SACW #2 | 30 Oct 2004

sacw aiindex at
Fri Oct 29 21:05:54 CDT 2004

South Asia Citizens Wire  #2  |  30 October,  2004

[1] India:   Batuk Vora, Voice of the 'Other Gujarat' (Subhash Gatade)
[2] India: The Civil War On Saffron  (Tehelka)
[3] India: Message From Maharashtra - The tide has turned (Praful Bidwai)
[4] India: Tiger's whimper - The Shiv Sena today 
stands on the threshold of disintegration
(Kumar Ketkar)
+ Shiv Sena - Unfit for democracy (Indian Express)		 
[5] India: Catch them young (Kushwant Singh)
[6] India: Minority Rights, Secularism and Civil 
Society (Yamini Aiyar, Meeto Malik)
[7] Looking for films - for a FILM FESTIVAL at the WORLD SOCIAL FORUM 2005



Date: 25 Oct 2004 18:34:50 -0000

Voice of 'Other Gujarat'
-Subhash Gatade

''Badi Shouk se Sun Raha Tha Sara Jamana
Tumhi So Gaye Dastaan Kahte Kahte'

It was late 40s when a young lad from a modest 
town Palitana in Saurashtra made a small 
committement to      himself and the society 
around him. Little did his near and dear ones 
must have dreamt at the time that it would not 
prove to be a ' passing fad commensurate with his 
age' and would stick on to him throughout his 
life. Hardly anyone realised that this young man 
who had embraced Marxism by then would make 
'history of sorts' to become the first and only 
Communist MLA from a state which continued to 
remain under the influence of conservative 
politics for a long time.
One does not know why his parents christened him 
'Batuk' ( the small) but even a cursory glance at 
his life, work and other creative endeavours 
would make it amply clear that he rather kept on 
'falsifying' it all his life. Not only did he 
prove himself to be a militant trade union 
activist as well as a famous journalist but he 
also became a well known literary figure in 
Gujarati. This 'small' man who made it 'big' in 
the true sense of the term breathed his last a 
few days ago after fighting a long battle with 
liver cancer ( 19 oct 2004)
Batuk Vora, ex MLA, journalist and a leading 
voice of the the civil society in Gujarat 
following the communal carnage of 2002 is no 
more. He was 74 years old at the time of his 
death. It appears that many of his close friends 
had an inkling of what was coming, possibly Batuk 
also. But that did not deter him from his 
lifelong committment to a better and humane world 
free from any injustice or oppression. It did not 
stop him from blasting the US for its barbaric 
role in Iraq in one of his last despatches nor 
did he spare Narendra Modi, the ringleader of the 
'modern day Neroes'.
Very few people who might have read hundreds of 
his despathches from different parts of the world 
would in fact be knowing that he was one of the 
pioneers of the left movement in Gujarat. In 
fact, Batuk alongwith Pravin Shridharani, Niruben 
Patel, Dinkar Mehta and Subodh Mehta worked 
together to launch a communist movement in the 
state. Active in the railway employees union in 
his hometown of Palitana in his young age Vora 
led a number of agitations.Among them one against 
a "betterment levy" imposed on farmers of the 
state in the 1950s received such massive support 
that it nearly brought down the government. He 
had even actively participated in the 'Maha 
Gujarat' agitation in the 1950s demanding a 
separate Gujarat state. In a report in the Indo 
Asian News Service to which Batuk Vora 
contributed regularly it was told that 
"..[w]ithdrawing from active politics, Vora 
returned to his first call, journalism and joined 
the "new Age", the official newspaper of the CPI. 
He drew on his early experiences as a journalist 
in Mumbai in 19499-50, with progressive Gujarati 
journals "Jay Gujarat" and "Mashal".
This report also reveals another dimension of 
Batuk's personality which is not known outside 
Gujarat. He was famous in Gujarat also for his 
literary masterpieces. His novel " Lok Thok Thok 
( A lot of Masses) published in 1969 dealt with 
rural life adn the exploitation of have nots. His 
book on his four year stay in US " Aah America" 
was also a commercial success.
Political activist, writer, journalist and to top 
it all a nice human being who according to the 
famous Gujarati poetess and social activist Ms 
Saroop Dhruv ,"combined in him a vision for a 
just society with a lifestyle which was very very 
In fact, in one of the darkest chapters in the 
history of Gujarat when the state had connived 
with the marauders of the Hindutva brigade 
unleashing a reign of terror against the 
minorities, when many a erstwhile secular 
activists also preferred to remain quiet, Batuks' 
was one of those voices of the 'other Gujarat' 
which could never be intimidated into silence. 
Very few people know that the much discussed 
petition to the Supreme Court in 2002 requesting 
it to intervene in the situation in state was 
moved by four signatories only. Apart from 
Mallika Sarabhai, Teesta Setalvad, veteran 
journalist Digant Oza it had only Batuks name on 
But Batuk did not limit his opposition to only 
writing and signing petitions . He fearlessly 
tried to reach out to people with all the might. 
Critical of the Narendra Modi government handling 
of the situation, he served on a number of 
people's tribunals.In a 'Sadbhavana Sammelan' 
organised in Bhavnagar he in his popular style 
"..[r]idiculed the BJP government’s 
self-righteous postures. He said he had travelled 
around the world but nowhere had he witnessed 
such an exercise of the state itself encouraging 
strife. In Gujarat, peace endeavours were being 
threatened and those who work for peace and 
harmony are considered enemies of the state."
There is no doubt that all those persons who 
yearn for a better humane world would definitely 
miss him for a long time to come. People will 
miss him despatches, they will miss the deep 
analysis of capitalism or fascism which he could 
do in simple words which even a layperson could 
understand. And everybody would agree that it is 
such a crucial juncture in our country's life 
when the forces of hatred have been put on the 
defensive that we needed him on this part of the 
barricade to deliver them a knock out punch.



