Posted by: John Elliott | October 24, 2008

Two Indias – Raj Thackeray’s and the moon shot

MUMBAI: Two events in India on Wednesday demonstrated sharply how this country really is two (or maybe many more) different places, with different values, different aspirations and goals, and different fears– what an academic friend calls India’s multitude of “temporal rhythms”.

While the country’s first moon mission was being launched in southern India with great pride and international acclaim, hordes of angry rioters were burning buses in Bihar, protesting against anti-Bihari migrant violence that had been incited by a regional politician in Mumbai. Achievement on the moon mission was measured in terms of scientific excellence: in Mumbai and Bihar it was by measured by riots and death.

The contrast is vivid. Soon after the chief scientist at the space launch proclaimed “our baby is on its way to the moon”, Reuters reported that a 10-year-old boy was hit by a stray bullet and killed when police randomly opened fire on protesters in Bihar.

What is it that allows the politician – Raj Thackeray, 40-year old leader of one of the two factions of the Maharashtra-chauvinistic Shiv Sena political movement – to wreak such havoc, not only in his home area but far away in Bihar?  And in a country that is so advanced in so many ways? I know the question is not new, and is constantly being asked (especially by people from abroad), but Wednesday’s events make it worth raising it again.

The trouble started at the weekend when Thackeray, leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), attacked people from Bihar who were applying in Mumbai for Indian Railways jobs. There have been many past attacks on Mumbai taxi drivers and other workers from north India, and the weekend’s assaults led to four days of strikes, shop and school-shutdowns, violence and deaths in both Maharashtra and Bihar. 

Raj Thackeray on his way to a brief stay in jail - Oct 21, 2008

Raj Thackeray on his way to a brief stay in jail - Oct 21, 2008

Thackeray is the nephew of Bal Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena, a Maharashtra-based chauvinistic party in the 1960s. Bal Thackeray, who made no secret of his beliefs in the value and justification of anti-democratic violent protest, started by trying to push southern Indian workers out of Mumbai and to raise the status of Maharashtrans.

Finding that this had little political resonance because the southerners were not a coherent political force, he switched in the 1970s to fighting Communist parties that were trying to recruit workers in Mumbai so that they could expand their power base from West Bengal, once the country’s political and commercial centre.

On that he was backed by the then all-powerful Congress Party, but it also faded as an issue when an anti-Communist trade union leader, Dutta Samant, became the dominant labour figure: so Thackeray returned to opposing people from the south.

He also broadened the Shiv Sena’s political base by making it a virulently anti-Muslim, allying with the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that ran India’s national government from 1998 to 2004. He took extreme positions on various issues, for example opposing Pakistan cricket teams playing in the state.

He has been responsible for many outbreaks of violence over the past 40 years, and has done nothing for the governance and growth and viability of Mumbai as a financial and commercial centre, though he has raised the status of Maharashtrans. He has been both tolerated and feared by politicians in Maharashtra and Delhi, who allowed him to set political agendas that they tamely followed for fear of losing out politically.

Bal Thackeray on his 82nd birthday, Jan 22, 2008 - photo by Arun Patil

Bal Thackeray on his 82nd birthday, Jan 22, 2008 - photo by Arun Patil

Raj Thackeray broke from his uncle and set up his rival group because he feared he would be eclipsed by Bal Thackeray’s son when Thackeray, who is now old and frail, faded from the political scene.

A couple of days ago I suggested in my last post that India would never attain super power status while it had politicians who played to their regional power bases instead of caring for the national interest. The subject I cited involved two cabinet members in the national government, who are based in Maharashtra, backing Raj Thackeray’s opposition to Jet Airways’ redundancies. That shows how he has inherited his uncle’s ability to set the agenda.

Raj Thackeray’s rise has been tolerated by mainstream politicians in the Congress Party and a Maharashtra-based breakaway, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). They have hoped that he would draw voters away from the BJP, and split the Shiv Sena’s political base, thus boosting their prospects in state and national elections.

But encouraging such potentially explosive new political figures is a dangerous game, because they can become too big and powerful to be controlled. The most dramatic example of this is Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the leader of the Punjab’s Khalistan independence movement in the late 1970s and early-1980s. He was originally encouraged by Indira Gandhi, the former prime minister, to split the vote of a regional Punjab political party, but his rise eventually led to her assassination.

The word now is that Delhi is considering whether Raj Thackeray should be stopped. It is trying to persuade Maharashtra’s Congress and NCP-led coalition government to jail him for months, in the hope that this would reduce his power and will to fight. Acting somewhat reluctantly on instructions from Delhi, the state government on Wednesday filed 54 legal cases against him on grounds of inciting riots and action prejudicial to national integration, and briefly arrested him. How ironic that politicians who tolerated such illegal activities when it suited them, should now initiate legal action – ironic, but not surprising in politics.

