Sunday, November 18, 2012

Enough with the eulogising

Can we not pretend that 1992-93 never happened? That we need to, somehow, say something - anything - nice about someone just because they happen to have died?

If you're sick of all the hushed reverence TV news has been showing over the not-yet-finished-tamasha that is Bal Thackeray's death and funeral, please read Rohit Chopra:

The free pass given to Bal Thackeray today also tells us something about the pathologies of Indian life that produced and made Bal Thackeray possible: pathologies shared across those who identify as secular and those who rant against pseudo-secularists; pathologies that unite the South Bombay whisky-drinking, rugby-playing, Bombay-Gym types with Dadar Hindu colony sons-of-the-soil; pathologies that allow diasporic Hindu nationalists in Silicon Valley and Shiv Sena footsoldiers alike to believe that they are the victims of a secret cabal of Muslims, Marxists, and Macaulayites. Thackeray did not, then, come out of nowhere. He was not the creation simply of disaffected subaltern Maharashtrian communities or of middle-class Maharashtrian communities who felt outsiders had snatched what was their due. He represented something central in Indian political society–not an essentialist, ahistorical tendency but a historically produced capacity for using violence as a form of political reason, the absence of a coherent vision of solidarity that could respect similarity and difference, and the many deep failures of the postcolonial Indian state that our exceptionalist pieties about Indian tolerance, coexistence, and secularism often obscure.

And no, we do not need to be silent on any of this just because Bal Thackeray died earlier today. I doubt any Shiv Sainiks or Thackeray himself spent a minute thinking in silence about any Muslim killed in the 1992-1993 riots in which the Shiv Sena played a key role. As Vir Sanghvi’s article on Thackeray, posthumously anointing him the “uncrowned king of Mumbai” reminds us, Thackeray’s chief objection to Mani Ratnam’s representation of him in the film Bombay was that his cinematic alter-ego expressed regret at the riots.

It is a disgrace that Bombay is shut today. It is a disgrace that Thackeray is being wrapped in the national tricolor. It is a disgrace that he is being given state honors in his death. And it is a disgrace that none of our political leaders, celebrities, or media personalities seem to think any of this is a disgrace. And that if they do they are terrified of saying so.


km said...

Can we not pretend that 1992-93 never happened?

It's *terrifying* how a tragedy - and its key actors - from just 2 decades ago has been swept under the carpet so effortlessly and completely. (Is that a gift or a curse, one wonders...)

What's equally disturbing is that the man is wielding his powers in his death in much the same way as he did when he lived.

Space Bar said...

km: Precisely. Times Now was particularly nauseating. Other channels, to be fair, had people who said it like it was.

That didn't stop Bombay from shutting down, though.