The MNS Issue

They beat up people who were not from the same region.They are heavily criticized.Their leader is almost a hero for the youth of his region.The attacks on North Indians by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) last year were condemned, criticized and written off. Raj Thackeray, the young leader and president of the MNS received flak for his action. They did not seek approval; neither did they regress with the harsh disapproval. It was a bold step and they knew it. The issue of regionalism took over all the other breaking news. Was it relevant? For most, India is a secular country where anyone can live, work, earn money, and bring up a family anywhere. But for some, at the grass roots particularly, a certain region is their home and home monopolized by someone from “outside” is unfair, uncalled for. With Raj Thackeray taking this issue out of the drawing rooms, a discussion has arisen for the world to see, unlocked for the country to take notice. Other regions woke up. Ministers belonging to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar woke up. The taxi drivers and the “pan wallahs” woke up. The Maharashtrian youth woke up. The intelligent, well read, dynamic leader gave voice to their thoughts. He was being heard. His complain? We, Maharashtrians, are being walked over and taken for granted for our tolerant nature.


Raj Thackery established the MNS or “Manase” after parting ways with his uncle, Balasaheb Thackeray’s party, the Shiv Sena. He set up MNS with an objective of raising the status of Maharashtra state, its people and the Marathi language to its past glory. It aims to work for the state’s cultural and material upliftment and prosperity. The MNS does not want to oust every North Indian migrant out of Mumbai or Maharashtra. But it protests against the migrants who arrogantly try to establish their monopoly, their vote bank in the state and who disrespect the law, culture and language of the region they are living in. The regular rhetoric of the MNS, in angst, being, “You don’t see this domination in South India or Uttar Pradesh, Bihar! Why only Maharashtra? Why is the Centre biased against us?”. They consider the Marathi “manus” of prime importance in their agenda and are working towards preserving the Marathi language, its rich heritage and fighting against any anti-Marathi lobby. Thackeray defines a ‘Maharashtrian’ as not just a person born in a Marathi family but also someone who has been staying in Maharashtra for generations, irrespective of his/her caste, creed, religion.


An already precarious situation between the MNS and North Indians took a violent upturn with the case of the Railway Examinations held in Mumbai. The All India Railway Recruitment Examination ad was not released in any of the Marathi newspapers. A written letter sent to the railway ministry on this issue was left unheeded. After receiving no response at all, the MNS agitated against the non Marathi candidates appearing for the railway board exam in October 2008. This led to Raj Thackeray’s arrest and after much talk the government let him loose. He said his intentions were being misunderstood. Ministers urged for his arrest, saying that the MNS indulged in “goonda” politics, the politics of force and coercion, and such unpunished use of violence to get voices heard was not just a blow on the legal system but also a blemish on the Indian Constitution. The MNS rose to protest against the laying off of the Jet Airways employees and succeeded in getting the staff rehired. Raj Thackeray expressed his disappointment on a comment made by Jaya Bachchan, who reacted by citing a public apology which was later accepted by Thackeray.


In all this agony, people were screaming against this unfair protest led by MNS. Where had Secularism gone? If all the leaders fight for their respective lands, how is India united? We are a free country, independent through peace, harmony and togetherness. But violence is being used to bring clan together. How can you beat people black and blue to achieve your personal and regional goals? People were disgusted and sickened with these events. Annoyance took its form as everyone despised this hooliganism. For the first time they heard the words “outsiders” and “migrants” being associated with the regular working class “janta” of “amchi” Mumbai. The Mumbai, they thought was theirs, was seemingly being divided. With Mumbai going through hell facing the 26/11 terrorist attacks, Mumbaikars asked where Thackeray and his men were. With the other issues that this nation is grappling with, with other evils holding it down, why should we fight with each other for mere survival of our egos?


With all the disparagement in its place, the MNS is firm on its principles, on its policy and will fight for their land, for it is theirs. Their argument states that they want to stand up for the preservation of the Marathi language and the honour of their culture, which they have complete right to. It is only when the regions individually progress economically and culturally that the country developes. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the MNS brought forth young, freshly educated candidates. The rallies held by Thackeray drew huge crowds and great applause after the oration of his well researched and vitalizing speeches. In one of his speeches, Thackeray showed the public how he could issue ration cards on the name of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussien, in an attempt to quote how flawed and almost recklessly inefficient our system is. Many of the MNS candidates did not win in their Constituencies but they did succeed in dividing the otherwise guaranteed Shiv Sena votes which led to a Congress win. During the ghastly 26/11 attacks on Hotel Taj in Mumbai, MNS organized blood donation camps everywhere in Maharashtra. They have held Marathi poetry recitations and Marathi literature exhibitions in Shivaji Park in Mumbai.


The urban cosmopolitan Indian will never speak in their favour. But MNS commands certain obedience from the proud Maharashtrian, especially the middle class, educated youth; though they all agree that the violent means the MNS have chosen to achieve their goals are fundamentally wrong tactics. But after all, MNS is one of the many in the multitude of the parties the Indian political system is adorned with and it promises to do good work. In these troubled times of fighting inner evils and outer dangers, the Indian citizen wants able, transparent and non corrupt governance. There is no equality in our nation that we can swear by. There is no prosperity that is all legal and non oppressive. There is no region in our country which is free from conflict. We are all asking our leaders if we are safe from a potential attack from our neighbor. But before that, we want answers on whether we are safe within the borders of our country.


Sakhi Deshpande

[Image source:,]