Small thinking



Bal Thackeray’s churlish response to Sachin Tendulkar’s statement that he is an Indian first lays bare yet again the small mindedness of the Shiv Sena chief. Tendulkar had observed at a function in Mumbai that Mumbai belongs to all Indians and that while he is a proud Maharashtrian, he regarded himself as an Indian first. This has annoyed the Sena chief. He has let loose a tirade against Tendulkar in a signed editorial in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’. Thackeray has accused Tendulkar of speaking against the ‘nyaya hak’ (just rights) of the Marathi manoos and hurting Marathi sentiments. But there is nothing anti-Maharashtrian in Tendulkar’s comment. Mumbai is part of India. The city has been enriched not undermined by its cosmopolitanism. Thackeray is upset with Tendulkar stressing his Indian identity. Feeling Indian does not negate one linguistic or other identity. India’s composite culture and identity has room to accommodate a person’s linguistic identity as well. Being Indian does not preclude one from being Maharashtrian or Kannadiga or Bihari or Naga. India is based on the idea of unity in diversity. But this idea of India is simply beyond the comprehension of Thackeray. He has showed himself to be a man of small ideas, limited imagination and no vision.

The Sena chief’s comment is objectionable not just because it targeted a cricketing legend. It is condemnable because it is driven by a narrow outlook. It is undermining India’s composite nationalism. This brand of politics is anti-national. Thackeray is of course not alone in pursuing an agenda that emphasises parochialism. Nephew Raj Thackeray has been competing with the Sena chief and perhaps outdoing him in this regard. Recently Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) legislators attacked a Samajwadi Party MLA who took his oath in Hindi rather than in Marathi.

It is obvious that the Sena chief is rattled by the MNS activism on the issue of protection of Marathi interests. Hence the attack on Tendulkar’s remark. Neither Thackeray nor Raj is protecting the interests of Marathis with their engagement in exclusionary, insider-outsider politics. If anything, they are giving Marathis a bad name. Marathis need to reflect on the kind of politics the Thackerays are promoting in their name. What would Mumbai be without a cosmopolitan culture and its multi-ethnic identity? And where would Mumbai’s economy be if not for the hard work of outsiders who toil here. An inward looking preoccupation does Maharashtra little good.

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