In a landmark judgement on January 2, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that politicians cannot use religion, caste or creed to get votes. And while that may be, long before this judgement came along, too many politicians in India had/have made their careers out of exploiting these very nerves of the masses.
Not least being the man who was born today, 91 years ago – Bala ‘Saheb’ Thackeray.
This was a man who permanently changed the landscape of Maharashtra, especially the city of Mumbai. He formed the Shiv Sena in 1966 and its support base then were largely the ‘native’ Maharashtrians, who had it tough competing with jobs from North Indian migrants in a state which had not yet been shaken by the heavy grip of industrialisation.
Yet, what made his political fortune was his unapologetic adherence to the Hindutva ideology during the heyday of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s. Shiv Sena in its 5o-year-old history, has only once managed to have a member from its ranks become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra – Manohar Joshi. This was in 1995, in the backdrop of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, Bombay riots in 1992-1993 and the 1993 Bombay bombings.
In an interview given to Rajat Sharma on his show “Aap Ki Adalat”, a show which was first aired in 1993, he had quite a lot to say. What makes it chilling is how eased and relaxed he is while saying things, which other politicians would think twice before saying on national television.
Below is an excerpt from the interview which gives a fairly good idea of what both Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena were all about.
Rajat Sharma: “Koshish toh yahi honi chahiye ki sab saath mil kar ke ladein.” (The attempt should be to ensure that everyone fights together.)
Bal Thackeray: “Koshish toh karte rahte hain… fir bhi bumb phatte hai. Kya Karein?” (We try… but still bombs burst. What to do?), a blatant reference to bombings carried out by someone from the Muslim community.
Rajat Sharma: Aur jab bumb phatte hai uske baad mein jo riot hote hain usmein Shiv Sena ka haath rahta hai. (Shiv Sena has a hand in the riots which take place after the bomb blasts.)
Bal Thackeray: Haath nahin paon rahta hai. (It’s not the hands, but the feet which are present.)
Subsequently, he goes on to say things like, “Hum kya maar khaate rahenge? Bumb Phatne ke baad hum kya haath jodenge, bhai, kya aavaz tha!? Yeh karein hum?” (Should we continue to get beaten? After the blasts, should we fold our hands and say, brother, what a sound! Should we do that?)
The most chilling bit from the interview is when he says, “Danga fasad hote hain, hum nahin utarte toh Hindu maare jaate.” ( Riots took place, if we didn’t get on the field, Hindus would get killed.)