Derecognise parties that don't respect the basic rights.
BV Rao | February 11, 2010
It is about time we stamped out political terrorism, or terrorism by political parties.
The Thackeray family has made a political fortune by intimidating people and governments alike, the latest threat being directed at Shah Rukh Khan. The star has been warned that his film will not be allowed to screen unless he apologises. His unmentionable crime, he said he felt bad for the Pakistani cricketers following their boycott in the IPL auction.
At Governance Now, we are clear on two things. One, the boycott of the Pakistani players is ridiculous at the very least because it is against any culture to slam the doors on visitors after repeatedly inviting them. Which is what exactly the IPL did. That's one good reason why the Sena, which is one of those rightist organisations that have appropriated the copyright to our culture, should oppose the boycott. But obviously their hatred for anything Pakistan is far greater than their love for our culture.
Two, we are not floored either by Shah Rukh Khan's convenient change of heart. He was part of the process that humiliated the Pakistanis but days after the controversy blew up, he felt bad. It would have helped much if this feeling had gripped his conscience much earlier. Like when he was in the auction room.
Untenable as his position is, Shah Rukh's “crime of convenience” does not violate even a sub-sub-clause of the Indian Penal Code. Whatever cost Shah Rukh has to pay, if at all, will be in the realm of a dent in public perception for his doublespeak. Nobody, least of the the Shiv Sena, has the right to deny him his livelihood.
It's actually the Shiv Sena's threat to prevent screening of My Name is Khan that amounts to a crime under many sections of the IPC. As a layman “intimidation”, “threat to peace” and “threat to livelihood” come to mind.
There is an old trick in the police manual to deal with thugs, goons and small-time criminals who keep spreading terror in the locality. The beat constables routinely round them up citing things such as “breach of peace”, “planning a crime” etc. The Shiv Sena has threatened Shah Rukh's right to livelihood.
But obviously you are not stunned, as I am not either, that the beat constables have been avoiding that small stretch of road in Bandra because even governments have not had the nerve to tread that path. Governments and law enforcers have every right to put away those who openly propagate violence and the Shiv Sena's only political legacy is violence and hatred.
Government after government has lacked the will to take the Sena on and defend the rights of the individual or groups (Shah Rukh, M F Hussain or south Indians, north Indians). Governments always hold back action, preventive or punitive, for the fear (or excuse) of setting off large-scale violence. But at no time is the use of state power more appropriate than when it is employed to defend the freedom and liberty of the individual citizen, in this case Shah Rukh Khan.
So I really think it is time the Maharashtra government showed some spine and sent that beat constable on his rounds. If there is violence, put it down with a firm hand. Just recall the time when Chhagan Bhujbal summoned rare courage in 2000 to arrest (technical thought it may have been) and drag Bal Thackeray to court. In spite of all the noise the Sena made about Maharashtra burning if Thackeray was made to stand in court, nothing happened.
The Sena is very clever, too. It will threaten Shah Rukh with violence for showering sympathies on the Pakistanis but will not dare do that to Rahul Gandhi who, according the party, has humiliated the Marathi manoos. Black flags are enough for Rahul. Because if the Sena were to challenge the might of the state on this score, they know the consequences. Nothing is more important for the Congress party than the honour and freedoms of The Family.
When it sees danger, the Sena also knows to draw the line.
I doubt if the current dispensation has the stomach for such a confrontation with the Sena on behalf of you and me or our rights and freedoms. So here is another way to deal with the Thackerays of the land effectively and more peacefully. We are democracy that promises everybody freedom of speech, vocation and livelihood. There is the constitution that guarantees all that to us and requires political parties to uphold these rights to earn registration under the Peoples Representation Act. When any party official threatens, intimidates or attacks the person or property of a citizen, that party should be disqualified and derecognised. If the current law is inadequate to do that, change the law.
All the grandstanding of the parties such as Shiv Sena and MNS is for the votes. Without a party there would be no vote and they will think before shooting their mouths off. Sometimes the best way to deal with paper tigers is to do some solid paperwork. Let's get ours in order.
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