By Tabu Agarwal:
In a latest attack, the Shiv Sena, a Hindu extremist party currently engaged in a ruling coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra, has decided to stop Pakistani actors, Mahira Khan and Fawad Khan from entering ‘Maharashtrian land’.
The threat against these actors is the latest incident that adds to Shiv Sena’s spree of attacks against Pakistanis working in India. Last month, the party forced organisers to cancel the Mumbai concert of renowned Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali. The entire incident led to a wide public uproar over the cancellation and Shiv Sena’s statement saying that, “We can’t have cultural ties with Pakistan when they kill our soldiers.”
Under their ambit of semi-fascism, the Shiv Sena has not only attacked Bollywood, but also managed to continue their string of protests on almost anyone coming from Pakistan- be it singers, cricketers, or former ministers. For instance, the Shiv Sena workers recently stormed into the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) office to protest against the meeting with the Pakistan Cricket board to discuss the India-Pakistan bilateral series slated for December. They further said that they will not allow any cricket ties with Pakistan to flourish.
The Shiv Sena and the RSS share a common allegiance to the communal concept of cultural nationalism and shares their aim of making India a “Hindu Rashtra”. So much so that the current Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray even expressed concern over the growing Muslim population in the country saying it can affect the nation’s unity. Additionally, he also advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask Muslims of the country to respect the law and adopt measures of family planning. The party’s brand building is solely riding on their power of disruption and systematic targeting of different sections of minorities in a cynical manner to gather its mass support. Such minority targets have often included Muslims, non-Maharashtrians, and Dalits.
The caste politics and subsequent vandalism practised by the Shiv Sena go down as one of the sad periods in the history of Maharashtra. In 2003, much to the nation’s embarrassment, it damaged the cricket pitch at the Agra Sports stadium, which was supposed to host a match between Pakistan and India. A similar incident was witnessed over a decade earlier in Wankhede stadium.
Ever since its inception in 1966 by political cartoonist Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sena has managed to garner support from big businesses and ruling classes due to its rabid anti-communism ideology. Under the authoritarian rule of demagogue supremo Bal Thackeray, who previously endorsed the rule of likes of Adolf Hitler and Nathuram Godse, the party managed to spread its wings in the state quickly.
Despite a lot of slamming by several Bollywood actors against the Shiv Sena’s resolve to halt Pakistani actors from performing and promoting their films in Maharashtra, the party does not seem to be in a mood to stop. Commenting on the same, Bollywood film director Mukesh Bhatt said that art should be kept away from politics. By not allowing artists to perform in the state or anywhere else in the country, the absolute freedom of artistic activity is not followed. Such a practice will only make our country regressive, especially at a time when nobody wants it to be like that.
BJP and the Shiv Sena split on September 15, just three weeks before the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections threw up a fractured verdict in the 288-member legislature. However they later patched up and joined hands to form a stable government in the state with the Chief Minister giving the Shiv Sena 12 portfolios in the Cabinet expansion. With Shiv Sena being a major stakeholder in the state, the entire situation of law and order is definitely something that raises an eyebrow between two hands of the same government. With such a widespread rampage of violence, whatever little has remained of Mumbai’s reputation of a comprehensive, multicultural city, is under major threat. The BJP’s helplessness seems to be growing with every act of Sena rampage so much so that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis himself warned the Sena about the impact of such incidents on his administration’s efforts to woo domestic and foreign investment.
Meanwhile, by not allowing Pakistani dignitaries to land on Maharashtrian soil, the Shiv Sena might be digging a hole for itself by successfully blocking the opportunity for a meaningful dialogue between the two countries. It is also offering ammunition to extremists on both sides of the border. The Shiv Sena’s puerile diktats, if unchecked, might have serious consequences for Maharashtra especially at a time when there is growing intolerance in the country.