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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Sena needs to pass a loyalty test

Assuming Islamabad has an equivalent of the committee of the great and good that decides on India’s Republic Day honours, it may find it worthwhile considering something innovative: honouring the Shiv Sena with a Pakistani award. There are few organizations that in recent weeks have done more to foster a spirit of generosity towards Pakistan as has the Sena and its leadership.

The Sena’s services to Pakistan are difficult to surpass. First, it has put Mumbai on par with Peshawar in the global safety index for cricket matches. If it is hazardous for a visiting cricketer to either field near the boundary line or venture into town in Peshawar, the Shiv Sena has made it known that it will not countenance any Australian or Pakistani player in the Mumbai leg of the IPL. Unwittingly or otherwise, the Sena has helped establish political equivalence between India and Pakistan. It has neatly punctured India’s claim to be a cut above the rest in the subcontinent.

Secondly, the Sena has established the validity of what Pakistan’s politicians and generals have steadfastly maintained after 26/11: that perverted thinking in the Islamic Republic doesn’t emanate from state-sponsorship but from troublesome, yet independent, ‘non-state’ players. Pakistanis can now assert with greater confidence that just as they have their wild lot in Muridke, India has its crazies in Mumbai. True, the devotees of Bal Thackeray rely exclusively on sticks, stones and muscle power, whereas the holy warriors have considerable expertise in armed warfare. But these, many in Islamabad would undoubtedly argue, are niggling matters of detail. What counts is that fanaticism and lunacy aren’t exclusive Pakistani prerogatives.

Finally, by picking on Bollywood’s most exalted star, the Sena has advanced the Pakistanization of India. Shah Rukh Khan isn’t, and has never pretended to be, a political pundit tutored in the nuances of the Great Game along the Radcliffe Line. He is not Aamir Khan who loves a ‘cause’ each day for breakfast. What Shah Rukh has to say about good neighbourliness may be potentially interesting, even incisive. But to suggest that his starry-eyed comment “It (Pakistan) is a great neighbour…We are great neighbours, they are good neighbours. Let us love each other” constitutes an act of devilish treachery for which he must seek forgiveness is incredible. If film stars start being assessed for patriotism—like what Senator Joe McCarthy did in Hollywood to combat communism in the 1950s — India will be perilously close to emulating those in the Pakistan cricket establishment who felt that the religiosity should be a factor in team selection.

In 2006, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board Nasim Ashraf had to inform Captain Inzaman-ul-Huq that “that there should be no pressure on players who don’t pray regularly or any compulsion on them to do it under pressure… I have told him there should be no perception among players that if they don’t pray they will not be in the team…” In 2010, the owners of the Shiv Sena have set a new loyalty test that carries one message: you cannot do business in Mumbai if your hostility to Pakistan isn’t sufficiently robust.

By this logic, Thackeray should have broken off its political relationship with the BJP whose leader wrote a glowing testimonial to Mohammed Ali Jinnah after visiting the mausoleum in Karachi in 2005. Compared to Advani’s ballad, Shah Rukh was guilty of composing a poor ditty. But then, as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto used to say, consistency is the virtue of small minds.

The Sena’s role in making Pakistan seem respectable is seminal and immeasurable. It certainly surpasses the goody-goody utterances of the hero of My Name is Khan. But whereas Shah Rukh can at best be faulted for naïve sentimentalism—which in his business of selling dreams is hardly a crime—the Sena’s offence is graver. By virtue of his menacing antics, it has willy-nilly joined many millions of the star’s fans to a cause that was never foremost in their minds.

There are many Indians who are wary of New Delhi’s U-turn on Pakistan, and more so because memories of the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai are still fresh. They can’t empathize with Shah Rukh’s lovey-dovey approach, just as couldn’t identify with those who lit candles on the Wagah border. Yet, even those who advocate a mix of belligerence and benign neglect towards Pakistan have been appalled at the targeting of a star simply because he is innocent of foreign policy and his title is Khan. They have watched in horror the Sena make nationalism disreputable by turning it into thuggery.

If there is to be a loyalty test, it is the Sena that must first establish it is batting for India. As of now, it doesn’t seem all that clear cut.


Sunday Times of India, February 14, 2010


Rahul said...

Wonderful article - very well spelt out.

How about going the whole hog like kanchangupta and call for BJP to snap ties? Nationalistic ideas of BJP 180 degrees opposite to regional tendencies of Sena, this tamasha brought that to the forefront.

