The Shiv Sena’s writ had stopped running in Mumbai for some time now. And its chief, Bal Thackeray, is no longer dreaded or feared by the people of the metropolis as he used to be until a few years ago. That the old man now resembles a tiger in its last days, unable even to scare away an infant dear is a fact that he knows. And his son, Uddhav Thackeray will find it difficult to keep the Sena live for long.

All this does not mean that the politics of hatred that Bal Thackeray initiated into the metropolis of Bombay is now weakened. On the contrary, the mantle has fallen on Bal Thackeray’s nephew, Raj Thackeray. He imitates his uncle in the way he walks speaks; he must have spent several days hopping from one optician to another to find a spectacle frame that looks just the same as the one his uncle used in his younger days. And there is a strong resemblance in the way Raj Thackeray picks up issues to whip up passions and keep himself relevant. The Maharashtra Nirman Sena (MNS) is certainly up and coming and over the ruins of the Shiv Sena.

The elections to the Maharashtra assembly last month brought this out so clearly and in a matter of some months the Shiv Sena will be reduced to Uddhab Thackeray. I will not be surprised if Bal Thackeray makes that last announcement to declare Raj as his leader. Be that as it may. The provocation to remember the Thackerays now has nothing to do with the Shiv Sena’s future nor does it have anything to do with the politics of Maharashtra. Though it has to do with another Maharashtrian by name Sachin Tendulkar!

Sachin Tendulkar’s claim was that he was first an Indian and a Maharshtrian then. He is also reported to have said that Mumbai belongs to everyone. Well. After having revealed that Boost is the secret of his energy, Sachin had spoken about himself again. The occasion was his 20 years in cricket. And uncle Thackeray shouted that Sachin spoke beyond his brief.

Well. Even while I disagree with Thackeray so completely, I will still have a problem with Sachin’s formulation. I think (and so do a number of sensible and serious social scientists) that the idea of one’s identity is indeed a complex one and that the top down approach – Indian first-Maharashtrian next-Caste thereafter – approach is loaded with problems. Social scientists worth the grain, instead, agree that the order will have to be reversed to serve the purpose of nationalism better. I do not blame Sachin for not realising this even if it is simple common sense. He is innocent of such common sense; otherwise he would not reveal to the whole world as to what is the secret of his energy!

Now, on a more serious note; Sachin Tendulkar belongs to that league of Indian patriots who are shy paying taxes. We will all remember that he had received a Ferari car as gift from somewhere abroad and that he moved here, there and everywhere to exempt himself from paying the tax due to the people of India. Sachin claimed exemption from the law of taxes. And even when he did that, we had a lot of people in the media shouting that he deserved to be exempted. Such exemptions are not given to people who add to the nation’s wealth. But was ultimately given to Sachin whose wealth has grown multi-fold in the 20 years he played cricket.

Sachin did not care, in all these years, to speak out that Mumbai belonged to all Indians when poor vegetable vendors and auto-drivers were physically attacked and hounded in the streets of Mumbai by uncle Thackeray’s goons and nephew Thackeray’s henchmen; their only crime, if that was a crime, was that they hailed from remote Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to eke out a living. Sachin did not speak out when Mumbai was vandalised by the Sena goons (and recorded so categorically by Justice Sri Krishna) in December 1992 and January 1993 and a number of people killed only because they happened to be Muslims.

Sachin Tendulkar did not come out and shed even a drop of tear for those who were felled to the bullets of those attackers on the platform at Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus on November 26, 2008. Well Sachin’s only concern all these days was to play and make money and even if that meant playing that limited edition game of 20 overs. I am not commenting on his game in any case. All that I am pointing out is that the media, both the print and the TV are reporting a lot of reactions against Thackeray when it came to Sachin. I only wish that they had shown as much vigour when uncle Thackeray wreaked havoc on the lives of ordinary Indians who believed in Mumbai being their home and made that city into a metropolis.

Is it that they will speak up only for the likes of Sachin Tendulkar? Or is it that they are speaking now because uncle Thackeray is now a wounded old tiger that has lost even the strength to roar?