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January 29, 1998


Varsha Bhosle

In rod we trust

Bal Thackeray One of the many paradoxes that exist in Indian politics is that Sangh Parivaris and Nehruvian secularists have a thing in common: Nothing, oh but nothing gets their collective goat as much as someone lauding that dear, sweet and harmless man, Bal Thackeray.

We all know the horned and tailed Beelzebub that secularists portray him to be, but see what even a saffron regular writes on Usenet: "And on the other extreme, there are Hindutvawadi pretenders who take the names of Shivaji, Savarkar and Bal Thackeray in the same breath! What could be a greater insult to the proponent of Hindvi Swarajya?"

Since there's no reason given for deeming it the worst sort of heresy, I hazard a guess that it must be the supposed lack of an intellectual, principled and disciplined direction within the Shiv Sena's set up. You see, bouddhik and taatvik manthan is fundamental to the Parivar; from it has emerged the BJP's many alliances and current positions...

During the last election, the BJP was so influential in Maharashtra that, if not for Balasaheb, today, I may have been under the rule of Chhagan Bhujbal or Abu Hasim Azmi. Therefore, guys, put a lid on your public contempt for my Remote Control. 'Tis we Maharashtrians (as in also the Sindhis, Gujaratis, etc, domiciled here) who charged his batteries.

Ah, so parochial, divisive, ethnocentric... Yes, yes, I accept the charges. It's quite simple -- take care of the pennies (the states), and the pound (India) will take care of itself. Like charity, chauvinism begins at home, moves to the city, to the region, and only then does it bloom into nationalism. People who negate their roots, their very habitat -- what foundation can they have? Regional loyalty is the basic alphabet of patriotism: Texas first, US next; Wales first, UK next; France first, EEC later... that's how it goes.

It seems an impossible balancing act, one verging on separatism -- to those who proclaim that they would only be known as Indian. In my experience, such people are either devoid of any loyalty to the Nation, or, essentially ethnocentric. Like closet-Gays who denounce all traces of homosexuality in fear of betraying their own (what *they* consider sordid) tilt.

It's not my case that the country is subservient to its provinces. But without proud states, the country can't be much either. The Indian army's famed Punjab, Maratha and Garhwal regiments are acknowledged as some of the best defenders of the country; the regimental ethos is based on regional affinity, and reinforced by heredity, has been a strong motivating factor for soldiers. They voluntarily enlist because they consider defence an honourable profession. And their honour includes that of the family, community and region...

To get back to my local generalissimo... A month ago, Rajeev sent me a laugh-sheet titled "How to win arguments at parties." It started with "Drink liquor so that people steer clear of you," and ended with "Compare your opponent to Adolf Hitler. This is your heavy artillery for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say: That sounds suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say." I chuckled for all the fascist reasons...

Truth: I find Balasaheb the wittiest, most entertaining and guileless politician in India. And so do others untouched by pinko rhetoric. For instance, last week, he said at a rally, "I pressed the button of my remote control, and the Babri Masjid came tumbling down." Upon which, The Asian Age went into secular paroxysms: 'Mr Thackeray faces a criminal charge of inciting riots, leading up to and in the wake of the demolition.' There's something dramatically wrong when journos don't catch on when they're being had...

Balasaheb gives even his allies a run for their seats -- his favourite diversion being to harass them with embarrassing statements. On the very fulcrum of the BJP's economic policies, he's said: 'Swadeshi is irrelevant and outdated in these days of globalisation. If you are not for it, go back to your kerosene lantern, for the bulb was invented by Edison... Why are they going abroad for bypass surgery? Why aren't they going to our Deonar slaughter house, instead?' Between wild giggles, I agreed.

At a press conference, jointly held with the BJP's Pramod Mahajan, the Oracle quoth, 'I had only said that Gandhi used to promenade with two girls on his arms, and how anyone would perceive it?' But that wasn't all. He then went on to announce that Mr Mahajan, too, didn't find anything amiss in his controversial statement. The diplomatic Love of My Life studiously maintained silence.

Naturally, this Nazi would be more in tune with Beelzebub -- it may be my shoot-now-think-later Ghaati genes. But, which person in his right mind ('right' being the operative word here), would be incensed by: "I say to hell with your democracy! Democracy has ruined this country. There is too much freedom without knowing its exact meaning and spelling, too. Unless and until your people know the meaning of democracy and freedom, you are not supposed to give them what they demand. You must see what they need and give it."