Commentators are however saying, understandably, that putting him in prison will do no good because he believes there are votes to be gained protecting Maharashtran’s jobs by hounding those who have come to the state for work, especially to Mumbai. They argue that he will only stop (or at least adjourn) his tyranny when he realises it will lose him votes.

That means that Maharashtra’s politicians need to condemn him publicly and point out the damage he is doing, not only to the state but other areas such as Bihar – if they have the courage to do so, especially with elections looming.

How sad if, as Sumit Mitra says in a supportive comment on my last post, I am “pointlessly fretting”.


  1. people from Bihar is intelligent thats why they achieve , but it is wrong when people says that mumbai is progressing because of only bihari , if it is true then why up till now bihar have not progress , people can walk freely in mumbai , specially women , but not in bihar . mumbai people don’t have any problem with bihar and bihari people but what they want to say that whatever u want to do , do in bihar through which ur state will progress …when any student do wrong thing then teacher punish similarly when bihari do wrong thing they will be punish by raj

  2. I don’t understand why peoples are having problems , a great politician Raj is doing a very good job . peoples from maharashtra or Bihar should not fight
    among themselves , let me remain you that Raj is a politician & is playing a politics which is his duty . mumbai is financial capital which provide plenty of oppurunity thats why bihari comes here for job , they dont have family in mumbai but they have in bihar to whom they send money which they earn ve .they stay in steet because they dont house in mumbai from this you can see that how much strugle a bihari do.

  3. […] Rahul Gandhi’s triumphant foray into Mumbai last Friday, where he successfully challenged the street power of Maharashtra’s chauvinist Shiv Sena politicians, was a significant step forward in his emergence as a national figure. By using local trains instead of a planned helicopter to cross the city, he showed more courage than most of India’s prestige-oriented politicians would contemplate. Together with his message that “India is for all Indians”, this undermined the Shiv Sena’s sometimes violent campaign to exclude north Indians from jobs in booming Mumbai. […]

  4. It is indeed tragic that even now in such a space that gives us anonymity we are proud to be identified as a member of a community or a caste.

    This typifies India’s misfortune. We are not able to shed our baggage and think in terms of one land and one people.

    It is right to question and criticize the (non) leaders of UP and Bihar. Similarly it is incumbent on all rational thinking people of this country to condemn the violence – of thought and deed that such statements of parochial leaders like RT, can incite.

    The advertisement bungle is wrong. Protest on the part of MNS is also right, but not the manner in which it was done.

    When Raj and other Marathis supporting him are so proud of being upfront, brash and violent, why not accept that when you hit someone after knowing he is a ‘bhaiyya’, it means that you have committed a hate crime. Don’t run away from it. Your supporters will deify you further when you take this upon yourself. Mumbai politics is like what seemed to me the politics of Pakistan from a distance – obsession with Kashmir.









    4.) what about marathi people living in other states? AND ABROD?can he take their responsibility?



