Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray has once again fueled the parochial politics of regionalism by ordering to keep an eye on the migrant population residing in the state. Recently, a thirty-two-year-old woman was raped and brutalized with a rod by a man inside a stationary tempo in the Sakinaka area of Mumbai. The next day, she succumbed to her injuries at Rajawadi Hospital. In the context of this dastardly incident, in a meeting with the top officials of the Home Department and the Director-General of Police, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held the migrants responsible for the law-and-order situation in Mumbai and directed their tracking and registration. Later, Sanjay Raut, in an editorial in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, voiced, "A deeper probe into the Sakinaka rape and murder will show how much dirt the Jaunpur pattern has created in Mumbai", in reference to the accused originally hailing from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Provoking regional sentiments, writing and speaking against outsiders is not new for Shiv Sena or its leaders. They play the game of provoking Maratha pride by spewing venom against the people of North India, especially Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, it is worrisome and regrettable to have such statements coming from the constitutional head of the state. It is ironic that they want to make Mumbai crime-free and Mumbaikars safe by tracking the North Indians.
Does chief minister Uddhav Thackeray want to start an alternate visa/passport and permit system in Mumbai and Maharashtra? Does his government want to declare people of a particular area as criminals by issuing character certificates purely on a geographical basis? Do they want similar arrangements and treatment for the people of Maharashtra in other states and cities of the country? Are they obsessed with Maratha superiority and consider other countrymen, especially the people of UP and Bihar, as inferior? Have they done a comparative study of the National Crime Records Bureau statistics? Are they oblivious to the operatives and kingpins of the Mumbai underworld? Are they also unaware of who is the backbone of Mumbai's industry and business? They do not know that the glamorous and brimming skyscrapers of Mumbai would not have been possible without the blood and sweat of immigrants. Considering all this, there must be a special reason for the objectionable statement that has been made. The reason certainly is the election of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), to be held early next year.
In fact, before understanding the term Jaunpur pattern given by self-proclaimed criminologist Sanjay Raut, it is also necessary to understand the Shiv Sena pattern of politics. Shiv Sena is the oldest and first political organization to incite narrow identities and regional sentiments. This criminal incident is being deliberately given the colour of local vs outsider and Marathi vs migrant. This is done keeping in mind the politics of the vote bank. The polarization of the Maratha vote is central to this and with respect to the BMC elections to be held a few months later. It is noteworthy that in the last elections, there was a stiff battle between the BJP and Shiv Sena, wherein Sena had captured the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation by a very small margin.
BMC, with a budget of over 40 thousand crores, is not only the country's most wealthy; in fact, it is the most profit-generating organization in the world. The annual budget of BMC is even more than that of the financial budget of few states in the country. It is also the core of Shiv Sena's power. Mumbai, being the country's financial capital, Shiv Sena does not want to lose its hold on it at any cost. There are also a large number of Konkani in Mumbai. By making Konkan strong man Narayan Rane the union minister, the BJP has tried to attract these votes. This well-articulated move by BJP sent shivers down the spine of Shiv Sena as they fear defeat in the approaching BMC elections due to the slipping support base. This has further created desperation and uneasiness in the Sena's camp.
The negligible role of North Indians in the electoral equation of BMC makes it convenient to write and speak against them. For the past few decades, the Shiv Sena has, cautiously, made North Indians, especially Biharis and Purvanchalis, victims of its hatred among all the migrants.
All the more, the first choice of North Indian voters is BJP. That's perhaps the reason Shiv Sena doesn't worry about their displeasure. While a large number of Gujarati and South Indian expatriates are also present in Mumbai, but given their decisive numbers, the Shiv Sena cannot take the risk of their caliphate. Founded by Balasaheb Thackeray in 1966, Shiv Sena is a product of regionalism and nativist politics of Maratha identity. He established his ground by advocating Maratha sub-nationalism. In the early decades of its foundation, Shiv Sena politics was driven against the people of South India.
At that time, there were a lot of South Indians in clerk-level lower jobs and industries in Mumbai. It is sad that the inception and progress of Shiv Sena is a product of stoking regional sentiments and narrow identity politics. Its aggressive tendencies were somewhat curbed during the alliance with the BJP. In 2008, when Raj Thackeray tried to repeat the history to establish MNS, he was unsuccessful. Today, MNS has an alliance with the BJP and has almost given up on the aggressive and hateful politics of provincialism. On the same lines, Shiv Sena needs to understand that the politics Maratha card is no longer vote dilutive and election-winning. The latter half of the 20th century offered a fruitful growth environment to identity politics and the rise of sub-nationalities, but the situation has changed after globalization, liberalization and privatization.
The Maratha Manush is also a beneficiary of globalization and migration and is aware of their inevitability. So, they are not going to vote sheepishly by mere incitement of regional sentiments. However, under the guise of this order, the police administration will also harass the migrants of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This will undoubtedly enhance the burden of unnecessary work on the police administration, further affecting their working capacity and efficiency. This decision will also open new doors to corruption.
In 2012, a similar incident took place in Delhi. The Nirbhaya incident shook the conscience of the Indian public. In the backdrop of that brutal incident, the then Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, had also made a similar objectionable statement against the Purabiya people, blaming them for the deteriorating law and order situation in Delhi. However, after much trouble, she withdrew her statement and had to explain the same. In fact, such statements are an attempt to cover up the government's failure and the police administration. Instead of correct understanding and treatment of the problem, such dismissive/ irresponsible statements do not benefit anyone, rather send a very wrong message to society. Thus, all politicians should refrain from inciting regional sentiments and sowing seeds of hatred in the society by making such statements. Also, those in constitutional positions should be even more alert and careful about the ill effects of such divisive statements. As per the Constitution of India, there is a complete prohibition of discrimination based on language, caste, religion, region, sex etc.
Directing the police administration to consider the people of a particular area as criminals is not only an expression of narrow thinking rather is undemocratic and unconstitutional. This also endangers national unity and integrity. This type of rhetoric is responsible for the creation of alienation and hatred among the countrymen. It further leads to cropping up of regional feelings and hatred. Such statements and behaviour ultimately weaken the nation.
Many such incidents have been seen and heard in metropolitan cities like Bangalore, Delhi, etc. Haryana Government has made a law to reserve 75 per cent of jobs in private sector companies and factories for the people of Haryana. States like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are following the same approach. This scenario is worrisome, and there is a gross violation of the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution. Article 19 of the Constitution gives all citizens of India equal rights to move, settle, and do business anywhere in the country. The above statements, instructions and laws are in contempt and complete violation of this Constitutional right.
Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray need to know and accept that Mumbai's economic empire has been established on the strength of people living in inhuman conditions in slums and chawls like Dharavi. They are not criminals; they are diligent workers who work day and night to raise their families and make Mumbai shine. Inscribing criminals on their forehead is a devaluation and humiliation of their labour and contribution and is a violation of the Indian Constitution. The constitutional obligation can be discharged only by protecting the rights and dignity of all citizens without any discrimination. This is the constitutional obligation of the state machinery.
(The author is Dean, Students Welfare, Central University of Jammu)