30 October


Civil society groups played a crucial 
anti-communal role in Maharashtra, reports Aman 

Now that the Maharashtra polls are done and over 
with, and the bjp-Shiv Sena combine sidelined, 
there will surely be much talk of the political 
causes — infighting within the Shiv Sena, etc. 
But it is scarcely realised by the media and the 
political parties that there was another faint, 
small and invisible reason that pushed the 
rightwing forces to the wall.

Hidden from arc lights, a tiny band of activists 
were quietly prodding the public to vote against 
communal politics. About 40 non-governmental 
organisations rallied in a strong alliance, 
disseminating anti-communalism messages through 
creative leaflets, posters, booklets and stickers 
all over Maharashtra.

This followed a pattern. A similar 'campaign' was 
organised in the nooks and corners of India 
during the last Lok Sabha elections. Lakhs of 
pamphlets and thousands of documentaries, 
especially on Gujarat, added with concerted 
workshops and door-to-door campaigns, 
consolidated the secular vote. While professors 
marched in the inner lanes of Old Delhi, talking 
to "parents of students", iit students from 
Bombay took a sabbatical and worked in the 
villages of Maharashtra. So did jnu and du 
students, artists, filmmakers and women's groups. 
This was the quiet revolution that helped the upa 
turn the tide.

Once again in Maharashtra, with Shabnam Hashmi of 
Anhad at the forefront, they targeted railway 
stations and bus stands, reminding ordinary 
people of Gujarat’s deep wounds. "We wanted to 
raise the issues of secularism, the concept of 
India," says Hashmi. "It was important to defeat 
the communal forces in these elections. Their 
victory would have paved the way for their return 
to the Centre in the months to come."

More than 15 lakh leaflets were distributed 
across the state — from Jalgaon, Dhule in the 
north, Pune, Mumbai in the west, Aurangabad in 
the centre, Amravati, Chandrapur, Nagpur in the 
east, within one week. Hundreds of volunteers 
woke up early in the morning to insert Hindi, 
English and Marathi pamphlets in daily newspapers.

