To view Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray‘s funeral on a television news channel over the weekend was the closest one could come to overdosing on saccharine.
Across-the-board channels spoke of how he formed the party, his mobilisation of thousands of people who had been marginalised and the shutting down of the country’s financial capital over the weekend as a ‘sign of the respect’. They spoke of the lakhs that had turned up to pay their respects and of how ‘restrained’ the party activists had been in not indulging in violence.
However, Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju has been less than charitable in his comments about the Sena head’s passing and said he could not pay any tribute to Thackeray.
He pointed to the campaigns against the south Indian community in the city in the late 1960s and 70s, vilifying the Muslim community and even blamed the party for the violence against Bihari and north Indians in 2008, forgetting that it wasn’t the Shiv Sena but its off shoot that was responsible for it.
According to Katju, India is inherently a country of migrants where people have always been moving across the country:
The original inhabitants (the real bhumiputra) of India are the pre-Dravidian tribals, known as Adivasis (the Bhils, Gonds, Santhals, Todas, etc.) who are only 7-8 per cent of our population today.
Hence if the bhumiputra theory is seriously implemented, 92-93 per cent of Maharashtrians (including, perhaps, the Thackeray family) may have to be regarded as outsiders and treated accordingly. The only real bhumiputra in Maharashtra are the Bhils and other tribals, who are only 7-8 per cent of the population of Maharashtra.
The former Supreme Court judge also pointed out how the political stance of Thackeray and the Shiv Sena had been in violation of the rights provided under the constitution. According to Katju, the nation needs to stay together to ensure rapid industrialisation that will aid the progress of the nation.
What Katju chose to highlight, that many others didn’t was the ill effects of the regionalism and communalism that Thackeray’s ideology stood for. The Shiv Sena itself has over the years distanced itself from some of its more rabid stances, preferring a more moderate approach to politics.