Violence wrecked the financial capital of India, Mumbai, after members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) attacked migrants from North India, particularly from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The MNS is a splinter group of the Shiv Sena and is headed by Raj Thackeray, nephew of Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray. The attacks took everyone by surprise and raised an enormous question mark on the ethos of the city itself. Mumbai, which is known for its inclusiveness and cosmopolitan culture, shocked the intelligentsia and the common public alike.Mumbai has always been known to embrace the migrant population with open arms, cradling everyone into its generous warmth. Mumbai is the ‘City of Dreams’, where people from all walks of life, and from all over the country, realise their dreams and true potential. It is one city where a person’s will can be made or broken. What provoked these vitriolic attacks on non-Maharashtrians then?
Raj Thackeray broke away from the Shiv Sena after differences of opinion arose between him and Bal Thackeray’s son, Uddhav. Raj had been always seen as the natural successor to Bal Thackeray. However, he decided to assert his own brand of politics and formed the breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which claimed to restore Maharashtra back to the natives. His ideology played on the locals’ fears, after migration of north Indians to the city increased by leaps and bounds. These fears were magnified by Raj’s firebrand rhetoric on how the North Indians were affecting and spoiling the Maharashtrian culture. Ironically, Raj is following the exact path that his uncle did two decades ago when Shiv Sena workers agitated against South Indians in the 1980s. It is equally ironic how the Shiv Sena today is trying to appease the North Indian communities, only to eke out a larger share in the vote banks, especially with Assembly elections coming up in 2009.
Raj Thackeray’s perverted logic against the celebration of non-Maharashtrian festivals in the state is absolutely outrageous. Biharis have as much a right to celebrate Chhath Puja in Mumbai as Maharashtrians have a right to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in Patna, and Bengalis to celebrate Durga Puja anywhere in India. Such is the assimilative strand of our nation that all the major festivals are celebrated with great pomp and fervour across the country. Playing up the sentiments of the natives on account of religion, caste, creed, linguistic differences, and ethnicity is not only immoral but also absolutely condemnable, something that must not be condoned at any cost. People like Raj Thackeray hack away at the very principles on which the Indian state has been founded – equality, secularism, mutual respect, and love for all. By attacking people who do not belong to the state, but do consider it their home, he is forgetting the very stratification of society – one which enables people like him to lecture comfortably while the migrant population slaves away to fulfil his basic needs. Let the taxi-drivers and vegetable vendors and milk-sellers from so-called “North India” stop work for a single day to protest against this violence. If Mumbai does not come to a grinding halt because of that, I will eat my words!
[Image Courtesy: Zee News]