Kenny Chauhan said...

Dear Swapan,

The whole nation is echoing your sentiments. I have always said,
"In Dharam ke Thekedaron Ko,
Desh Ke Gaddaron Ko,
Dharam Ka Arth Samjhana Hoga, Bharatvarsh Bachana Hoga"!

I'm a member of BJP, an office bearer. Believe me, 99% of us think this way. Divisiveness in any form should be condemned and not tolerated. This is the biggest danger to India.

Anonymous said...

Point taken. The Shiv Sena is simply trying to attract attention to itself through its antics. However, the bigger question of preferences for locals is not exclusive to the Sena and remains to be tackled. See this post.

Jai said...

Well said Sapan. But there are two stark points which one cannot miss:
1. SRK was sticking his neck out only for business - his movie MNIK will find a great audience in Pak (& Pak expats) - infact they will relate with it far more than most Indians.
2. At no point in his innumerable interviews over the past few days, has he said expressed any sadness with the past behaviour of Pak; He could have very well said that "Pak has been bad in the past, but still we should hope for a better future" - he only parrots the second part of the sentence!

Ajay said...

Well written Swapan da.
Surely Bal Thakrey needs to give evidence of his loyalty. Infact to he and his family form the biggest danger to National Integration in India.

Shahrukh Khan should not be victimised. I am informed that his father was a follower of Frontier Gandhi and Mother was a member in Indian National Army of Netaji Subhas Bose. His nationalist credentials and contribution to National Integration is certainly much more than that of Thackrey.

However I feel that this time Thakrey has been bowled by his own delivery. Shivsena has done big damage to itself.

shreyas said...

"They have watched in horror the Sena make nationalism disreputable by turning it into thuggery." --- very well said Swapan. it couldnt have been said better.

Anonymous said...

Right on the mark. The Sena could count company in Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad as usual. All these Thackeray, Singhal, Togadia type loonies are the worst type of anti-national elements who will fail any loyalty test.

The police had intelligence of possible terror attack in Pune but were occupied with guarding theatres thanks to Thackeray, Singhal and Togadia. These guys should be charged with treason.


imthiyaz said...

i don't know why every time we have prove our loyalty, just because our name contains 'KHAN'.
Actually Thakery has to prove his loyalty.He is the big threat for Indian integrity. Ironically the person who doesn't allow the own country man to live in mumbai is bothered about Indians in Australia.

Kannan said...

If you are living in India..dont need to prove you loyality just coz your name is Khan...just dont blow things up or shoot people..:-)
And your question is rhetorical..
just look at the instigations & acts of communal violence,bomb blasts and general will get the picture..

Shashank said...

Well written, as usual. However, point to add here is the BJP's helplessness in capturing on to power & its remaining coalition partners. While on one hand it has the Shiv Sena & on the other hand it has JMM. Both these parties have lived its life of partners to the BJP. If there is any hope for the country as an alternative to the UPA and the only way we can have that is through the BJP and that in turn is possible is we have a strong BJP. And this is possible if BJP shows some signs of being a party of principles (nationalism, integrity, corrupt-free govt.) and that is not possible to have the likes of the Shiv Sena, JMM & corruption within the party. Question is: Does the BJP have the WILL to take these long term definitive actions rather than looking only for short0term political gains?

venkatesh said...

I find your support for shahrukh a bit amazing.

He says he loves pakistan and his father is from pakistan and hence we all must love pakistan. What nonsense. Sure he is free to love pakistan and he has his freedom of speech to say so. What sena did was wrong, but that does not make shahrukh right.

He is a hypocrite. If he felt the pakistanis are the world's best team he should have hired some of them. he does not do so and then says it is unfair not to have hired them. Ridiculous and we have hordes of people supporting his nationalism. these guys come out and speak nonsense in front of the media, why has he never said that the civil code is a good idea, art 370 should be dropped or some sensible comment that is not supporting your enemy.

Anonymous said...

dear sd
srk and likes should first urge pak.,to stop terrorism to improve images of khans,i.o urging u.s &world.pak.gifting consistently bomb blasts,killing of many inocent indians every year!people are going to remain cautious! willing to harrase india continuously which is elected/promoted by pak.people to which extent pak.people are responsible for indian tragedies!why pak.citizens are not electing india friendly govts,?clear messages needs to be conveyed.
recently on website,revealed that bank lawyer conspired with p.o of mumbai drt,changed proceedings of drt to take bank favoring order.bombay high court has ordered drat to enquire!is sc hearing which is champion for terrorist rights?why drt&bank lawyers dare to go to this extent?
before fewdays in cnnibn there was a news about a corrupt lady hc judge in punjab.chief just. of india gave clean chit as her name not in cbi report.the chanel shown related cbi report which clearly mentioned her name!what inspiration other judges will gate?

