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We behaved like soldiers, says an unrepentant Thackeray - The Hindustan Times

Bharat Bhushan ()
August 11, 1998

Title: We behaved like soldiers, says an unrepentant Thackeray
Author: Bharat Bhushan
Date: August 11, 1998
Publication: The Hindustan Times

Mr Bal Thackeray cannot understand why the Congress is demanding
the dismissal of the Shiv Sena-BJP Government in Maharashtra over
the Srikrishan Commission report.

hy is a rope being identified as a snake? What have we done?
The Srikrishna report is biased. Justice Srikrishna was not
prepared to accept our version or the evidence and proof we
wanted to give. Now false accusations are being made about the
law and order situation. Has it gone out of control? Are large
scale murders taking place regularly? Arre then what is the
reason? If some gangsters are killing each other then that only
minimises the work of government,' he remarks, almost convinced
that he is making a profound point.

It was a rainy day and we were sitting in the private drawing
room of the Shiv Sena chief at his residence "Matushree" at the
Kalamandir housing complex for writers, poets and artists 'm
Bandra east. The Shiv Sena chief is wearing his trademark half-a-
dozen holy necklaces and is comfortably dressed m rust coloured
raw-silk kurta and a matching wrap-around lungi. Facing him on
the wall s a laminated picture of the first militant saint of
Maharashtra, Shri Samarth Ramdas Swami. On the coffee table are
two audio-cassettes whose covers proclaim arv se kaho hum Hindu
hain next to a sign which says, "I like people who get the things
done. " What things, one wonders.

Mr Thackeray switches on a large tape-recorder m front of him
saying that he will record the conversation because his views are
often distorted by the media. I switch on mine.

Talking about the role of the Shiv Sena m the Mumbai riots of
December 1992 and January 1993, Mr Thackeray seems to borrow the
military analogy used by Justice Srikrishna in describing his
role in the communal riots as that of a veteran General directing
his soldiers to attack Muslim. He says, "After a war do you ask
a soldier about what he did? During a war a jawan (soldier) has
a responsibility. We behaved as jawans (soldiers). Yes."

He says that hat we did at that time was retaliation and no
attack", and accuses the Srikrishna Commission of not asking
basic questions about who started the riots, the role of the Urdu
press and of not giving enough importance to the Mumbai bomb
blasts of March 1993. Had he read the commission's report
carefully, he would have known that the commission has neither
gone soft on any community nor fudged the role of the Pakistan-
inspired Muslim youth in the bomb blasts of March 1993.

Mr Thackeray sees his isolation from political leaders today as
the betrayal of Hinduism. "It is unfortunate that the Hindus are
fighting against me he says. Directing his ire at former Prime
Minister H. D. Deve Gowda, with whom he thought he had a rapport,
he says.. " Yeh Deve Gowda, this elderly person who used to say
that he had great regard and love for me is now asking for my
arrest. We dined together at Amitabh Bachchan's cost. So who is
he betraying today? Yeh sab namak haram hain saale (They are all
betrayers). Shameless people. For their own survival they are
killing the nation.'

hy should I tolerate this?" he says angrily. "I am going to
consolidate the Hindus, of course. Come what may. I have been
doing it, and now I will do it with greater vigour. You can
stop me. When the Muslim are proud of calling themselves Muslim,
why the hell should I not call myself a Hindu? Why should I not?
To hell with your rules and your political parties. '

And to hell with the separation of religion and politics? "You
don't know where to draw the line (between religion and politics)
and as long as you dons have that sense, don discuss where
religion should end and politics begin and vice versa. Why the
hell are you making all this fuss? For whom are you doing it?"
he asks.

He then reiterates that the commission's report does not pay
adequate attention to the killing of Hindus which sparked off the
second phase of rioting m Jan. 6 1993-exactly a month after the
demolition of the Babri Masjid and the ensuing riots in Mumbai.

"And you blame thing also on us and say that we are the
initiators?" he asks. But what about the Maha-aratis and the
Ghantnadhs (ringing of temple bells) organised by the Shiv Sena
in temples after the demolition of the Babri Masjid throughout
the month of December up to the second phase of noting? Didn
that create a communal atmosphere? 'Yes. And I will do it
again. I will do it again. If they dons stop performing Namaz on
the streets, I will start the Maha-aratis again. It is my birth-
right. We are not holding Maha-aratis in Pakistan or in some
Arab country. You are putting restrictions on us in our
Motherland, while they enjoy all the fruits of religious
fanaticism ? And Hindus like you are supporting them?" he
retorts. But one did not support the public display of any
religion. "I know. I am just saying it, he says inexplicably.

The Shiv Sena chief also feels that o importance is given by
the Srikrishna Commission to the bomb blasts (of March 1993) in
which thousands and thousands were crippled. They became the
living dead. And more than 350 died. Nothing has been done
about that because it was the work of Muslims m a Hindu area.
And then it is said that it is the poor people who were
responsible for the bomb blasts. Poor people? They are poor
people and we are the Khalnayaks, the villains?" he asks.

In fact, nowhere does the Srikrishna Commission report describe
the perpetrators of the bomb blasts as "poor people", and nor
does it condone the blasts. In fact, the commission clearly
identifies the hand of Pakistan and "brainwashed Muslim
youngsters" in the conspiracy which was aided and abetted by
Dawood lbrahim, Mohammed Dossa and Tiger Memon. 'Suffice it to
say that all the accused, except two or three, are Muslims and
there is no doubt that the major role in the conspiracy, at the
Indian as well as foreign end, was played by Muslims," the report
concludes. It also notes that 713 (and not thousands and
thousands) were injured 'm the blasts, and 257 lost their lives.

What seems apparent is that the crisis created by the indictment
of the Shiv Sena m general and Mr Bal Thackeray in particular by
the Srikrishna Commission is now being used politically by the
Sena chief to reinforce his "Hindu" credentials. His brief
flirtation with secular politics, although he hates the word, is
coming to a swift end. This deviation" included the Shiv Sena-BJP
Government funding a Muslim religious function in Mumbai to the
tune of Rs. 15 lakh, and Mr Thackeray himself suggesting earlier
this year that a national monument to freedom fighters named
after Mangal Pande be built at the disputed site at Ayodhya with
separate pieces of land being given to Hindus and Muslims to
build a Ram temple and a mosque, respectively.

Now, because the idea was not appreciated, he says, "I am not
going to insist on that solution. This dream I had has been
demolished by the political rascals. I will behave as a staunch
Hindu now. I want a Ram Mandir there now and nothing else.
That's all. I can behave as a gentleman when I am surrounded
by rascals".

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