– By Sanjay Jha

I have begun writing a book, partially planned and partly triggered by the bizarre events that have unfolded in Mumbai in recent times. Albeit one will try and do justice to the complex conundrum that is India—an unfathomable mystery beyond normal human sensibilities, I am prepared for the long haul. Over the last week we have had chaotic madness sweeping the city of Mumbai and leaving it’s millions of denizens fairly shell-shocked and feeling acutely embarrassed and highly agitated . Rahul Gandhi’s appropriate and valid observations on Indianness with reference to a united fight by Indian NSG commandoes against 26/11 terrorists met with an outlandish and downright abominable response from the Shiv Sena that had many heads reeling in mighty disbelief.

Shah Rukh Khan’s comments on IPL players from across the border has also unleashed a reprehensible unfortunate backlash from India’s famous parallel power center based out of Matoshree, Mumbai celebrated in cinematic form by legendary Amitabh Bachchan in a film called Sarkar which was termed a commercial success. It even flouted a sequel. In retrospect, you can understand why the grand old patriarch of the Thackeray family runs his own law school. A sense of false grandeur settles which is accentuated by years of pip-squeak , pusillanimous politicians at the helm . Soon, one genuinely believes that a quasi-centre of power is a legitimate logical corollary of social and political circumstances. The Shiv Sena and MNS , unlike us stereotype cynics and standard critics , actually genuinely believe that they have intrinsic relevance in our national life . This is also buttressed by the fact that they have scant respect for state leadership whom they believe to be equally circuitous. But the “Marathi manoos” is just a convenient ploy, part of the larger master-strategy of playing linguistic politics to espouse the divisive “ sons of the soil” theory. But more on that later. First, India’s dichotomous, asymmetrical, and peculiar ironies.

  1. India is the toast of Davos, Switzerland while back home in the commercial capital of Mumbai the very concept of one-India is being threatened. What a contradiction!
  2. If statements such as “ Mumbai is for all Indians” and “ India belongs to all” is breaking news , then can we imagine the abysmal levels to which our public standards have sunk? .
  3. How can the Shiv Sena and MNS morally demand that Australian and Pakistan players be banned when they are thrashing, humiliating and hurting their own fellow Indians in their OWN country ? Who is more anti-national, the Australian thugs or we ourselves? Have we ever considered that our own internal saber-rattling and physical assaults on each other may be actually encouraging disgruntled foreigners from treating our country-men with greater disrespect and condescension ? Isn’t India frankly the laughing stock of the world right now? There is an old saying that if your house is not in order, the world will exploit you —-ruthlessly. That is exactly what is happening today. In Australia. In Ireland. The virus may even spread.
  4. Can you imagine the insecurities, fears and nervousness of the common man in Mumbai when he hears of a local political party that threatens to prevent Rahul Gandhi from entering Mumbai when he represents both the national and state ruling party ? I thought that was the pinnacle of brazenness and the ultimate blatant disregard for law of the land? Some audacity that!
  5. How can the country allow a self-made decent hardworking man who is India’s unofficial global ambassador and the country’s reigning superstar to be threatened, attacked and bullied by a political party for making personal remarks on team selection for IPL ? It is the government’s responsibility to ensure a 100% secure environment for the release of Shah Rukh Khan’s film My Name is Khan this Friday February 12th 2010.
  6. The Indian media should know how to distinguish between those espousing hatred and those having a hard-line view. Instead of making every televised debate into an inaudible acrimonious exchange, they should stop inviting the predictable torchbearers of social violence in India into the studios. The democratic option of “ hearing the other side” has run it’s course. In fact, is there any need to debate on whether Mumbai is for all Indians? It is. It damn well is, my friend! Frankly, TV creates a debate where actually none exists.. It is asinine to hype “ Is Mumbai for all Indians? ” as if it is indeed a disputed subject worthy of intellectual stimulation ; this is where Indian electronic media exploits raging virulent discontent by creating a bigger conflagration from practically nothing. It is the Sena and MNS who end up having the last laugh. Think about it, Editors!
  7. The attack on the controversial ex-police chief Rathore , terribly regrettable as it was is a statement on the rising disillusionment and anger of the common man with India’s legal –justice system, police force, rampant corruption and a whole grocery list of grievances . One should note that the attacker was not even related to the victim; it is a sad and sorry tale even if he was supposedly unwell. India is currently looking a disturbed society , extremely stressed and essentially lonely.
  8. In the midst of all this Sharad Pawar, the next President of the International Cricket Council makes a visit to the residence of the Shiv Sena chief to offer an olive branch ostensibly to allow the Australian cricketers to play in the IPL. By the way, the Home Minister of Maharashtra is from his own party NCP. His visit, informal and friendly as it might have been based on personal equations, weakens the common man’s faith in institutional governance.

When I was in school I remember a chapter in social studies that explained the uniqueness of India; our unity in diversity. May be it is time some of our politicians went back to school.

One comment

  1. As I read what Sanjay’s written, I think back and ask myself – Am I, a citizen of India, born and brought up in Mumbai, safe in this city, which is said to be the safest of all??
    If known people like Shah Rukh Khan and Rahul Gandhi are subject to being targeted by MNS and Shiv Sena, who guarantees the safety of leading a respectable life to common people like us?
    The last few years have seen some events of calamity fall on Mumbai – the 2005 deluge, the series of blasts that happened in trains on the western railway, the terror attacks in 2008. Amidst all of these, there was one common phrase that was heard across the city, and echoed through the nation – “spirit of Mumbai”. I shudder to think, that if Mumbai is being ruled by unreasonable, hungry for ANY kind of publicity, negatively headstrong leaders, the phrase will just remain a phrase and soon fellow Mumbaikars (irrespective of where they have their roots) will be out to cut each others throats!

    Its time we all wake up to reality to see an insecure environment staring us in the face, and do more than just see – act on larger issues like creating opportunities for employment and making Mumbai a better place to live. Its time we start taking initiative. Twiddling our thumbs will only get us to be yet another victim of unreasonable demands and whims & fancies of ruthlessly shameless political (so called) leaders!

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