THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
November 20, 2012
The Hindu (India)

An Authentic Indian Fascism

The Shiv Sena chief gave voice to a Nazi impulse in Indian politics -- one that poses an ever-growing threat to our Republic

by Praveen Swami

Ever since Thackeray's passing, many of India's most influential voices have joined in the kind of lamentation normally reserved for saints and movie stars. Ajay Devgn described him as "a man of vision"; Ram Gopal Varma as "the true epitome of power". Amitabh Bachchan "admired his grit"; Lata Mangeshkar felt "orphaned". Even President Pranab Mukherjee felt compelled to describe Thackeray's death as an "irreparable loss". The harshest word grovelling television reporters seemed able to summon was "divisive".

It is tempting to attribute this nauseous chorus to fear or obsequiousness. Yet, there is a deeper pathology at work. In 1967, Thackeray told the newspaper Navakal: "It is a Hitler that is needed in India today". This is the legacy India's reliably anti-republican elite has joined in mourning.

Thackeray will be remembered for many things, including the savage communal violence of 1992-1993. He was not, however, the inventor of such mass killing, nor its most able practitioner. Instead, Thackeray's genius was giving shape to an authentically Indian Fascism. . . .

Nostalgic accounts of Mumbai in the 1960s and 1970s represent it as a cultural melting pot; a place of opportunity. It was also a living hell. . . .

Thackeray mined gold in these sewers -- building a politics that gave voice to the rage of educated young men without prospects, and offering violence as liberation. . . .

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Rama Lakshmi, "Hindus Detail Involvement In Deadly '02 Riots in India On Video, Assailants Tell of State Collusion," Washington Post, October 26, 2007

"Bal Thackeray still critical, say doctors; Mumbai roads remain deserted," CNN-IBN, November 15, 2012

[48,000 policemen have been deployed to keep vigil ahead of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray's funeral today. No autorickshaws and taxis will ply in Mumbai today--Rashmi Rajput, "Bal Thackeray's funeral today: Stay home, say police; autos and taxis off roads," ndtv.com, November 18, 2012]

Markandey Katju, "Why I can't pay tribute to Thackeray," ndtv.com, November 19, 2012

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