Poets Javed Akhtar and Gauhar Raza penned the 
text for some of the campaign literature. Other 
leaflets documented a conversation through 
letters between an old woman and her 
granddaughter. Aaji (grandmother in Marathi) 
reminisces the days gone by, when they joined 
Mahatma Gandhi on the banks of the Sabarmati. And 
then she says, "Yesterday Pinku's aaji returned 
from Ahmedabad. She was telling us that they did 
not spare anybody: babies, children, men, women 
and old women. Nobody was spared."

Surprisingly, as is their normal reaction, the 
Right did not strike back at the activists. 
"Perhaps it was a sign that they were truly down 
and out," Hashmi explains.
Civil society groups, however, were not the only 
ones trying to tap the power of information. As 
in Gujarat, rightwing forces too distributed hate 
literature in Maharashtra before the polls, 
exhorting Hindus to vote en masse against Muslims 
and Congress. And what was their argument? 
"Muslims have an animalistic tendency to rape 
Hindu women
 Muslims are rising in numbers."

The 40-page leaflet has a photograph of 
Qutubuddin Ansari, the tailor whose 
grief-stricken face came to sum up the story of 
thousands of Muslims in Gujarat. Tears in his 
eyes, hands joined together, Ansari was pleading 
to frenzied vhp/Bajrang Dal mobs to spare his 
family's lives. In the saffron pamphlet, the 
photograph carries the caption: "Hinduon ki aisi 
sthiti na hone de (Don't let the Hindus come to 

If the election results are anything to go by, 
the people of Maharashtra (as the people of India 
earlier) did distinguish what is secular 
information and what is hate politics. One of the 
young campaigners, Sahir Raza, a St. Stephen's 
student in Delhi who distributed pamphlets around 
the state, says, "Loads of people came back and 
said 'you are doing good work'. At one of the 
railway stations, a person working in an icici 
Bank collected 250 leaflets from us.

He promised he would distribute them to his colleagues."

There is no data to prove this painstaking 
effort, and so invisibly done, with such intense 
humility. But as Hashmi concludes, "Our campaign 
alone may not have dented anything. But 
everything put together does make a difference." 
As the old slogan goes: The people united will 
always be victorious.

October 30, 2004



The Praful Bidwai Column
October 25, 2004

Message From Maharashtra - The tide has turned
By Praful Bidwai

The victory of the Congress-Nationalist Congress 
Party-led Democratic Front (DF) in the 
Maharashtra Assembly elections will go down as a 
political landmark. The result is all the more 
creditable because the ruling alliance faced 
heavy odds both from the burden of incumbency and 
from a rebellion by dissidents in the two 
parties. The DF admittedly provided a shabby 
government, whose top leader (Chief Minister 
Vilasrao Deshmukh) had to be changed midstream 
and his deputy (Chagan Bhujbal) was dropped 
because of the Telgi stamp-paper scandal.

Under the DF, India's second most populous 
state-and its most industrialised one-sank under 
a debt mountain of nearly Rs 100,000 crores. 
Hundreds of farmers committed suicide under the 
impact of a drought and the DF's mismanagement of 
relief provision. Even more shamefully, 3,500 
children died of malnutrition.

This created a fertile ground for an unambiguous 
electoral triumph of the Bharatiya Janata 
Party-Shiv Sena. Yet, that alliance managed to 
snatch defeat from the jaws of victory! The DF 
did reasonably well in all the six regions of 
Maharashtra, although in Western Maharashtra, its 
undisputed fortress, it lost some ground to 
Congress-NCP "rebels". The voter emphatically 
rejected its communal rivals and affirmed the 
secular, inclusive politics centred on livelihood 
issues, on which Ms Sonia Gandhi and Mr Sharad 
Pawar concentrated their campaigns. They were 
rewarded with 141 seats in the 288-member 
Assembly, seven more than their 1999 total. With 
its Left allies, the DF can now sew up a clear 

The Sena-BJP campaign was fettered by the failing 
health of star performers like Mr Atal Behari 
Vajpayee and Mr Bal Thackeray. It was further 
affected by the BJP's demoralisation from the 
loss of power at the national level and by the 
bitter succession battle in the Sena. But this 
only partly explains the defeat suffered by the 
Right-wing alliance. A much weightier factor for 
the debacle was the erosion of the BJP-Sena's 
appeal and social base, even in regions 
considered their strongholds-Mumbai, Vidarbha and 

Clearly, the Congress's traditional 
constituencies like the urban poor, Muslims, 
Dalits and Adivasis are returning to it as the 
party gets revitalised. The Congress-NCP's 
increased attraction seems in no small measure 
attributable to the Left-leaning National Common 
Minimum Programme of the United Progressive 
Alliance government and to the waiving of power 
charges in agriculture and other "populist" 
measures taken by the DF.

