‘Do political movements need to obey the law?’

Raj Thackeray, the Posterboy of Parochialism (West), has responded to an open letter in The Indian Express from Sudheendra Kulkarni, the Belgaum-born media advisor to Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.

In his open letter, among other things, Kulkarni wrote:

“How can you allow your supporters to take law into their hands and do raada (street mayhem)? Can you justify the politics of violence against a fellow-Indian, as was evident when an innocent employee of HAL was killed in a stone-throwing incident in Nashik following your arrest in Bombay?”

Raj Thackeray’s justification of verbal and physical violence, and the vandalism thereof, shows that linguistic and regional chauvinists, not to speak of communalists and fundamentalists—be they in Maharashtra or Karnataka, Gujarat or West Bengal—are cut from the same tattered cloth, ever so willing to distort and demonise the past to suit the present.

Like the Posterboy of Parochialism (NorthWest), Narendra Modi, Thackeray pits media versus media, painting the English media as the villain of the piece for not dancing to his bankrupt tunes like the local media. But it’s the unapologetic firespitting that offers a sneak peek of the anarchy that lies at democracy’s doorsteps.

Thackeray writes :

“Isn’t the outbreak of spontaneous outrage in a people’s movement understood? Can anyone avoid the violence or damage to property even if it does not bring happiness? Wasn’t Gandhiji forced to withdraw his agitation when a chowkie was burnt at Chauri Chaura?

“Besides, even after all this, was the violence and damage to public property avoided in the 1942 agitation? When people become furious, their response is the same, whether it is the Congress or the African National Congress.

“Sudheendraji, as you are a former communist, you must be aware of crores of deaths and political murders during communist movements the world over. People’s movements are a repetition of history to some extent.

“Besides, do political movements need to obey the law? Political history learnt by me tells me that breaking the law, getting arrested, braving lathis and getting jailed are symbols of a principled agitation.

“In recent times, the rulers and opposition parties indulged in movements of political compromise, in which morchas are taken out, the share of benefits of the government and opposition parties are decided. Then the protesters and their companions go home and sleep peacefully! This is called todbazi (compromise). The word political movement is an equivalent word for breaking the law!

“Tell me, Sudheendraji, was Bihari MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy not aware of Lal Krishna Advaniji‘s Rath Yatra when he chose to criticise me on the grounds that my agitation was unconstitutional, destabilising for the nation, sectarian? How many people died then? How much was the violence?

“But didn’t Advani pursue his campaign to make his point? The Bihari babu in Rudy seems to have woken up. I don’t remember Rudy mustering courage to register his protest during the Rath yatra, or with Narendrabhai Modiji when our Gujarati brethren were outraged after the Godhra incident.”

Full text of Sudheendra Kulkarni‘s open letter

Full text of Raj Thackeray‘s response

Also read: Thodo, phodo, hum sab tumhare saath hain!