To save India's mosaic of cultures
Last week I wrote on the ominous times facing Indian Muslims. I received many letters and phone calls from Indians of different religions, political leanings and opinions.
The letters and calls from the Hindu community agreed with me that this small band of fascists led by Thackeray and his kind were doing great harm to India and tarnishing its secular image. They also concurred with my fear that this fire of communalism and division now burning in two states will spread across India. They blamed previous governments for their policy of appeasing the likes of Thackeray and Advani.
On the other hand, many Indian Muslims chided me for my prediction of doom and gloom. They said that all this was a flash in the pan and some even wrote saying that not much would come out of the newly formed governments in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. They were adamant that the fabric of Indian secularism cannot be torn into shreds.
I am sure that these die hard secularists must have been disappointed when Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray threatened to launch a pogrom against Muslims in the entire country 'if any one dared to harm even a single hair' on his head.
He promised to wipe out the culprits and their community not only from Maharashtra but from the country itself. He said that not a trace of the community in India would remain. And as he was saying this, the self-appointed guardians of India, the Shiv Sainiks, were already setting up barriers and stopping people for checks. The scenes were reminiscent of Mussolini's Brown Shirts in Italy in the 1930s.
Shiv Sena has started a campaign to flush out illegal "Bangladeshi" and "Pakistani" immigrants from the sprawling metropolis.
It is difficult to ascertain the status of these people. Many of them who claim to be Indians and can prove, if allowed to do so, their Indian identity. However, the Shiv Sena government has already started demolition of huts and cancellation of ration cards. BJP leader V.K. Malhotra has "promised" further reprisals against these "infiltrators", many of whom are women and children living in fear and horror.
The actions by Thackeray, who through remote control manipulates Chief Minister Manohar Joshi, have raised alarm across India. The former Chief Minister of the State Sharad Pawar has demanded action against the Shiv Sena chief for his utterances against the minorities. The situation was getting out of hand. Witch-hunting was of a level impossible to endure. Pawar cited the case of a West Bengal family residing in Bombay for 20 years who had been picked up by the police and asked to prove their nationality. Many similar cases have been reported as instances of excesses by Shiv Sena party members.
In Gujarat, a Harijan youth was killed by the police at an examination center. The wave of fascism and intolerance has not even spared Hindus from other states. There are rumors of introducing a permit system for Indians to enter Bombay! Such today is the state of Gandhi's India.
National disintegration seems to be the goal of the Sena-BJP government. Playing to the provincial gallery this sinister alliance is not taking cognizance of the fact that immense harm will come to India which well-wishers of India shudder even to contemplate.
Using alleged threats, these cranks are pouring oil on fire. India is a mosaic. Its beauty lies in this mosaic forming a pattern. If you remove a part or several parts there will only be ugly holes.
The Shiv Sena dragnet has now spread from Bombay to other industrial centers including Pune. In Gujarat too the cauldron is burning and the enemies of India - the misguided bigots are ready to break this great structure. Myopic leaders rising to prominence in a short time refuse to take heed of the catastrophic political and economic consequences of their actions.
They take delight in inciting, by their ravings and rantings, the hordes of ignorant party members and beckoning them towards the path of self-destruction.
India is a democracy with a constitution that clearly marks and delineates power. The relations between the states and Center are clearly defined.
However, in the light of all this, the government should clearly show that it does not accept such behavior.
Political guts and candor are needed and affirmative action should be taken before it is too late.
Then there will be no one to blame.
Topics: Bal Thackeray, India