Monday, September 10, 2012

Rajdeep Sardesai writes to Raj Marathi-Manoos Thackeray. We reply!

Recently, Rajdeep Sardesai has written an open letter to Raj Thackeray, chiding him for being parochial. Here, we try to present a counter-view. This piece is not intended to be comprehensive. We have interspersed our comments, in red while the original is in blue.

Dear Raj,

This is the second open letter I am writing to you since, as was the case four years ago, you refuse to do interviews in any language other than Marathi. We have a popular Marathi channel whose ratings soar every time you speak to us. You are a box office hit in Marathi. But Mumbai is no longer a Maharashtrian city. It hasn't been one for well over a century. By contrast, the percentage of non-Maharashtrians, and especially Hindi speakers, has gone up steadily even though the rate of increase has declined in the last decade. A substantial number of the migrants are from UP and Bihar. They are, it seems, the 'new enemy'.

Is it necessary that Mumbai must continue towards non-Maharashtrian citydom? If we use Rajdeep's line of thinking, we can ask: India has been corrupt for past 65 years, why should we want to change it? Rajdeep might answer that Corruption is "wrong" then he is introducing an Ethical point. Thus before clarifying his ethical position it is futile to make such arguments. Now will Rajdeep clarify his Ethical position on 'migration'?

For example: Is forced integration, where a resident population is compelled to accommodate migrants, a desirable thing?

Four years ago, I had pitched for a course correction after north Indian taxi-drivers in Mumbai were assaulted. MNS workers even hurled bottles at the house of the ultimate national icon, Amitabh Bachchan, suggesting that he was partial to his home state of Uttar Pradesh. At the time, it seemed an act of temporary madness, part of a larger battle you were waging with your cousin Udhav for control of the Shiv Sena.

If Rajdeep is upset that MNS workers took law into their own hands, then he must cultivate the habit of writing open letters a dozen a month if not a week. One does not even have to be a politician for that. Most 'rich' and the 'connected' people behave as if they are above law, and they get away with it!

If Rajdeep is upset owing to some 'deeper' reasons, then he has not mentioned them. Without going into why 'assaults' took place, it is futile to pass judgments. Rajdeep has forgotten that for past many decades, Indian law-enforcement has had such a poor track record that in most matters people hardly expect that justice will be done. 

Further, such pathetic law-enforcement performance has been the primary reason why there is so much 'Corruption' that Rajdeep harps on in his TV shows. For the higher-ups know that they can get away with anything!

Four years later, I thought you had outgrown the politics of hate and violence. Two weeks ago when you delivered a passionate speech in support of the policemen who were attacked during the Azad Maidan violence in the backdrop of the Assam riots, I could see a political rationale for the demagoguery and your 'rose diplomacy' with the constabulary. There was genuine sympathy in Mumbai for the beat constables who had been targeted by a mob of criminals from the minority community. While the state government pussyfooted over the issue of arresting the ringleaders, you took up a cause that seemed to resonate with a number of people who were tired of the politics of "appeasement".

We hope that Rajdeep will ask the same question of Representatives of Islam and their handmaidens in the Congress and the Left; and even the true-secular among the BJP. Does Rajdeep believe that Islam is a religion of peace, spreading love and non-violence?

We also hope that Rajdeep wrote open letters to Maharashtra CM, Maharashtra Congress President, Manmohan Sigh and Sonia Gandhi as to why such 'pussyfooting' has been an indulgent norm with Congress and its governments.

Also, our question is, what is Rajdeep's moral stand on politics of 'appeasement', and what is his track record in questioning the politics of appeasement of Islam in India?

But within days of striking a popular chord over the Azad Maidan violence, you have returned to a familiar refrain by calling Biharis ínflitrators and threatening to drive them out of the city. You may well claim that your outburst is a fallout of the controversy over the arrest of a teenage Muslim from Bihar's Sitamarhi district for the desecration of the Amar Jawan Jyothi. But if there is any issue over the mode of his arrest, then it should be sorted between the Mumbai and Bihar police, but to deliberately politicise the arrest is to do exactly what you are accusing the Cong-NCP government in Maharashtra of: make the police hostage to vote bank politics.

