People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 48

November 28, 2010


Abject Surrender To Shiv Sena


Another issue that came to the fore in Maharashtra in recent months was the controversy raked up over the novel “Such a Long Journey” by Rohinton Mistry. This novel had been in the Mumbai University syllabus for long. It has its setting in the period of the Emergency. No one had ever objected to it.


Suddenly, one fine day, Aditya Thackeray, the grandson of Shiv Sena (SS) supremo Bal Thackeray and the son of SS executive president Uddhav Thackeray led a demonstration outside Mumbai University, burnt copies of the book and demanded that it be withdrawn from the syllabus, ostensibly because it was obscene. The real reason was that it had critical references to the SS.


But what happened next was nothing short of startling. The recently appointed Mumbai University vice chancellor Dr Rajan Welukar immediately announced the very next day that the novel had been removed from the syllabus! The then chief minister Ashok Chavan supported this decision, saying that the novel also had critical references to former prime minister Indira Gandhi!


Actually, elections to the leading academic bodies of the university, including the board of studies and the management council, were then on. Dr Rajan Welukar did not think it fit to wait for the elections and then refer the matter to the new board of studies. Instead, he said that he called the old board of studies which took the decision to remove the novel from the syllabus! Such speed of decision in such a controversial matter has been unheard of, not only in Mumbai University but in any other reputed academic institution in the country.  


Doubts had been raised even earlier about the merit of the new vice chancellor. His appointment has been challenged in a court of law. This spineless decision, which is a challenge to the freedom of expression, only confirms those doubts. The supportive stand of the Congress chief minister was also in line with the old compromising stands of the Congress (and the NCP) vis a vis the communal and chauvinistic forces. The intellectual community and the press in Mumbai condemned the decision of the vice chancellor.


Within a month of this episode, in the Dussehra rally of the SS, Bal Thackeray with much fanfare inducted Aditya as the chief of the SS student wing by presenting him with a sword! With the above act of intolerance, he had earned his colours and had proved himself to be a ‘worthy’ successor to his grandfather!