The BJP-Sena further damaged themselves by 
running a highly divisive, vitriolic and negative 
campaign. During his sole public rally in Mumbai, 
with Mr Vajpayee, Mr Thackeray launched a vicious 
attack on Mumbai's immigrant community, which 
forms 60 percent of its population, and he 
brazenly peddled "sons-of-the-soil" Maharashtrian 
chauvinism. Rather than counter this with 
moderation, Mr Vajpayee acquiesced in it. This 
cost the BJP-Sena many non-Marathi votes. Equally 
significantly, even traditional Marathi/Gujarati 
BJP-Sena strongholds in Mumbai like Matunga, 
Khetwadi, Chembur and Vile Parle returned 
Congress candidates. Given the BJP-Sena's 
shrinking social base, and its unconvincing 
programmatic alternative to the DF, its so-called 
"development" agenda didn't sell.

Nor did its Hindutva appeal. BJP 
"master-strategist" Pramod Mahajan turned out a 
dud in his home state: his much tom-tommed 
"micro-management" didn't work. The BJP's cynical 
calculation, namely that the Bahujan Samaj Party 
would eat into the Congress's votes, enabling 
many easy Sena-BJP victories, went awry. Nor did 
the fiery rhetoric of Ms Uma Bharati, fresh from 
her rather ludicrous Tiranga Yatra, or the 
demagoguery of Ms Sushma Swaraj, back from a 
pro-Savarkar demonstration at Andaman Jail, 
produce results. Supposedly more "sophisticated" 
leaders like Mr L.K. Advani too failed to make an 

The BJP had reckoned that a victory in 
Maharashtra would enable the National Democratic 
Alliance to present its Lok Sabha debacle as an 
aberration, a freak phenomenon, or a flash in the 
pan. The NDA would resume its interrupted victory 
run and reaffirm its claim to being the "natural" 
party of governance, while undermining the UPA's 
credibility and its chances of completing its 
full term.

The opposite happened. After Maharashtra, the UPA 
has consolidated itself. By-lections in other 
states too showed that the Congress has expanded 
its social support-base. In the UP by-elections, 
it pushed the BJP to the fourth or fifth 
position. The next round, due in February in 
Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana, could result in a 
further setback to the NDA. That defeated, beaten 
and increasingly fragmented alliance is on the 
ropes in these states.

In Bihar, Mr Laloo Prasad's RJD and the Congress 
make a formidable combination. In Jharkhand, Mr 
Shibu Soren's "martyrdom" through his resignation 
and arrest will work against the BJP. And in 
Haryana, Mr Bansi Lal's re-entry will help the 
Congress immensely. And in the round that follows 
in 2006, with elections in West Bengal, Tamil 
Nadu and Kerala, the BJP isn't even in the 

To escape harsh realities, the BJP has taken to 
daydreaming. First, its leaders convinced 
themselves, on the basis of astrology, that the 
UPA would disintegrate by September 26. When that 
didn't materialise, they conjured up a scenario 
of a "third front"-to be formed by the DMK, NCP 
and Mr Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party 
quitting the UPA and eventually teaming up with 
the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal(U), and other 
non-Congress, non-BJP parties. The BJP would 
support such a front from the outside and topple 
the UPA.

The Rashtriya Swabhiman Manch, recently formed by 
Messrs George Fernandes, Chandrasekhar and 
Subramaniam Swamy and Ms Sushma Swaraj, was to be 
a step in that same direction. Now, these leaders 
have been put out of business at least for a 
while. And it's highly unlikely that Mr Paswan, 
leave alone Mr M. Karunanidhi, will quit the UPA.