  6. Why Bihari’s are laughed; hated & disgusted?
    “Bihari’s get beaten up like dogs in other house and ran as cat…….. Then at home they torch their own house and like to call themselves as Lion”- when all such things are going on their Mr. CM is defenseless and hides his cowardice in name of India/ Country / Integrity and what not bullshit……. its height of political daridraness….. But what one could expect from a backward kurmi who till date could not even raise his head in front of the ravanic Bhumiars; Brahman; Kayasth in their own state.
    At least man should have self respect that he is a CM of state whose citizens are always and everywhere are insulted, his primary duty is to be Bihari CM but no…. oh sorry he is Bihari……. he will always talk of India .. i.e. nothing but he wants to be PM as all Bihari’s want……. ha ha ha ha ha 🙂
    Bihari’s and Bihar
    Will humbly do;
    1. Support BJP party though the old cow eating Brahman publicly as PM of India insults Bihari.
    For any other state can anybody dare…. hahaha?
    Sheila Dixit as Punjabi who started her career as politician from UP but could not succeed now in Delhi bashes Bihari & UPites as she knows the society is been ruled by a microscopic upper caste with such iron hand of atrocities since ages that no two caste from upper or backward can talk in same voice forget whole society.
    2. Bihari Bismillah Khan was not accorded the respect in AP for being Bihari; that too after receiving the highest civilian award……….hahaha
    3. Bihari “JHAKI” was not given permission in Delhi on republic Day……….. Hahaha
    4. Bihari’s get insulted, harmed, killed in Punjab, J&K, Assam, Bengal, AP, Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat etc…….. who cares.
    5. …. Others they may worship the Bihari God as others want…. That is they can be selective / choosey but always slaps the same god when need be to send the message that even Bihari gods have to be in their limit…….. Example “chhat ka natak”, Karunanidhi “telling all sort of derogative things to God”
    6. Let everyone take all the mineral from this land at the same rate even when transported to any part of India – without giving any benefit to the Bihar, so that other state can develop and their own masses can perish off course in name of 🙂 “India”. Bottom line if Bihar starts developing then Bhumiars, Brahmans and lalla’s will lose out…. How could shudra; dalits could progress.
    7. See Bihari’s the days are very near when others will take away the water and we will find no har har gange in our land- offcourse in name of “holy Ganga”, “India”, “Hinduism” etc — and saving the Bihari’s from flood 🙂 ………… just one has to give the “Jhunjhuna” to our backward kurmi politician that you be made PM……. hahaha …… and for the murderer Bhumiars & other upper caste that whatever they do in Bihar no one would question you all………… hahaha
    8. Let Bihari’s get killed in Assam & NE as they are from shudra (Still after violence the remaining who flew goes back because in Bihar it’s worse than that.)
    Let Bihari’s girl be sold to Punjabi’s & Haryanvi’s for their lust, primarily due to pathetic treatment they get back home as they are tribal / shudra.
    Let…. Etc.
    9. If any politician tries to get investment thwart it to that area on names of corruption etc and see the same is not succeeded as the downtrodden will raise their head and the hegemony of the affluent will get abolished.
    I was in UP at the time of Taj Corridor- courtesy Ms Mayawati when the people started objecting I had talked with many all had to say the simple thing; she is taking bribe, pollution etc. I could not understand one thing why if she is taking bribe let her do after all in this commercial world who won’t take but why deny investment which will bring money to all the layers of society. The bottom line is to deny everyone the livelihood.
    The whole matter was closed with help of Supreme Court on flimsy pollution ground. The whole party congress, SP, BJP etc were against it (read the people of UP) and which resulted in her to doing same thing now……… all are happy.

    Take instance of Bihar right now; has the government given any land to IIT, any plan for SEZ, any plan to encourage the English language in primary education so that it becomes the recruitment hub for BPO & Call Centre, any plan for implementing reservation which was enshrined in constituent and has been implemented in many parts of India, any guts (political will) for land reforms with iron hand, …………. A big no.
    List is never ending;
    Bihari’s basic problem is that one cannot see or want any other Bihari should earn a decent livelihood……….. And that is the reason that we all land up everywhere be it Gujarat, Maharashtra, All southern states where they have given the downtrodden opportunity to get lifted into main stream since pre independence day by reservation…….
    but Bihari’s till date have circumvented always such human things to their own brethren but want themselves the benefit on the plank of “Indian”…. hahaha.
    All the upper / affluent caste Bihari comes to other land and work for the lower caste of that region but back in Bihar; Bihari’s are nothing but killers to thier subordinate caste in socio economic hierarchy of castiest society……. 🙂

    The bottom line is;
    Biahri’s do not know to live in society as blocks, they hate each other. Their whole intelligence is to skirt the issue rather than solve it. All sorts of complex thoughts shall be written, said and propagated just to see that the majority of the masses are kept denied of their basic rights in name of shudra caste. This is bare naked fact.
    All Bihari cutting across the caste lines is like “Lanka ka Ravan, Bihar ka Bhabhan” to their lower castes in socio economic castiest hierarchy society of Bihar. Then why crib and cry, why feel bad when same is meted to you all by others on regional platform. Gujarati’s, Tamilians, Keralites, Punjabis etc are respected for what they are and same is case with Bihari’s they are treated for what they are as society. Individually anyone can be bad or good but on society terms the Bihari’s as society is pathetic.
    When as society you cannot thrive how can u expect that society to progress, thus the wheels of time in Bihar since post King Ashock / from the time of Brahman Patanjali has turned the Bihar into castiest daldal in name of so called Hindu religion.

