Friday, October 31, 2008

Is politicization of Ganesh Chaturthi or Dahi Handi justifiable?

Someone at this blog claims that Ganesh Chaturthi and Dahi Handi are politicized by Maharashtra politics, ergo politicization of Chath pooja is okay. Here's my rebuttal:

Your argument makes no sense. Ganeshutsav is a festival that has been celebrated in all parts of Maharashtra from pre-independence days. It was in fact initiated by Lokmanya Tilak as a way to secretly convene freedom fighters to assemble under the guise of religious celebration to give voice to their fight against the British. Dahi Handi is a similar cultural phenomenon that has a long history of being celebrated among Maharashtrian communities. Politicizing or complete ignorance from politics for these festivals makes no difference to the average Maharashtrian community as these festivals are going to be celebrated any way. It is the festivals that are traditionally NOT celebrated in Mumbai that are under question here. Chat Puja, which is a new phenomenon is welcome if it's a purely religious festival, with the aim of increasing harmony and assimilation between existing groups of people. However, if it's sole purpose is flouting political muscle, which is the way it is largely being perceived for the last few years, then it's vaue is questionable. For instance, I challenge you to find a slogan like "U.P. Bihar to jhaanki hai, Mumbai abhi baaki hai" during the entire Ganpati festival. Or Dahi Handi.

Please don't mix cultural events with politics. Political support of cultural events and politicization of a cultural event are two completely different things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A North Indian Conspiracy

Feckless, asinine Bihari leaders have now taken to insisting that the Bihari madman who had taken a bus hostage in Mumbai was actually a martyr, and his death was a planned conspiracy by the Maharashtra government. Let's turn this conspiracy theory around a bit. Given the extremely heinous, cheap, low-level and despicable politics that is pervasive across the board in Bihar politics, it does not take much imagination to fully comprehend the level to which these politicans can stoop. I mean, it takes a genius to gobble up money in an animal fodder scheme, doesn't it? I would've been ordinarily corrupt by world standards, and tried to make money off stocks, insider trading, dubious land grabs, dubious real estate, shady bank dealings, exploiting holes in oversight committees. But, animal fodder - wow! That takes an all new sort of twisted genius. Yeah, and these mad power-hungry politicians in Bihar could be decorated with the most prestigious appellations, if one were to hand out a medal every time a novel corruption scheme was unveiled. Doesn't it take a special kind of anti-"national" to support SIMI, a known hotbed for breeding the new generation of Islamic terrorists? How much further till these guys vote to mainstream Indian Mujahideen as a political party, and give them special status since they represent the interests of an increasingly shrinking religious minority (11% of Indian population, by the way)? So given these bucolic super-geniuses who have made their careers out of exploiting the chinks in social fabric on the basis of caste, creed, religion and race, who is to second-guess the extent of their evilness?

So, just as our esteemed Bihari leaders are busy tossing out conspiracy theories by the dozen to discredit Maharashtra, Maharashtrians, Marathi, and governance in Maharashtra, let's toss in a few conspiracy theory of our own, just to get a level playing field.

Rahul Raj was equipped by Abu Azmi and was provoked into taking a bus hostage. I mean Azmi, by his continued support of SIMI has been covertly equipping terrorists with bombs meant to kill hundreds - what is a single country-made pistol for him? Peanuts. Furthermore, he was driven into a crazed state by brainwashing him about attempting to kill Raj Thackeray. Why else would a "guy who would not swat a fly" tote a gun in broad daylight? He was ordered to wreak mayhem by taking a bus hostage and destabilize Maharashtra government's rule by his acts. The ultimate aim of this northern block is to impose President's rule in Maharashtra, so that they can get their own hired goons from Bihar to patrol our Marathi cities. By continually destabilizing Maharashtra, this can be easily achieved. Who is to say that Rahul Raj was not used like a tool by RJD, SP or what the shit-ever these Bihari parties call themselves, and then discarded like a cheap whore?

Why the Marathi manoos feels victimized

Polarization of societies based on linguistic, communal, religious, racial identities is one undeniable phenomenon in the fabric of human evolution. It is inevitable, and no amount of sloganeering and attempts to instill false pride in a concept much larger than the most natural boundaries is an attempt that is doomed to fail. Asking any given society or community to abdicate its identity and embrace a larger identity is thus a hopeless task. While the concept of India as a country with diverse factions has been an interesting cultural experiment, unnatural and hegemonistic perpetration of an “Indian” who speaks “Hindi” has constantly sought to undermine local identities. This is the primary reason why there is festering resentment in states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, the north-east and so on. The average national politician with any iota of power is always perceived to be from the Hindi belt, or with massive
support from the Hindi belt. The electoral numbers and constituencies (e.g. number of seats in the Lok Sabha for the Hindi belt) make sure that this hegemony is maintained. For day-to-day functioning of local state governments, Delhi is always perceived as the higher power; and success of any small endeavour is always considered impossible without the benediction from New Delhi. Since we love to throw around statistics, these are a few:

Prime Ministers of India
UP : 7 + 1*
Punjab : 3
MP : 1
AP : 1
Karnataka : 1
Gujurat : 1

*Rajiv Gandhi (Mumbai), was born outside UP, but is obviously identified with UP.

