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Brijesh Kalappa
Monday , November 19, 2012 at 11 : 15

Bihari manoos, rest in peace


Bal Thackeray, the chief proponent of the sons-of-the-soil ideology in Mumbai and the man who ruled the city for more than four decades, passed away after nearly four months of illness at his Matoshree residence in Bandra at 3.30 pm on Saturday following a cardiac arrest. He was 86.

The Indian Constitution provides its citizens the right to freely move across the length and breadth of India and indeed to pursue their means to livelihood. Article 15 of the Indian Constitution puts the onus on the State to ensure that the no citizen shall be discriminated against on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. This freedom is an appreciation of the intrinsically nomadic nature of man. The birth of civilization and its flourishing has much to do with this nomadic nature. If man weren't a nomad and he didn't move from place to place, civilization as we know it would have been vastly different.

HG Wells in his classic 'A Plain History of Life and Mankind' writes "To begin with, man was a slow drifter, following food. Then one sort of men began to settle down, and another sort became more distinctly nomadic. The settled sort began to rely more and more upon grain for food; the nomad began to make a greater use of milk for food. He bred his cows for milk. The two ways of life specialized in opposite directions. It was inevitable that nomad folk and the settled folk should clash, that the nomads should seem hard barbarians to the settled peoples, and the settled peoples soft and effeminate and very good plunder to the nomad peoples. Along the fringes of the developing civilizations there must have been a constant raiding and bickering between hardy nomad tribes and mountain tribes and the more numerous and less warlike peoples in the towns and villages."

On 30th August, 2012, MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday threatened to brand Biharis "infiltrators" and force them out of Maharashtra if authorities in Bihar take legal action against Mumbai policemen who picked up a teenager from there without informing their counterparts in that state. He was only picking up the thread from his uncle Bal Thackeray, who has held out similar threats to South Indians, Gujaratis, Biharis, persons from UP and the Muslims.

A book written by Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, commonly known by his pen name Prabodhankar Thackeray who was one of the key leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti which successfully campaigned for the linguistic state of Maharashtra and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's father, reveals that the Thackeray family itself belonged to Magadh in Bihar, they settled in Dhar in Western Madhya Pradesh from where they migrated to Maharashtra. Keshav Thackeray writes that one of his ancestors was a Kiladar of the Dhodap fort during the Maratha rule. His great-grandfather Krishnaji Madhav resided in Pali, Raigad, while his grandfather Ramchandra "Bhikoba" Dhodapkar settled in Panvel.

Keshav's father Sitaram adopted the lastname "Panvelkar" as per the tradition, but decided to give his son the surname "Thakre", which was apparently their traditional family name before their ancestors moved to Dhodap. An admirer of the India-born British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, Keshav later anglicised the spelling of his surname to "Thackeray".

In a feeble attempt to deny that they were originally Bihari, Uddhav is reported to have admitted that although his grandfather's book, "Mazhi Jeevangatha" (An Autobiography), does mention that the Thackerays' origins trace back to Bihar, it did not refer to his family, but only to the clan of Thakres. "What he (Prabodhankar Thackeray) has written does not refer to my family, but to the entire Thakre community which lives in Bihar," Uddhav claimed.

In 1993, over 1,000 Muslims were killed in communal violence directed at the minorities. The Shiv Sena was accused of playing an active role. Justice BN Srikrishna, the chairman of the Commission constituted to identify what led to the violence said, "There is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena pramukh, Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims."

Bal Thackeray was tried and acquitted in several cases. He then issued a call to form Hindu suicide squads to counter Islamic fundamentalism and terror in India. The riots led to a deep polarisation and the Sena-BJP alliance swept to power in 1995.

Though Maharashtra was officially governed from its Secretariat - Mantralaya - in South Mumbai, Matoshree, the Thackeray residence in Bandra became the new power centre. It was this dominating influence over the city, without officially holding any position that earned Mr Thackeray the nickname 'remote-control.'

The seven islands that came to constitute Mumbai were home to communities of fishing colonies. For centuries, the islands were under the control of successive indigenous empires before being ceded to the Portuguese and subsequently to the British East India Company. During the mid-18th century, Mumbai was reshaped by the Hornby Vellard project which undertook the reclamation of the area between the seven constituent islands from the sea.

Completed by 1845, the project along with construction of major roads and railways transformed Bombay into a major seaport on the Arabian Sea. Economic and educational development were signs of the city's upward spiral during the 19th century. Bombay was a strong base for the Indian Independence movement during the early 20th century. When India became independent in 1947, the city was incorporated into Bombay State.

In 1960, following the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, a new state of Maharashtra was created with Bombay as capital. The city was renamed Mumbai in 1996, the name being derived from the Koli goddess-Mumbadevi. Mumbai is the commercial and entertainment capital of India, it is also one of the world's top 10 centres of commerce in terms of global financial flow, generating 5 per cent of India's GDP, and accounting for 25 per cent of industrial output, 70 per cent of maritime trade in India and 70 per cent of capital transactions to India's economy. The Bihari manoos has held sway over the city for nearly four decades and has instilled fear in the hearts of every migrant who resides there.

With the death of the Bihari Manoos, one can hope for some peace and quiet. The Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena too are state-recognised political parties by virtue of having won a substantial number of legislative Assembly seats in Maharashtra.

The founders of both these parties are blood relatives and preach a common ideology which is inimical to the country's fundamental rights and to its ethos. They had recently become estranged and as a result of which each political party had been adopting a shriller attitude than the other, each promising to be the sole protector of the Maharashtians and their interests.

This shrill attitude being adopted by them is helping these parties in obtaining a major share of attention from the media. All major newspapers over the last few months have covered these two political parties antics with great detail. These antics will however indubitably aid in inspiring other political parties in other States with lesser political success to replicate the policies of these two parties to improve their ratings. This kind of inspiration is first likely to hit the rights of the Citizen enshrined under Art. 19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.-(1) All citizens shall have the right-

(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

(c) to form associations or unions;

(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;

(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; [and]

(f) [* * *]

(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Shivaji Maharaj upon whom the Shiv Sena draws inspiration from was not a bigot. The General of his army was a Muslim Haider Ali Kohari; Darya Sarang was chief of armoury; Ibrahim Khan and Daulat Khan had prominent positions in his navy; and Siddi Ibrahim was chief of artillery. Shivaji had particular respect for the Sufi tradition of Islam, and used to pray at the mausoleum of the Sufi Muslim saint Baba Sharifuddin. He also visited the abode of another Sufi saint, Shaikh Yacub of the Konkan, and took his blessings. He called Hazrat Baba of Ratnagiri as bahut thorwale bhau, "great elder brother", he vanquished several Hindu kings before he was crowned Chatrapati in 1674. The Indian State is better off without these deeply divisive, fissiparous forces which tear the people asunder. Each one of us has to do our bit to weaken these divisive forces and to firmly establish our unity in diversity.

(Wikipedia is a source for parts of this post.)


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More about Brijesh Kalappa

Brijesh Kalappa, an advocate in the Supreme Court, is the Additional Advocate General, Haryana. A former journalist, he has a wide range of interests including reading and travelling. He has worked with several legal luminaries on subjects of importance in civil, criminal, water and electoral laws and has individually represented governments, eminent individuals and major industrial houses. Gifted with the prowess for distinctive sharp-edged analysis, he has been working closely with several leaders of the Indian National Congress.