Instead, the NDA will face disarray. Some of its 
constituents (e.g. Trinamool Congress) are 
already in a state of disintegration. The power 
struggle within the BJP isn't going to end with 
Mr L.K. Advani taking over as party president. 
This sudden move to re-induct the man who 
launched the BJP on a belligerent course in the 
1980s betrays desperation and panic. It was meant 
to pre-empt a wholesale RSS takeover of the 
BJP-something the sangh has been pressing for 
since the BJP's Lok Sabha debacle. The move also 
cut Mr Murli Manohar Joshi out of the leadership 
race. It shows that the BJP's "second-generation" 
leaders aren't up to the mark. Indeed, no BJP 
leader, including Mr Advani, has a strategy or 
the imagination for innovative politics. For far 
too long, the BJP flourished on catchy slogans 
and gimmicky formulas. They aren't working 

There is a reason for this. The BJP's rise since 
the mid-1980s wasn't primarily the result of its 
own positive appeal or Hindutva. Rather, the BJP 
gained from circumstances of others' making, such 
as the long-term decline of the Congress system. 
The Left was unable to fill the vacuum this left 
in the political centre. The BJP entered that 
space from the Right. For a period, mobilisation 
on Ayodhya/Babri helped the BJP grow out of the 
confines to which its earlier avatar, the Jana 
Sangh, was restricted: geographically, largely to 
Northwestern states like Rajasthan, Madhya 
Pradesh and Gujarat; and socially, to the 
relatively affluent upper-caste Hindus-in some 
cases, downright reactionary feudals like former 
princes and zamindars.

Thus, between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, the 
BJP implanted itself in Uttar Pradesh, through a 
unique combination of mandal (OBC politics) and 
kamandal (Hindutva) personified by Mr Kalyan 
Singh. The Ayodhya mobilisation could help garner 
OBC, and to an extent, even Dalit, support for 
the BJP's pan-Indian "Hindu nation" project. For 
the first time, the party sank roots in the heart 
of North India. But this didn't last long.

The continuing "Forward March of the Backwards", 
and the rise of the politics of Dalit 
self-representation under the BSP, reversed the 
BJP's ascendancy. Barring Gujarat, and some 
desultory gains in states like Jharkhand and 
Himachal, the BJP couldn't expand beyond the old 
Jana Sangh zone of influence.

Today, the BJP faces a three-fold crisis-a crisis 
of strategy (it has no coherent counter to the 
Centre-Left); an organisational crisis (its 
leadership structure is dysfunctional and has 
seen four presidents in six years, three of whom 
didn't complete their term); and a crisis of 
leadership succession. It's too heavily invested 
in globalisation and Right-wing neoliberalism to 
be able to pursue an independent policy. It's too 
deeply mired in Hindutva to be able to broaden 
its appeal beyond a small, bigoted Hindu 
minority. It's too cravenly devoted to power to 
be able to rejuvenate itself when out of office. 
Today, the BJP is in danger of becoming too 
dependent on the RSS for coherence, mentorship, 
and votes.

Mr Advani's very first decision after becoming 
party president was to pay his respects to RSS 
leaders on Vijaya-Dashami Day in Nagpur! 
Over-dependence on the sangh could be suicidal. 
The BJP has tried every trick in the Hindutva 
book, including Savarkar, Tiranga and terrorism. 
It conjured up the spectre of Muslim demographic 
colonialism, and played the anti-Pakistan card. 
Nothing has worked. As Messrs Vajpayee and Advani 
fade out, the party seems set for prolonged 



Indian Express, October 30, 2004

Kumar Ketkar		 

For the Shiv Sena, the moment of reckoning has 
come. If the Sena-BJP alliance had won, perhaps, 
this moment could have been postponed. Power 
would have held the alliance together and the 
Sena could have gained a breather.

