Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Sarkar at the Service of Raj
Fadnavis Government Turns Broker for MNS Mafia
The 2005 Hindi film Sarkar inspired in equal parts by Bal Thackeray's life and Godfather, portrayed the parallel power wielded in Mumbai by the Shiv Sena. The film's title played on the pun 'Sarkar' - which in Hindi and Marathi is a feudal title for a man wielding power and authority, and also means 'Government.' In BJP-ruled Maharashtra today, this pun seems especially apt. The Sarkar - Government - is at the service of 'Raj' Thackeray, Bal Thackeray's nephew. Raj Thackeray, today's mafia 'Sarkar' imposes his mob rule, with the tame cooperation of the Chief Minister himself.   
MNS leader Raj Thackeray threatened violence against the soon-to-be-released film Ai Dil Hai Mushkil, on the grounds that it starred a Pakistani film actor. Johar issued a public declaration that he would no longer hire Pakistani talent in his films – and Raj Thackeray then made a deal with Johar in the Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis’ presence, in which he agreed to allow the film to be released on condition that Johar paid a Rs 5 crore ‘fine’ which would go to the Indian Army.
It is indeed a new low for democracy when an elected Chief Minister brokers a deal allowing leader of goons to use the threat of violence to extort ‘tax’ from film producers. The BJP brands any questions about surgical strikes as an 'insult' to armed forces. Is it not an insult to armed forces to be offered funds extorted by the mafia-style Sarkar Raj?
What is equally shameful is that this extortion is able to pose as ‘patriotism.’ Here, a considerable share of the blame rests with the media channels and anchors that threw journalistic responsibility and restraint to the winds and helped create a frenzied ‘demand’ for a ban on or boycott of Pakistani artists. While the Modi Government’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated that films featuring Pakistani actors would be allowed to be released, the Information Minister Venkaiah Naidu justified boycott threats as public sentiment that must be respected.
The MNS, like the Shiv Sena under Bal Thackeray, is notorious for its mob violence against migrant workers from Bihar and UP, as well for holding cultural and sports events to ransom. Is mob violence against migrant workers from other States ‘patriotic’? Is it not a shame when a party that refuses to respect the rights and dignity of students or migrants from Bihar or UP as citizens of India, be allowed to lay down ‘patriotism laws’ and impose ‘patriotism taxes’?
Mobocracy has been emboldened and encouraged by the BJP Governments, most so in the climate of jingoism fostered in the past few months. A ‘protest letter’ from a little known saffron outfit was enough to make organisers of a film festival in Goa drop a 1959 classic film Jago Hua Savera from its itinerary, on the grounds that it was a ‘Pakistani’ film. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, arguably one of the greatest poets of the subcontinent, wrote the screenplay for Jago Hua Savera, based on a story by Bengali writer Manik Bandopadhyay, and the film featured a largely Bangladeshi cast with the music composer and a leading actor being Indians (Timir Baran and Tripti Mitra respectively). Such mobocracy impoverishes Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis alike by robbing us of our rich and shared cultural legacy.
Also a cause for concern is the craven submission of most Indian celebrity figures from the influential worlds of film and sport, before the mobocracy posing as patriotism. Barring a few honourable exceptions, most film figures have kept silence on the calls for boycott of Pakistani actors and artists.
It is neither courageous nor patriotic to be part of mobs that violently force people to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, stand up for the national anthem, or pay ‘fines’ for employing Pakistani actors. True courage and conviction lie in standing up and being counted against such bullying and violence. Here, we can admire the example of the 19-year-old Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur, daughter of Captain Mandeep Singh who was killed at Kargil, who has issued a moving statement against the anti-Pakistan war-mongering and communal hate-mongering. Declaring that war, not Pakistan, killed her father, she has called herself ‘a soldier like my father – a soldier for peace,’ and called upon political leaders of India and Pakistan to ‘talk to each other’ and work to achieve peace.
Indians need to stand with the soldiers for peace not the ‘Senas’ of hate and mob violence that terrorise Dalits, migrants, and women and wage war on freedom of expression and the subcontinent’s shared composite culture.

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol.19 | No. 44 | 25 – 31 October 2016

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