When leaders fuel violence for petty interests

When political parties organise bandhs and demonstrations, they justify the accompanying violence as a spontaneous reaction by the ‘masses,’ protesting against some alleged injustice. Governments also treat the hooligans with kid gloves, encouraging such irresponsible acts.


Nithin Belle

Published: Sun 2 Jan 2011, 11:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 May 2020, 1:10 PM

But it is common knowledge in India that many of the violent reactions are far from spontaneous, and that political leaders prod their followers to indulge in senseless violence. Last week, perhaps for the first time in India, the police in Maharashtra caught top leaders in the act, of encouraging rowdies to destroy public property.
The Pune police tapped the phones of a few Shiv Sena leaders, as workers went on a rampage following the surreptitious shifting of a statue of Dadoji Konddev, the Brahmin teacher of 17th century Maratha warlord Chhatrapati Shivaji, by the city’s civic officials. The police listened in to the conversation between Milind Narvekar, the personal
assistant to Uddhav Thackeray, the executive president of the Shiv Sena, and Neelam Gorhe, who was organising demonstrations in Pune.
Narvekar instructed Gorhe to ask party workers to set buses afire and stone other vehicles, after duly informing television networks about the planned ‘action.’ Tragically, the buses are used by the poor and those belonging to the lower middle-class, unlike politicians who travel in fancy cars.
And in this era of competitive TV news coverage, most networks eagerly rush their crew to sites where hired crowds await their arrival, and then proceed to cover the ‘spontaneous reaction’ of setting public vehicles on fire.
While the Shiv Sena is the most notorious practitioner of this kind of thuggish politics, other parties — including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and even ruling parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress — indulge in this kind of cynical politics. The Sambhaji Brigade, a militant outfit that is allied with the NCP, also indulges in this kind of vandalism. It destroyed the respected Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune a few years ago, after the publication of a book by American scholar James Laine, on Shivaji. The book was banned, but both the Bombay High Court and the Supreme
Court have withdrawn the government ban on the book.
The NCP as a key ruling front partner – which controls the home ministry as well – has ignored the violent tactics of the Sambhaji Brigade. In the past, it used to similarly disregard the violence indulged in by the Shiv Sena and the MNS. However, this time it decided to embarrass the Sena by tapping the phones of some of its leaders.
The Pune police have initiated action against both Narvekar and Gorhe and there are demands that even Thackeray be booked for instigating party workers to attack public property. But the police are unlikely to pursue the case in the absence of clear directions from the NCP and its top leaders, who are indulging in yet another round of political one-upmanship.

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