Contributions of Marathis to the freedom struggle have been several. 3 of the 7 most important commanders at the 1857 war of independence: Rani Laxmibai, Tatya Tope, and Nanasahib were Marathi. Marathi freedom fighters like Lokmanya Tilak, Ram Agarkar, Chaphekar brothers, Gopal Krishna Gokhale (guru of Mahatma Gandhi), Mahadev Govind Ranade, Swatantryaveer Savarkar and many others have played a pivotal role before people like Gandhiji or Nehru ever arrived on the scene. The Ganpati festival started by Tilak in Maharashtra was designed to be a front for meeting under cover to undermine the British activities, and plan reforms. Reformers like Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule (women’s education), Karve (family planning, women’s education), Agarkar, Tilak, Baba Amte have given a lot to India through their rich service. We all know the tremendous work by Shivaji Maharaj in cultivating the spirit of “Swarajya” (ownership by self-rule), and his fight against tyranny and unfairness in autocratic religious rulers.

In spite of all this, what does th common Marathi man perceive as the attitude of a north Indian towards him?

1. Oh, you are Marathi - so you must either be a house help who cleans utensils, or a fisherwoman, or an unemployed mill labourer, or just an uncouth “Ghati”.

2. Nerhu’s book disparaged Shivaji Maharaj’s great work, treating him like a common bandit. Nehru didn’t deserve the right to sit by Maharaj’s feet. Yet, just because of his elite education and British affections, to be perceived as a secular ruler, he had the gall to insult one of the greatest visionaries India has ever seen. (Quick Trivia: Shivaji Maharaj had a Muslim as his naval commander, and had British wait on him in his court. Before you paint him with a saffron brush.)

3. Swatantryaveer Savarkar, the pioneer of organized revolutionary fighting against the British terrorized the foreign rulers to such an extent that they had to jail him for TWO life terms. His books were proscribed before even publication. He was a so-called Hindu fundamentalist, but he was also an atheist. Guess how that worked, eh? If you need enlightenment and want to
read some of the most rationally thought out visions, please read his book on Hindu identity. He viewed Hinduism as a cultural identity than a religious identity. He was critical of religions who had allegiances to “one sacred place” before their own country. E.g. Christians and Jerusalem or Muslims and Mecca. I would do grave injustice to his works and memories by attempting to
put down into words the work of a lifetime. Just because he had tenuous connections with the murder of Gandhiji, he was outlawed. He was considered to be a dangerous person due to his political convictions, and he was never accorded any respect in any of the prominent national communities. How unbelievable is this - he was still in jail even after India gained independence.

4. In all Government departments, (I know, I have really close relatives who work for the Central Govt.), there is a very conscious and stark case of nepotism. Since several offices are located in Delhi, there is an increasing amount of favouritism shown to people that belong to your community rather than based on true merit. Naturally, since Marathi people have been largely
sidelined at the national stage in such offices and positions, a prominent or powerful Marathi person heading a Government office is almost unheard of. Most diktats are sent down from Delhi, and Delhi rules and micro-manages the tiniest details in every day functioning, right from bribes to incompetence.

5. The most prominent Marathi leader on the national stage? I can think of two, maybe three. In current day scenario? Sharad Pawar leading a lame-duck sports department. Prominent Marathi national leader in BJP? Pramod Mahajan, now dead.

So now add all of these feelings and perceptions and put in this already boiling and caustic mixture irresponsible and idiotic politicians such as Lalu - an abrasive comedian, Abu Azmi - a known supporter of Simi and terrorists, Amar Singh - another abrasive idiot who thinks being secular is being pro-Muslim and such people. What do you get?

Any Marathi person with any sense of history and cultural pride cannot ignore the severity, continuity and tenacity of such slights over a period of 60 odd years of “independence”. How is it that Delhi gets the best Metro under way and has a superb metamorphosis in terms of infrastructure, and Mumbai keeps getting sidelined in spite of being the commercial capital? How is it that Mumbai has areas earmarked for Bangladeshi immigrants? How is it that a humungous amount of the slum population is non-Marathi? Yeah, Raj Thackeray’s methods are violent and divisive. But where has your “unity” been for the last 60 years of belittling the Marathi man? Only when the suppressed and injured pride rears its head, does the “Hindi” Indian want to quickly cut the snake’s head off, to re-assert his dominant hegemony. A Bihari madman taking a bus full of innocent passengers hostage with a gun(!!) is labeled a martyr, and cops are criticized for performing their jobs? A man as superior as Savarkar is referred to by random people on internet forums by female anatomical parts?

People need to get a clue.