By Farzana Versey
01 February, 2007
of asking Bal Thackeray to apologise to the President of India for saying,
"His hair is falling over his eyes and blinding him, or perhaps
he is seeing stars or the moon before his eyes", we ought to thank
If the Shiv Sena chief can
be accused of frivolity, then the responses are just about as flippant.
They say he has insulted the highest office in the land by taking personal
pot-shots. President Kalam's hair had been the topic of discussion from
the day he was in the running for the post. Newspapers had put up computer-generated
images of him in various hairstyles that would 'suit him'. No one objected
Even today, the Prez happily
takes up assignments as guest editor and writes articles. Don't these
go against the dignity of the office he holds? Is one to assume he agrees
with the policy of the medium of communication?
We must not forget that President
Kalam was chosen by the NDA government. It was a smart move. You got
your token Muslim who was not bearded, who said he was impressed by
sadhus seated around in a trance and who could quote from the Bhagwad
If this is what keeps the
Hindutva lobby happy, then the Congress has its own reasons. As the
Mumbai chief of the party, Gurudas Kamat, said, "In a desperate
measure to seek votes, Thackeray is attacking Kalam, who gave 'Agni'
to the nation."
What if he had not given
the nation this macho little toy that could frighten the enemy across
the border? Would his loyalty too, like that of a few million in this
country, be suspect?
Thackeray's statement can
have a more dreadful impact than one may imagine. Will the President
be compelled to fall prey to such pressures when the fact is that the
Mohammed Afzal case is not a watertight one and deserves clemency? Afzal
has killed no one. What he did is in the court papers; on the day when
Parliament was attacked he fiddled around, just like Narendra Modi did
during the Gujarat riots.
Thackeray's own record during
the riots of 1992-93 is no better. His interest in the 'Muslim problem'
was largely because he realised that Islam was the new pop cult and
he did not want to lose out on the mileage it would get him. A television
anchor asked his lawyer about his recent comments. Among the usual things,
the reply also mentioned that "this is a Hindu rashtra". Much
to my amazement, the anchor did not counter-question. They were still
harping on the rape of the President's locks.
Do you understand? The malaise
goes beyond Matoshree where 'saheb' sits like a Mogambo in an ornate
chair and dispenses a form of urban Panchayati Raj justice. This is
the man who had said that if anything happened to him then the city
would burn. A bit ironical for he has never contested an election and
cannot move around without security guards. What is he afraid of?
He gives the impression of
leading from the front and being upfront when he is safely ensconced
He has spoken against dynastic
rule, but the Sena is nothing more than a family-run small-scale industry.
He has a problem with anything
western, but when it suited him he sucked up to ENRON.
He had been a strong proponent
of TADA, but when Sanjay Dutt was arrested under the Act and the case
was still sub-judice he had no problem in pronouncing him "a nice
He flaunts the Hindutva card
– "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai" is a Thackeray coinage
– yet he is selective about the Hindus he speaks up for. Shiv
Sainiks from the lower rung of the caste hierarchy or outsiders are
soon shown where they belong. Chhagan Bhujbal, Sanjay Nirupam, Narayan
Rane were all loyalists who left.
His boys are told to uphold
Indian culture; they destroy stuffed teddy bears and tinsel-covered
hearts, they round up couples in parks and tear posters they deem vulgar.
Yet, to protest against his support for the film 'Fire', they went on
a mission to actor Dilip Kumar's house dressed in nothing but underwear.
He tarnishes the public display
of one particular religion as jihad, but it was his party that took
the maha-artis out in the streets.
If underworld dons forced
film stars and singers to perform and do their bidding, then the Shiv
Sena does the same.
Industry bigwigs go to his
house to seek his 'blessings'. Everyone knows the price.
These are issues that ought
to bother us. The Presidential post is above religion and there is no
need to be touchy about careless comments. Instead, Thackeray should
be made accountable for being an irresponsible citizen.
(Farzana Versey can be contacted
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