ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bal Thackeray and Maharashtra's Dalits

Though Thackeray has been faulted on many counts, an impression has been created that he was anti-caste and, by implication, pro-dalit. The truth is that Thackeray was as unscrupulous in making use of caste as he did in any other matter. His hatred for Babasaheb Ambedkar and his followers was deep-seated.

This commentary is an abridged version of the author’s article “On the Death of Bal Thackeray and the Grief of Athavale”, kraktivist. wordpress.com and available online at http://bit.ly/VPoe0j

The events following Bal Thackeray’s death have in a way expos­ed our cowardly character as a people. The manner in which most people in media showered praise on his character and delivered eulogies to his legacy was nauseating. It is not enough to take shelter behind the Latin phrase de mortuis nil nisi bonum (speak well of the dead or not at all). It is our spinelessness that drives us to such shameful behaviour. No one from the crowds in Mumbai on 18 November or the liberals who parad­ed their intellect in TV studios asked, what exactly was Thackeray’s contribution to anyone except his cronies and goons. Rather, he was responsible for the deaths and devastation of thousands of innocent lives over five long decades. ­Indeed, Thackeray did not benefit even the Marathi manoos in any which way. Instead, he lowered their stature as a petty and mean-minded species.

Few mustered the courage to remind people how Thackeray played identity politics against south Indians, Gujaratis, north Indians from Uttar Pradesh and ­Bihar, Bangladeshis and, of course, Muslims for power and pelf; how he was just a petty narcissist autocrat unmindful of how his whims could wreak havoc. One important aspect, however, escaped even this feeble discourse: Thackeray’s visceral disdain for dalits, especially Ambedkarite dalits (read Mahars). Though Thackeray has been faulted on many counts, an impression has been created that he was anti-caste and, by implication, pro-dalit. The truth is that Thackeray was as unscrupulous in making use of caste as he did in any other matter. His hatred for Babasaheb Ambedkar and his dalit followers was deep-seated.

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