Indeed, it would not have been difficult for the 
outfit to have won. Even a quick glance at the 
Maharashtra results would make it clear that the 
Congress Front won almost by fluke. The elections 
were too close to call. In as many as 31 seats, 
victory could have gone either way. The margins 
were so narrow that even God, forget the 
psephologist, would have got it wrong. Leaders of 
the Congress Front was in a state of shock after 
the results as they had anticipated electoral 
humiliation, notwithstanding the bravado they had 
displayed during the campaign. They knew in their 
heart of their heart that the performance of the 
Democratic Front government for all the five 
years it was in power was dismal, to put it 

During the campaign, they had perceived a very 
strong anti-incumbent current and even the 
Maratha strongman had conceded defeat in private. 
On the morning of the results, he had started an 
arithmetical exercise to somehow reach that 
magical number of 145, with help from the small 
parties and rebels. Today he may be gloating 
about the NCP's two-seat lead over the Congress, 
but on the morning of October 16, he was gasping 
- and it was not because of his indifferent 

Be that as it may, a victory is a victory and a 
defeat, a defeat. Instead of Sharad Pawar and his 
Nationalistic Congress Party facing that moment 
of reckoning, history has handed over that bitter 
experience to Balasaheb Thackeray, who has ridden 
the Shiv Sena tiger for almost 39 years now. The 
Thackerays have virtually enjoyed First Family 
status in Maharashtra for the past 20 years, 
although the Sena was in power for just over four 
years - 1995 to 1999. It is difficult to decide 
whether it was Thackeray's charisma or his terror 
which had inspired large numbers of lumpen 
Marathi youth. Bal, before he became Don 
Balasaheb, was in his forties when he founded the 
Sena. He held sway over his saffron guards for 
close to four decades. He did this, not with any 
ideology or by building a well-knit organisation. 
The Sena was a spontaneous movement and the 
Marathi urban youth felt drawn towards Thackeray 
because he appeared to provide some meaning to 
their utterly purposeless and otherwise hopeless 

Mumbai became the capital of Maharashtra after a 
long drawn movement for Samyukta Maharashtra. But 
industry and trade continued to be controlled by 
the Gujaratis and Marwaris. The white collar jobs 
appeared to be going to the South Indians 
("Madrasis", as the Sena called them). Small 
businesses, shops and establishments, taxis and 
restaurants, belonged to the Punjabis or the 
Shetty community. In the otherwise cosmopolitan 
and plural social life of Mumbai, the working 
class as well as lower middle-class Marathi youth 
felt lost. Mumbai belonged to him and yet he did 
not belong to Mumbai. The Shiv Sena was born out 
of this frustration and cultural identity crisis. 
It was a collective, and often violent, 
expression of that frustration.

But this frustration was Mumbai-centric in nature 
and, therefore, the Sena could not really spread 
its tentacles over the rest of Maharashtra - 
apart from the Konkan region because, 
geographically and culturally, Mumbai is a part 
of the Konkan. In the rest of the state, it had 
to recruit its members from disgruntled elements 
within the Congress party. There can be no doubt 
about it, Mumbai was the soul of the Shiv Sena, a 
territory where it could exercise its invisible, 
and sometimes visible, terror. A Shiv Sena 
"bandh" call would evoke a total response. Nobody 
would dare to venture out. Balasaheb's charisma 
grew out of this ability to create terror. The 
Gujarati-Marwari businessmen and industrialists 
sought protection from the Sena, the managements 
of manufacturing units used the Sena to break 
strikes led by the Communists, the leaders of the 
ruling Congress surreptitiously promoted the 
Sena, sometimes to blackmail the central 
government and sometimes to settle scores within 
their own party.

Consequently the importance of the Sena and 
Balasaheb grew. For the past decade, the 
Thackerays had also become social celebrities. 
Bollywood crawled before Balasaheb, and it was a 
relationship mediated by the mafia. It was in 
everybody's self-interest to pay respects to the 
Sena chief. After the Sena-BJP came to power in 
1995, the icon became much larger than life. The 
BJP Front, although in power in Delhi from 1998, 
had to bow before the Sena! Often this was 
humiliating to the Sangh Parivar, but the 
humiliation was silently swallowed because, 
without the Sena, the BJP was electorally weak. 
Moreover, Thackeray's violent rhetoric against 
the Muslims, against Pakistan or Bangladeshis 
suited the BJP. Balasaheb enjoyed this all-round 
adulation. An artist and cartoonist at his core, 
and kingmaker rather than a formal king, he 
displayed with gusto the power that he now had. 
The Shiv Sena's strength as well as its weakness 
was its living icon - Balasaheb.