    Plssssss look into yourself 🙂

  7. Dear Mr. Anti Marathi

    I m a Marthi person & i m proud to be. You north Indians says that all the development of Maharashtra is the result of only & only becoz of u people. But let me clarify you one thing that its not your people but becoz of our Maharashtrian society our rich cultuer, our broad minded people, our social security etc. We never did any kind of discrimination. Take the ex. of Delhi how safe it is for ladies? Is their any social security, let me tell u Islamabad is more safer than Delhi for Ladies despite the TERRIOREST activities.
    So are u proud to call Delhi as our capital. Worst situation is about U.P & Bihar. After the Independence till now most of the MP’s & Minister’s are from these states. But still they are one of the backward states.
    I do accept that your people have played a big role for the development of Maharashtra BUT it was not at all possible without the support of our RICH & BROAD MINDED SOCIETY.
    You NORTH INDIANS always scream that u people r competitive & talented That’s why u r successful here. Yes agreed & congrats for the same. But at the same time we all need to study & understand one thing that in any society all of the people are not top performer- some r top performer & others r average performer. Here (Maharashtra) we don’t have problem with the top performer they r successful in their respective Job / Business. Here problem arises when it comes to average performer Becoz due to the one of the developed state, Maharashtra it also attracts other backward states Talented & skilled people. So our people have to compete with them & its obvious that you NORTH INDIANS will grab the opportunity.
    So the problem is with these backward states BCOZ of their backwardness the opportunity gets concentrated only in Maharashtra.
    We offered you security, freedom of language & rich society.
    TRY TO GET ALL THESE THINGS IN SOUTH INDIA. They successfully preserved their beautiful culture, their language by avoiding you people & hence you will not see any N.INDIAN dare to celebrate U.P Divas & Chat Puja in mass. And more interestingly this U.P Divas is being celebrated only in Mumbai not even in U.P, how funny it is???
    About Railway Exams the adds have been given only in N. Indian States so how partial & mean u people are ? And at last GOD only knows the final selector (N. Indians) are partial or not.
    At last about the labors or hawkers of NORTH INDIA, these people dont have any family or home in Maharashtra. They leave on footpath or 15 to 20 people in a rented room. Our Maharashtrian labor / hawkers they do have family they have to manage expenses of their children’s education, monthly ration, electricity bill, etc.
    Now tell me HONESTLY is it possible for a common Maharashtrian to compete with these people???

    From depth of my HEART i am saying this that i am not feeling Happy to write all this stuff. After all before a Maharashtrian i am an Indian & ofcourse i am proud to be. Lots of ANTIMARATHI emails awoke me to do so.

  8. I agree Raj is a serious threat to India’s unity, I hope Mumbaikars and Marathis teach him a lesson in elections and understand such kind of divide and rule politics are no good for the state of Maharashtra nor India.

  9. Rakesh i beg to differ. Cultural differences are fine but violence in any language is still violence. I am shocked at your almost insidious support for this fascist.

    In India, most political parties are increasingly resorting to violence to make their point heard. Which means that subtly over a period of time this political violence will permeate to all other sections of the society. We can all make our personal justifications and gather a clique to support our ideology.

    Bihar and UP suffer from lack of development because of their obsession with caste. So will Maharashtra in the years to come because somebody else will up the ante to be a better chauvinist.

    And Calcutta, now Kolkata had a metro in the 80’s. Our politicians lack a vision for social development. They have personal ambitions that they try to fulfill. Bombay (i still use the Old name just to irritate people who get irritated) should have had a metro 20 years back. If Delhi was was being inconsiderate, well, then be innovative – after all Mumbai was the financial capital even then- mobilize opinion, involve the public, protest and make your voice heard. No, it is much more convenient to burn, loot and kill and say that the center was irresponsible.

    Raj is not a newcomer. Nevertheless, I am praying he gets old and irrelevant soon.

  10. Real indian do not find this contrast any new but western world will really find it very difficult to comprehend. You can see this difference between eastern & western thinking in lot other examples like religion, sceince, culturle, society.

    Other note about Raj thackeray. There is real problem in Mumbai & it is hurting everybody but until Raj start exploiting it , everybody in Delhi ignored it conviniently as Mumbaikars not complaining about it. for example Delhi got metro train though fraction of delhiites use train as compare to Mumbai. Due to this kind of ignorance from Delhi ,Raj got support from average mumbikars. Congress & NCP leaders in mumbai don’t want to see anti-marathi so they turn blind eye towards the issue. While Laloo, Amar singh who don’t have to loose anything but to gain UP/Bihari vote bank keep igniting the flame. They are mature players in politics while Raj is new comer so everybody is playing politics. No one is good.

    I was expecting the Journalist atleast put the root causes ahead of people but they also failed & placing biased write ups.

    Raj phenomenon is bad for India but real bad thing is not wrining the real facts in front of people who are going to vote.

  11. Raj is a neo Nazi and we all know what will happen when they come to power. He is channeling the malcontent of the educated right winger and the unemployed – his constituency. It is obvious that others are in collusion, by not criticizing him, or when they do, they are too mild, for fear of losing votes. Also allows the the centrists to confuse the electorate, who for long, have been confused about their loyalties to Shiv Sena – there will be a dilution that they hope to reap. It’s all perversely selfish and self-destructive.

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