Right on, Boss! For a country where even the "well-informed" sing paeans to the Sacrifices of the Nehrus... For people who believe that the widow yielded the safety of her children for the love of India... For lamebrains who can't see that nowhere else could this mediocre, scantly educated person have been a mai-baap... For dolts without the brains to realise that Sonia's here because she knows that no other race would hand over the country to an alien who's also involved in shady deals -- a Singapore-like benevolent dictatorship can be the only remedy: In the rod, we trust.

Ah, Balasaheb... It was he who'd said, "It can be just a small battle or a war, but a nuclear bomb should be kept ready. You know fully well you have enemies. The enemy is Pakistan. How can you afford to remain in a trance?" Then, is it the same man who just told Pakistan's high commissioner Ashraf Qazi that it was a matter of concern that Indo-Pak ties hadn't improved significantly; that the Kashmir issue shouldn't be allowed to hinder trade, culture and sports...?

'Course it is. The statements aren't mutually exclusive. While harping on Balasaheb's "forked-tongue," his critics conveniently forget that he also said that Pakistani cricketers were welcome, provided Pakistan "improved its behaviour." Who else will come up with this hilariously schoolmasterish tone? Not to forget his emphasising that India would not tolerate the activities of the ISI on Indian soil, and his rejection of the assertion that RAW was responsible for the turmoil in Pak: "We Indians are not capable of doing mischief in your country."

Yes, I would like him: On human rights groups he says, "I don't want these bloody johnnies to interfere. Amnesty International -- who are they?" On Kashmir: "Undue respect, freedom and funny ideas about secularism are the reasons why the government has proved unable to stamp out the rebellion." Why wouldn't Kashmiri Pandits have more regard for him than for the BJP?

After the Mahanagar affair, the Editors Guild went hammer, tongs and dharna at Balasaheb. As is their wont, the Sainiks were waiting for a signal from the Supremo -- whose only response was, "Hya gaadhvan-kade laksha deu naka" (Ignore these donkeys). Isn't it strange that the media which brands him a fascist should have had no fear of picketing the Sena Bhavan...? Why don't they try the same in West Bengal -- where facilities of assembly-coverage are curtailed at the government's whim; where journalists are routinely thrashed by pinko goons; where many have even been murdered?

Just after the Sena dharna, Mulayam Singh organised one of his Hulla Bols against the presswallahs critical of his UP government. Mr Arun Shourie disclosed that, for twelve days, the ToI did not even mention the incident! Forget about the intrepid Editors Guild registering its protest. (Later, Mulayam doled out billions from the Chief Minister's fund, 10 lakhs to one journalist, 29 lakhs to another, for "medical treatment." He maintained that the list of recipient journalists and papers was confidential.)

In November, there was an organised protest against the NY-based Asia Society's inviting Mr Vajpayee for a lecture. The letter, signed by pinko low-life ranging from FOIL to Worker's Awaaz, asserted: 'Mr Thackeray remarked, ''If the Muslims of India behave as the Jews in Germany did, they will deserve the same treatment.'' Upon these ideological moorings, the BJP has built a parliamentary apparatus...'

Just two months earlier, that respected Mosie leader, Syed Shahabuddin, had declared, "While it is acceptable for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim, under no circumstances can a Muslim woman be permitted to marry any non-Muslim..."

Just a decade ago, Muslims laid siege to a newspaper office when it published a short story which had references to the Prophet. The lethally-armed mob was led by a man who, till recently, was India's civil aviation minister: Chand Mahal Ibrahim...

When the SS-BJP government repatriated a 100 *illegal* immigrants from Bombay, the Establishment had a secular epilepsy and instantly halted the 'communal crime'. Today, the Muslim population in Assam has become one-third of its total -- due to Bangladeshis registering themselves as genuine Ahomiyas, and with Congress and Communist governments sanctioning them free ration cards...

From the time-bomb that is Kerala, Hindu Aikyavedi leader Chottappalli Govindan laments, 'About 50 temples were destroyed during the last ten years in the district,' including the razing of the Perandakkal temple and Thirur's Shiva temple. Grabbing of temple lands (such as the 2 acres snatched from the Durga temple at Tringavoor) continues. 'When we complained to the police authorities they said to us: Why do you want to create problems? They (Muslims) are in a majority here...'

Not one mosque. F-I-F-T-Y temples...

Germany's Jews...? What ELSE is required for Hindus to shake off the stupor and consider protecting our civilisation and culture? If telling it like it is makes one a Nazi, I say: Fine, better that than the spineless, deaf, dumb, numb and blind state exalted as Nehruvian Secularism. I wouldn't even spit on it.

Varsha Bhosle

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