People's Democracy

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


No. 47

November 25, 2012


The Shiv Sena: Ace Practitioner of Reactionary Identity Politics

The Maharashtra state committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) issued the following statement on November 19, 2012.


THE CPI(M) has always had sharp political differences with the Shiv Sena (SS) and its leader, the late Mr Bal Keshav Thackeray. Under his leadership, the SS always played upon the reactionary politics of identity, which diverted attention from the grave problems facing the people of Maharashtra.   


Firstly, the CPI(M) has resolutely been opposed to the violent culture of regional chauvinism practised by the Shiv Sena and now also by its breakaway organisation, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). Mr Thackeray began his politics by portraying the south Indian community of Mumbai as stealing the jobs of Maharashtrians, and later expanded the same logic to migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Enmity and hatred, thus, became the basis of his party's programme, which was in complete contradiction to the spirit of unity put forward by the Samyukta Maharashtra movement that was effectively led in the 1950s by the Left and secular forces, comprising the Communist Party, Praja Samajwadi Party, Peasants and Workers Party and Republican Party. 


Secondly, the Shiv Sena ideology was deeply communal and the CPI(M) has consistently fought this ideology. In December 1992, Mr Thackeray welcomed the demolition of the Babri Masjid, openly saying that he was proud of his Shiv Sainiks if they were among those who had carried out the act. The Shiv Sena was deeply complicit in the Mumbai riots and the violence against Muslims after the Babri demolition, and this role of the Shiv Sena and Mr Thackeray was detailed with evidence by the Justice Srikrishna commission of enquiry. Not surprisingly, the Srikrishna commission report was rejected out of hand by the then SS-BJP state government. 


Thirdly, the Shiv Sena's politics was deeply anti-working class and anti-communist, and in this it received the full and consistent support of successive Congress governments and the big capitalists of Mumbai. In the late 1960s, it was the communists who were at the receiving end of Mr Thackeray's violent political practice. Offices of the Girni Kamgar Union were regularly attacked by Shiv Sainiks and communist leaders were brutally assaulted. In June 1970, this violence against communists reached its peak when Comrade Krishna Desai, MLA, was murdered by Shiv Sainiks. But the communist movement in Maharashtra has survived in spite of these physical attacks and constant threats.


Fourthly, the Shiv Sena's politics was deeply anti-dalit. This was made clear in the physical attacks by Shiv Sainiks on the Dalit Panthers in the early 1970s, leading to the death of Panther activist Bhagwat Jadhav; in its chronic and rabid opposition to the renaming of the Marathwada University after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar; in the SS stand opposing Dr Ambedkar's Riddles in Hinduism; in the action of the SS-BJP state government withdrawing all the police cases of atrocities against SCs in Marathwada region; and most of all, in the shocking police firing by the SS-BJP regime at the Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar in Mumbai, which led to the killing of 11 innocent dalit people.


Finally, there was the Shiv Sena's opposition to democracy and support of dictatorship. This was made amply evident by Mr Thackeray's support to the Emergency; his open glorification of Hitler; and the constant SS attacks on journalists, cultural and literary figures and others who dared to be critical. 


This last point has been repeated today with the arbitrary arrests of two young girls in Palghar, and with the attacks on the hospital of the uncle of one of them. They were arrested simply because they, on social networking sites, expressed disapproval of the bandhs of the last couple of days following Bal Thackeray's demise. 


The CPI(M)ís Maharashtra state committee condemns the arbitrary arrests of these young girls, demands that the cases against them be dropped forthwith and further demands strict action against the police officers who instituted these cases and also against the goons who attacked the hospital. The Congress-NCP state government must take immediate action and stop pandering to the whims and fancies of the SS, as it has often done in the past.


The CPI(M) has always, and will in the future, continue to fight the chauvinist, communal, casteist and anti-working class policies of the Shiv Sena.