But time was extracting its price. As Thackeray 
grew older he got increasingly isolated even 
within his family and among the top echelons of 
the party. Yet none of them - neither Manohar 
Joshi nor Narayan Rane, neither Uddhav nor Raj 
Thackeray - had any independent existence. If the 
Sena-BJP alliance had won, even marginally, the 
Sena would have got a shot in the arm. Balasaheb 
would have grown in stature and would perhaps 
have even competed with none other than Shivaji 
Maharaj himself. But this defeat has come like a 
body blow and that, too, when the infirmities of 
age had caught up with the man and his image!

Today the Sena has become a pathetic shadow of 
its supremo. With no ideology or faith to hold on 
to, with no organised set-up apart from the 
undependable network of frustrated and militant 
lumpens; with no second line leadership or 
charismatic successor, the Shiv Sena stands on 
the threshold of disintegration. The internecine 
rivalry between Uddhav Thackeray and Raj 
Thackeray, as well as between Joshi and Rane will 
soon consume the outfit. As for the Icon that has 
presided over the Sena's fortunes, it has become 
a mere Cut-out.

The writer is editor, 'Loksatta'

o o o o

Indian Express - October 25, 2004

Unfit for democracy

Bal Thackeray has no business inflicting the 
Sena's identity crisis on the voter

How does a political party react after an 
electoral setback? Some sulk, some go into a 
huddle, the BJP heads towards Nagpur. But if the 
party is the Shiv Sena, it blames the people, the 
voters, the media. Its supremo warns of a 
horrible backlash. He draws rabid spectres of 
Muslim fundamentalism and a take-over by 
Bangladeshi settlers. Bal Thackeray used his 
annual Dussehra speech to serve up dire images 
that are far too easily dismissed as the 
predictable rants of a sore loser. In fact, they 
amount to something far more worrisome. 
Thackeray's diatribe is an act of disrespect - 
no, insult - to the voter in Maharashtra and to 
all norms and conventions of democracy that he 
and his party are expected to abide by.

The Shiv Sena has a problem and the recent rout 
has only underlined it. It has been obvious for a 
while that the factors that muscled its rise are 
on the wane and that Thackeray's outfit has 
neither the political substance nor the 
organisational fibre to deal with it. Since it 
was formed in 1966, the Sena has relied on the 
electorate's insecurities, tight discipline of 
its cadres, their complete obedience to Thackeray 
himself. On each of these, the party is on 
shiftier sands today. The last five years or so 
have marked the maturing of a new voter who is 
less willing to do battle with imagined spectres 
and is more immersed in the search for a brighter 
future. The Sena's jingoistic campaigns against 
Gujaratis, South Indians, Dalits, Muslims and 
North Indians preyed upon an erstwhile 
socio-economic setting. Mumbai has grown since. 
It may even hold the Prime Minister to his 
promise of making it another Shanghai.

Then there is the lack of a single heir apparent, 
the receding of the base and greater 
centralisation. This time, Uddhav Thackeray 
selected the strategy and candidates; the room 
for manoeuvre at lower levels, always limited in 
the Sena, shrank further. There was an 
unprecedented number of rebels. A lot has gone 
wrong with the Sena. But by turning on the 
invective, Bal Thackeray is only giving further 
proof of his outfit's unelectability. Nothing 
short of a reinvention will do.


[5]  [Book Review]

Deccan Herald, October 30, 2004 | Column - Sweet and Sour


Catch them young
[by Kushwant Singh ]

At times I get very depressed watching channel 
after channel on my TV offloading garbage about 
astrology, Vastu and numerology, and wonder how 
our next generation will be able to face the hard 
realities of life. I am not alone in believing 
that next to sowing seeds of suspicion between 
different religious communities, the Sangh 
Parivar-dominated government has left us a legacy 
of belief in irrationality.

