Raj Thackeray’s verbal muscle flexing lays bare not just his bullying behaviour but also, his rather sparse knowledge of the Indian Constitution. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader has threatened to declare all Bihari migrants in Maharashtra as ‘infiltrators’ if the Bihar government proceeds with legal action against the Maharashtra police. The latter reportedly arrested a Bihari boy in connection with a criminal case without informing their counterparts in Bihar. Thackeray’s warning reveals that he knows little about established protocols in this country. Administrative procedures require police to inform their counterparts of any action they take in another state. In failing to inform the Bihar government, the Maharashtra police violated inter-state police protocols. By jumping to defend their violation of rules, Thackeray has indicated that he doesn’t believe in respecting procedural rules himself. More importantly, he is completely out of line in threatening to label Biharis and other North Indians in Maharashtra as infiltrators.
First, he is not the designated authority to decide who is an infiltrator. Besides, declaring Indians as infiltrators in this country is plain ridiculous. The Constitution guarantees every Indian citizen the right to movement and to settle in any place of his choice. Thackeray should be hauled before the courts for denying citizens their rights. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he has gone on to threaten to shut down Hindi news channels operating in Maharashtra for apparently misquoting him. Again, the right to freedom of speech is guaranteed to every citizen. If the news channels have violated norms, it is for the concerned authority in the government to take action.
Thackeray’s stirring of chauvinist sentiments in Maharashtra is aimed at securing his vote bank. It is likely to prompt the Shiv Sena and others to outbid him in their competition for votes in the state. Governments in Maharashtra and Delhi must act sternly to rein in the MNS leader; else competitive chauvinism will engulf Maharashtra. Its impact will spread to other parts of the country.
The Congress-NCP government has so far failed to act firmly against Thackeray. Perhaps petty political calculations – the coalition is reportedly banking on the MNS to cut into the BJP-Shiv Sena’s votes – are behind its soft handling of the MNS leader. Maharashtra and other parts of India recently witnessed mob violence and an exodus of tens of thousands of people from our cities. Another conflagration triggered by bigoted individuals and parties is not in the country’s interest.