November 18, 2012
Bal Thackeray’s Poisonous Legacies
Sanyasi over at Chapati Mystery:
The Indian media prides itself on its independence, its critical eye, its ability to speak truth to power. Indian celebrities fancy themselves socially responsible intellectuals. Indian politicians routinely remind the world of the glorious vibrancy and dynamism of the “world’s largest democracy.” But neither the conventions of in-house obituary boilerplate nor the pithy wisdom of the tweets emanating from the finest minds in Indian media, celebrityhood, and politics have spoken today in any honest way about Thackeray’s role in one of most disgraceful episodes in the history of independent India–the pogrom against Bombay’s Muslim communities in 1992 and 1993. When they have pointed to Thackeray’s involvement, they have refused to ask the difficult but obvious questions that follow; questions about justice, rights, accountability, and rule of law, but also about tolerance, coexistence, and our responsibility to our fellow citizens.
The list of those participating in what can only be called a soft-pedaling of Bal Thackeray’s legacy, through this Fox News style “Fair and Balanced” approach, is a veritable who’s who of contemporary Indian political, social, and cultural life. The President and Prime Minister of India; politicians across parties; Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and other cricketers; any number of Bollywood actors, directors, and producers who queued up to meet him as he lay on his deathbed; and reputed journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, and Vir Sanghvi.
This is the real legacy of Bal Thackeray. To make political violence so routine that it ceases to outrage. To make the strategy of scapegoating and targeting particular ethnic, religious, or political groups part of the calculus of everyday politics. To make fear and intimidation a legitimate, accepted part of political leadership. And to constantly remind any potential critic, in media or otherwise, of the threat of violent reprisal for saying something that Thackeray and his thugs might not appreciate.
Posted by Robin Varghese at 11:27 AM | Permalink