Anonymous said...

Shahrukh is a supporter of Pakisthan although whatever he has in life is because of indians. He has not even a sigle harsh word for Pakisthan and he never said pakisthanis should ove india. Whatever he said was disgusting. Whatever sena did was even more disgusting. Instead of resorting to voilence, if sena had called for peaceful boycott of all sharukh movies, it would have been good.

Anonymous said...

I have to respectfully disagree.

What happend on 26/11 changes fundamentally how we deal with Pakistan's civil society. . Instead of sympathy for the victims of 26/11, I found the Pakistani society easily dismissing all the evidence. Before 26/11, I believed that the civil society was an ally. A important bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism.After 26/11, I regard Pakistani society as complicit with the terrorists.

They deserve no help/assistance/ recognisition from India. All Indians should boycott Pakistanis.

Shiv Sena is merely expressing this belief in their own way. I do not condone their means, but I do sympathize with their call.

Gurinder Singh Ahluwalia said...

Hi Swapan, I had written about you on my blog in 2008 that i am sharing with you here please do read it;
"Sawpan's malicious dreams
You would definitely feel hurt when intelligent people side with dark forces for the sake of short term gains. Evil geniuses. Hitler was not a dud, but a person who could move the masses with his eloquent speeches and evil logic. In a developing country like India some resonably good journos have joined caste and religion based parties because the mainstream party did not acknowledge their ralent. Some of these journalist are good enough to feed the propagandist rumour mill of the parties they represent.

People like swapan das gupta are tweaking the news to benefit the party they represent. But sometime he, and other like him go overboard to defend their political interests that they put the country at stake. News management has become a definte tool of political marketing. But national interest and decency must take precedence over narrow parochial objective. We must not put the unity of India at stake for personal gains.

In order to please N Modi, swapan has written in today's Times of India that Modi is right in asking for dissociating gujrat from the union governement. Is it not challenging and weakening the structure of our system. swapan says that since gujratis are smarter than the rest of india they should be allowed to use money generated as taxes from the state. They must have priviledges.

In his own words...."Contrary to what simple-minded nationalists may feel, this was not a coded signal for secession. Why, the Singapore leader was asking, should Gujarat compromise its comparative advantage as a centre of entrepreneurship and prosperity for the sake of that India which doggedly refuses to enter the 21st century? Should the brightest student in a class be forced to dumb down to accommodate the dullard?" Times of india june 15 2008.

sawapan must not forget that same argument was given in punjab 20 years ago in favour of Khalistan movement. If we can not serve each others' interests what right we have to call ourselves as fellow country. swapan and modi forget that gujrat makes some money because indian armed forces are defending the borders. Can modi have investment climate without security? How many of our gujratis brothers are serving the armed forces? Please do not divide the country for personal gains"

ravinder said...

@Kenny Chauhan - I wish BJP gets its act together fast. People like me are almost entirely cut off from the rightist POV.

@venkatesh - Had SRK said something that was going against India, there would have been a case. His not having said something cannot be held against him, especially considering that he is not in the same league as Amir Khan etc (as already pointed out by Swapanda). Going by your logic, most of India would be in the wrong for most dont even understand Indo-Pak relations. And why target only SRK, what about Salman, what about Amitabh or Prity Zinta. I think none of these guys have been vociferous in condemning Pakistan.

@Gurinder Singh Ahluwalia - If it be presumed that the wise course is to put the most resources in the best course of action. Then both Gujraties and Punjabies definately should be allowed to retain a higher portion of investment outlay. I see nothing wrong with that. Even in the days of Khalistani terrorism, quite a few people saw good reason in that. I did. It was unfortunate that at time Capital infussion into Punjab was a dumb idea because of terrorism. Times have changed, it is a great idea now and the world (pvt. sector world) has taken up the idea once again. My opinion is that Swapan Da doesnt seem to be in the wrong here. Idiot son (WB & Kerala) in a family cannot expect a bigger share of the parental wealth merely because he has improvrished himself. Separatism cannot be tolerated but to equate that to Capital Budgeting........