In an atmosphere of mistrust, being a Muslim and on top of that a ‘rebelling’ Kashmiri is a double whammy. For such a person like me, to articulate my unexpressed feelings about Bal Thackeray, whom I earnestly believe to have lived his entire life as a demagogue if not a blood-letting fascist, even within my deep thought processes sounded to be a sacrilegious act.
The Facebook controversy wherein a young girl along with her friend was jailed simply on the basis of an innocuous remark— “With all respect, every day, thousands of people die, but still the world moves on”— that was construed as hyper-sensitive by the Maharashtra police — “promoting enmity between classes” and “sending offensive messages through [a] communication service” — confirmed the worst anxieties that in present circumstances, particularly when the departed leader has already been attributed as a ‘Hindu hirdaysamrat’, an honest expression may invite the diatribe of anti-Hindu discourse and may even be easily construed as an anti-national act.
Bier draped in Tricolour and not only people like LK Advani, the ideological equivalent of the deceased leader, but also the apparently staunch political rivals like Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Sharad Pawar making all efforts to be seen amongst the sea of people at Shivaji Park was enough to cast a drowning feeling that the country has already accorded its recognition to a man who divided the society not only on religious lines but also on the very basis of regional identities. Moreover, the so-called leading lights of civil society, normally considered to be the standard-bearers of the public behaviour, also making a beeline to pay their homage sapped all the courage within me to register my dissent.
Amidst the huge outpouring of public sentiment, a spectacle of utter hypocrisy was on display that almost acquiesced and moreover condoned the fascist behaviour in the public life. In such a horrible scenario, a truly conscientious person was required to resurrect the public conscience that has lost its stead. Mercifully, in a frustrating scenario of ever-encompassing darkness, along with other feeble voices, it was only Markandey Katju to first light a candle of hope. It needs truly an enlightened mind to revolt and register his note of disagreement and publically say, “Hence I regret I cannot pay any tribute to Mr Bal Thackeray.” Suddenly through the sheer act of Katju’s bravery, I felt immensely empowered and also dare to state that I too am not inclined to pay any homage to Mr Bal Thackeray.
Morally speaking, there is no space available to criticise a person after his death. As a strong believer of destiny, I firmly believe that after his death, Thackeray’s fate now solely rests with his Creator: what one sows he shall only reap.
However, we are not discussing here the person per se; his legacy and the kind of politics he practised during his lifetime will inevitably come under the scanner. No way, at the time of their grief it’s not an occasion to join in an issue with the followers of Thackeray; it is uncalled for to enrage the disturbed passions.
My question is to the authorities who decided to bestow an honour of state funeral to the departed leader: Was he a constitutional figure that warranted a gun salute? Obviously he was not and in case his popularity necessitated a military honour then the powers to be are setting a very dangerous precedent. If a state recognition to a divisive figurehead in his death was out of compulsion as two-million mourners joined the funeral, then it truly underscores the sorry state of affairs.
In case tomorrow a majority of India turns out to be supporters of Gandhiji’s killer, will the cowardly rulers, having no conviction left, declare Nathuram Godse as the new father of the nation? And provided the rulers affirm not to be cowards and claim that the decision to accord gun salute to the funeral of a Hindu extremist leader who believed India to be a Hindu Rashtra was made purely on merit, then what stops India to be a Hindu state in near future?
The brute and raucous majority only has to decide the fate of the nation and not the secular principles as the rulers pretend to follow, and then what inhabits us not to dread that the soul of India has been lost, since long?