Monday, September 7, 2015

Sandipan Sharma - Shiv Sena's condemnation of Kalburgi's killing: A sign of intellectual churn in party?

Let us all celebrate Sena's fleeting romance with reason

Just the bewildering happenstance of the Shiv Sena defending freedom of expression would have been a valid reason to wonder if the Maharashtra tiger has turned into the proverbial cat on a pilgrimage after devouring nine hundred rats, probably from non-Hindu, non-Maratha households.

But the latest editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamana goes much beyond calling attention to Sena's hypocrisy in defending a concept it has merrily demolished in the past. The signed article by Saamana executive editor Sanjay Raut crosses an ideological Lakshman rekha and blasts radical Hindus for stifling the voice of dissent. Only the Mein Kampf talking about the rights of Jews would have had comparable shock value.

Unless we hear some juicy gossip about the Saamana staff being under the influence of a Hogwarts potion that momentarily rid them of their prejudices, the editorial sounds like an inexplicable and uncharacteristic chiding of its core constituency--the far right. It castigates radical Hindus for "dastardly" murders of scholars, rationalists and activists like MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare and warns such acts are akin to destroying the "soul of the country's freedom."

The Sena's latest sermon is a surprising because it is preaching what it has rarely practised. The party has had a history of intolerance of dissent and violent backlash against ideas that challenge its core beliefs and sectarian ideals. Just a few days ago, it had threatened that people will dance "over the grave" of Tehelka for calling Bal Thackeray a terrorist. Before that, in April, it had politely reminded Shobhaa "Aunty" that her past and future generations would have been "born in Pakistan and would have perhaps celebrated Page 3 parties in a burkha" if Marathas like Shivaji and Thackeray had not fought for them. Shobhaa De got a lesson in genealogy and geography for questioning the Maharashtra government's diktat to theatre owners for screening Marathi films.

And though it is now concerned about the murder of writers and activists, the Sena has rarely had qualms in inciting murderous rage among its followers. Only a month ago, it had exhorted Hindus to act as "human bombs" and invade Pakistan.

Why has the Sena suddenly taken a moral and ideological U-turn? Is it a sign of an intellectual churn within the party, a result of the growing influence of the third generation? Is the party concerned more about the threat to lives of independent thinkers and dissenters or the impact their murders would have on the reputation of Hindus and Hindutva?

Regardless of the explanation, for a change it would be a good idea to listen to the Sena. The elimination of dissenters in Karnataka and Maharashtra by the lunatic fringe is a national concern and shame. As the Saamana rightly points out, such acts perpetrated in the name of Hindutva bring us at par with the Taliban and deny us the moral right to criticise terrorism unleashed on the pretext of religion.

Let us all celebrate Sena's fleeting romance with reason by supporting and echoing its valid concerns. And hope that this new realisation lasts till the next edition of the Saamna on the morrow.

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