The Category of Indian Citizens

Its been a day of several post revisions.

The post had been on my mind since I heard about the death of Bal Thackeray and the eulogies trending online from everyone.

Bal Thackeray in my memory has constantly been someone who disrupted a lot of things in the name of protecting the Hindu Culture. It was there from school days, when we used to cheer a day of bandh and no school. The reasons were unimportant but it seeped in somewhere there, that it was because of Shiv Sena. Later, some comments made by Mr. Thackeray rankled. We debated, argued and left it at that.

But Bal Thackeray was a man to be admired for his consolidation of his position in a city like Bombay, which would have possibly seen many men with his ideals. He built an empire that very few men could build and sustain, even if it was based on partisianism, divide and rule policy and cashing on the frustration native Mumbai dwellers had against the burgeoning population of the city without any proper amenities.

I searched for hours for the man’s contribution to society. A man of his stature obviously had something to contribute. The most I came across was his role as a godfather, solving disputes that Courts would have taken years to solve. There were many men who admired him for that alone. The fairness of these judgements are not for us comment upon.

But it remained surprising to see so many eulogies about Mr. Thackeray, particularly from eminent personalities. A closer look, however, revealed that this was mere good business sense.

Many Bollywood and other people from the movie industry had close ties to him. He was a necessity for them, perhaps. You cannot take on the “Emperor of Mumbai” and live in peace and make a living there, at that level.

There are conflicting pictures of the man. As Vir Sanghvi quoted in his blog on HT, anyone reading about the man after his death would think they were reading about someone else. But even in life, he was quoted as being warm, generous, unassuming, hard lined, cynical and all those other adjectives.

The only person who said he could pay a tribute to Bal Thackeray was the Chairman of the Press Council of India and a former judge in the Supreme Court of India. He said much of what I was thinking in this article in The Hindu.

Mr. Thackeray, to me, was a man who advocated the ‘purity’ formula, like his idol Adolf Hitler. Shiv Sena in my memory has been an organization that creates trouble… vandalizing stores, going on rampages against anything Western that caught their attention. Which was a little hypocritical as their leader was known to enjoy finer alcoholic beverages and cigars manufactured in these very nations they were protesting against.

But with a case study like this, why as a 21-year old girl arrested for updating her status message on Facebook, lamenting about the bandh on the day of his death? And her friend for liking that message.

The status message was considered unlawful and she was arrested under Section 505(2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes) and according to some news reports, under  Section 295 (a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 64 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Her act was no more disruptive than the antics of Shiv Sena and many comments that Mr. Thackeray has made. If Mr. Thackeray was given the benefit of freedom of speech, why not another Indian citizen?

I worry, even as I write this post, about the ramifications of posting it. Will I hear cops knocking on my door once this is out? Should I keep my bail money ready? Or would the readers realise that this is not an anti-Indian rant, or even against Mr. Bal Thackeray.

This is merely wondering what differentiates one Indian citizen from another.

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