An article in the latest issue of The Outlook magazine by Rohit Chopra on the legendary Bal Thackeray made much more than good reading. In fact it made a lot of good sense and shows how the Indian hierarchy capitulates to crass brow beating. That is an accepted phenomenon the author apprises us. Nothing
could be more truthful and direct.
Thackeray had become an icon a scion, but at whose cost? What was the nationalism he projected; Indian or Marathi? Did he and his subjects, accept tolerance, or any form of criticism? No way says the author.
We live in fear, terror and isolation. The honest are singled out for assailing rights with indignities. This is a slur on democracy.
Yet his apotheosis was his crowning glory, the transformation of a journalist to a demi god. The very fact that he was given a state funeral testifies to his acceptance: acceptance by political leaders, the media and of course an insensate public. We need not blame only the people of his State for it, the vacillating Indian public did not understand that he was an iconoclast of people or communities he did not like. So he was projected, perhaps more out of fear than anything else as a 'neither good nor bad' persona. But perhaps, that is not the point; the point is that since the 1970s this political leader let loose terror against anyone he thought was incompatible in his state, for political, religious or economic reasons.
And after his death he and his obscurantism was raised at the altar of hero worship. A bandh was called after his death, two college or university going students were arrested for venting their feelings on a social networking site. The media did more than its bit to project this 'charismatic' person. But what about the 1992-93 pogrom which he initiated against a particular community?
Such reprehensible actions, do not invoke our sentiments. We pay homage to icons we fear, or for that matter do not like. Our societies have been built on the fringes of such fear and terror. So if normalcy is disrupted in the city of Mumbai after his death we have to accept it, more out of a sense of fear than anything else. And if there is the mildest criticism, a vitriolic reaction takes place.
Such contingincies we have to prepare for, in India. We live in fear, terror and isolation. The honest are singled out for assailing rights with indignities. This is a slur on democracy. And then the paens of praise. He was a charismatic leader, a fascinating person our media lauds. The political leaders look funereal. Such is the macho man prototype that he presented.
As, E.M. Forster once remarked; only two cheers for democracy, the third is for ''Love the Beloved Rebublic''. We are devoid of that, and all the more, a big loser for this!