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Raj Thackeray and his `Bihari` fixation

Updated: Jan 15, 2013, 21:34 PM IST

Some people will just not change even though the world around them may be changing at a fast pace. One such person is Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray. Like a frog in the well he cannot see beyond identity politics. Or maybe that’s his bread and butter as probably he does not have anything else to offer to the electorate of his state.

Even as the whole nation was shocked and outraged at the brutal and appalling gang-rape of a 23-year old girl in the national capital in a moving bus by six men and even as the whole country in unison demanded stricter laws to ensure the safety and security of women, all that Mr Thackeray could think of was to hold the people of Bihar responsible for the rise in crime against women.

Here’s what the MNS chief had to say while addressing a rally in Mumbai – “Everyone is merely talking about the rape. No one is asking who did this. So many cases are slapped against me (for speaking against Biharis) but no one is talking about the fact that all these rapists are from Bihar.”

How predictable. What else does one expect from someone like Raj than to stereotype the state of Bihar and play the kind of politics that he has inherited from his uncle Bal Thackeray who spent his entire life spewing venom against Muslims or Communists or South Indians or Gujratis or Biharis.

A rape is a rape and a crime against women is a crime against women. Period. It does not matter who did it and where it was committed. The perpetrators have to be dealt with severely and an example has to be set so that it acts as a deterrent for future criminals. It becomes all the more shocking that when the nation is witnessing an unprecedented outbreak of protest against the ravaging of the para-medical student and when the ruling establishment has been forced to wake up and announce a slew of measures to make the women safer in this country, all that Raj Thackeray could think of was the fact that the executors of the heinous crime on the fateful night of December 16 hailed from Bihar.

Yes, some of them hailed from Bihar – so what? Is the MNS supremo trying to say that all Bihari men are rapists? Or that every Bihari who is a migrant worker in a city like Delhi and Mumbai is a potential rapist? Or that all Bihari men must be banished from India and then the country will become hundred percent safe for the women.

The statement made by the man defies any logic.

Raj Thackeray would do well to go through the statistics of the National Crime Records Bureau of 2011 which shows that Bihar is ranked ninth in the country as far as crime against women is concerned. It has 10,231 cases of crime against women, (4.4 percent of the total), which is alarming to say the least, but it is no way topping the charts as the MNS chief would like us to believe.

While West Bengal with 29,133 cases of crime against women tops the list, Maharashtra’s record is 15,728 in 2011. In such a scenario, Raj Thackeray should concentrate on making his city and his state safer for women. Mumbai was for a long time considered a safe city for women but this perception is fast changing. With a host of crime reported against women in the recent times, one wonders if the city can hold on to the ‘safe’ tag anymore.

So, rather than spewing venom against ‘Biharis’, Raj Thackeray should channelise his energy towards restoring the image of Mumbai and Maharashtra. It would also be more useful if he could send his suggestions to Justice JS Verma panel, listing the ways in which the new rape law should be conceived so that we the women can feel a little reassured.

The Congress did term the remarks as unfortunate with the party spokesperson Rashid Alvi saying: “Such statements are very unfortunate. Some are breaking the country into India and Bharat and some are differentiating between Bihar and Maharashtra. This is unfortunate, and such remarks, will weaken the country and its democracy.” But the fact is that the ruling Congress-NCP combine has been reluctant to act against the Thackeray family and has always been soft on divisive statements like these. Some call it political compulsions (Raj Thackeray’s MNS has often been dubbed as the `B’ team of the Congress party which is said to use him against the Shiv-Sena-BJP combine), while some say that the grand old party would rather not stir up a hornet’s nest.

There does appear to be some logic in these arguments. Remember, in 2008 when the MNS workers were arrested in the Marathi signboards controversy, the High Court did come down heavily on the government for not filing a chargesheet against them and being slack in its approach. Also, in the past the Congress led by Chief Minister VP Naik did use late Bal Thackeray to its advantage when it wanted to weaken the stronghold of the communist trade unions in the then Bombay in the 1960s.

Yes, the Congress has made it a habit of delaying action against the likes of Shiv Sena head Uddhav Thackeray, Raj Thackeray or for that matter MIM MLA from Hyderabad Akbaruddin Owaisi and often cite flaring up of violence as one of the reasons for going slow. But the same establishment will not hesitate in arresting two harmless girls for posting an innocuous comment on Facebook and questioning why the city of Mumbai had come to a standstill for the funeral of Balasaheb Thackeray.

Post Script: Janata Dal (United) leader Ali Anwar was right when he said that Raj Thackeray has a “mania for making such illogical statements and disrespecting people”. This is not the first time when the MNS leader has disrespected the people of Bihar. He has called them ‘infiltrators’ and has threatened to banish them from Mumbai in the past. And I guess this is not the last time that he will do so. But every time that he does something like this, a proud nationalist like me will hit back and it will not be long before young India, which is increasingly shunning vote-bank politics, will also ostracise him. Hopefully, Mr Raj Thackeray learns his lessons before it is too late.