For this Murli Manohar Joshi, under whose 
patronage it took a new lease of life, will have 
a lot to answer for. So also ex-Prime Minister 
Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Cabinet colleagues 
who not only failed to put an end to Joshi's 
eccentricities but often subscribed to them too. 
Their astrologers and Vastu experts assure them 
that their stars are in the ascendant and they 
should soon be back in power. Let us wait a while 
and see what happens.

I am heartened to find a kindred spirit in Githa 
Hariharan, who is more concerned about the way 
things are going and is doing her best to reverse 
the trend. She is a more accomplished writer than 
I am, a lot younger and far more gutsy. So far 
she has been writing novels and short stories for 
adults. She felt strongly that if you mean to 
clear the cobwebs of superstition and 
make-believe that are instilled into our minds by 
senile oldies, and immunise them against the 
poison of religious bigotry and belief in the 
irrational, you have to address school-going 
children. So she has turned her facile and gifted 
pen to writing a collection of short stories for 
children using old themes based on anecdotes 
about Tenali Raman, Naseeruddin Hodja, Gopal Bhor 
and Birbal. The Winning Team (Rupa) beautifully 
illustrated by Taposhi Ghosal is her offering. It 
should be translated in all our regional 
languages and made compulsory reading for boys 
and girls in schools across the country. Minister 
Arjun Singhji, please note! You can undo some of 
the harm done by your predecessor.



The Economic and Political Weekly
October 23, 2004

Minority Rights, Secularism and Civil Society

The Indian state has failed to recognise an 
actively address the issue of the socio-economic 
rights of Muslims. Civil society organisations 
mirror the tendencies of the state to prioritise 
cultural rights over the social and economic 
needs of the community. It is crucial for civil 
society to interrogate its own position and 
develop a platform for concerted advocacy on 
issues related to the socio-economic rights of 
the Muslim community.

Yamini Aiyar, Meeto Malik

[Full text at: 


[7]  [Call for Entries]

Looking for films

The World Social Forum is a movement of movements 
that opposes neo-liberal capitalist 
globalisation. Since its inception in 2001 the 
Forum has provided open spaces for dialogue and 
debate on issues of concern to social movements, 
concerned groups and individuals. According to 
Chico Whitaker, one of the important contribution 
of the Forum has been in its ability to draw on 
the most significant recent political discovery, 
of the power of open, free, horizontal structures.

@Culture is a coalition of a few organisations 
and artists from India who were a part of the 
cultural committee at the WSF 2004, Mumbai. It 
believes that culture is a key site for 
transformative politics and recognises the 
centrality of culture in all political action. 
Enthused and inspired by the impact of its work 
during WSF 2004 a smaller group has decided to 
pursue its aims at WSF 2005.

At WSF 2005 @Culture is planning to author five 
self-organised events. One of these will be a 
film festival, curated by Magic Lantern 

The concern that drives the film festival is that 
while the movement extends easily because of its 
opposition to a common destructive force, what it 
aims at is not clearly articulated. We are still 
to visualise the other worlds that are possible. 
And yet they are breathing!

Hence, thematically, the film festival will 
reflect choices people make to create other kinds 
of worlds: how different communities, countries, 
individuals are re-inventing themselves, their 
lives and livelihoods and by their action 
challenging the homogenising attempts of 
neo-liberal capitalism.

The film festival is looking for films that 
explore issues of governance, trade, 
technological and farming alternatives, 
livelihood systems, cultural diversity, 
transmission of knowledge, changes in cultural 
terrains, etc.

If you have a film, or know of a film, that 
resonates any of these themes, please write to 
Gargi and Aurélie at filmsatforums at

Deadlines are tight. Do respond urgently.

The World Social Forum will take place in Porto 
Alegre, Brazil, 26-31 January 2005.

For more details about the World Social Forum, 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Gargi Sen / Aurélie de Lalande
Magic Lantern Foundation


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