Again, without going into the details of the case, Rajdeep is being prejudiced. Rajdeep, must first realize, and we are saying this to him because he seems to be the least unreasonable amongst the comity of journalists, and this is an opportunity for him to exhibit that his 'journalism' is not a facade.

Also, we always wonder why Indian people, more so journalists, and surprisingly even politicians, constantly accuse their opponents of 'doing politics' or 'politicising the issue'. After all, why are politicians there, if not to do politics and to politicise the issue whenever possible. Rajdeep must wonder what his reaction would be if his competing media people accused him of 'journalising the issue'!

The other related aspect is that of vote-bank politics. As we mentioned here, with a free entry to voting-rights, and with elected members having the power to enact legislation providing differential advantages to different sections, vote-bank politics is inevitable.

The accusations of 'politicising the issue' and/or of 'vote-bank politics' are usually a ploy to trick the opponent into the slippery slopes of moral high-ground.

Such techniques preclude whatever negligible remaining possibility exists for a dispassionate debate to decide issues, reducing them to a simple mud slinging contest.

There must be zero tolerance for those responsible for the Azad maidan violence. No community has the right to use a sense of 'victim-hood' to take the law into their hands. Nor should the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar protect any criminal by asserting federal powers. But to stereotype every Bihari as a consequence as an infiltrator is to do irreparable damage to the idea of Mumbai, and, indeed India.

The slogan of 'zero tolerance' has become a farce. Also, if Nitish is so concerned about the welfare of Biharis, he must focus on the atrocities that his own government and its machinery inflicts on Biharis. By siding with alleged anti-national person of Bihar, under the pretext of bureaucratic procedures, it is Nitish who is being deceptive.

But returning to Rajdeep: Will Rajdeep present what his idea of Mumbai and of India is? Does Rajdeep too, like the empty-suit Katju, believe that Mumbai is a city of immigrants, and India a nation of immigrants? Also, does he insist that people have no freedom to disagree with him on his ideas of Mumbai and India?
Mumbai, like many great cities across the world, was built by waves of migrations. What would Mumbai have been in the 19th century without Parsee and Gujarati entrepreneurship and in the 20th century without Sindhi and Punjabi business acumen? In the last 30 years, migrants from UP and Bihar have provided a large pool of labour, skilled and unskilled, to service Mumbai's commercial engine. How many Maharashtrians will readily work as security guards on double shifts, often without minimum wages? Economic needs often drive demographic shifts: assimilation, not aggression is the way to deal with it.

Whether Mumbai was built by immigrants or not is not relevant here. The question is what you find as desirable, and do others have a right to disagree with your desires or not.

We also hope that you are not advocating immigration so that Mumbai can afford security guards below minimum wages. If you turn your argument on its head, disallowing immigration will do a great justice regarding the wages of security guards!

The irony is that there is a political vacuum in Mumbai waiting to be captured by a far-sighted leadership. The ruling Congress-NCP alliance has proved to be dysfunctional: its local leadership has been exposed for its links with real estate sharks and for doing little to stop the criminalisation of Mumbai's political ethos. The Shiv Sena which won the city municipal elections in February is barely held together by a tiger in the winter of his life. Your cousin Udhav appears to lack the charisma or the political instincts of Balasaheb.

How about a bigger vacuum at the Center?

There is space today then for a political grouping that can promote cultural pride while respecting Mumbai's inherent cosmopolitanism. When you set up the MNS a few years ago, I thought you were aiming to break with the past: to represent a new, self-confident Maharashtrian identity that would co-exist with growing economic competition. Unfortunately, you have chosen to revive an ugly parochialism which is premised on insecurity and anger towards the "other".

Now Rajdeep is opening himself a bit and revealing some thing about himself. We would like to know, what he defines as a combination of 'cultural pride and inherent cosmopolitanism'? We ask this in the same humble spirit that he asks others.

I guess you believe that only competitive regional chauvinism with the Shiv Sena will get you votes and strengthen your claims to being the true successor to Balasaheb. But the politics of 'sons of the soil' is now subject to the law of diminishing returns. Identity politics may get you support from the committed, political machismo may draw applause from the youth, hate speech will attract controversy and eyeballs but if you wish to be a true leader of Mumbai, you must build a cross-class, cross-community appeal that goes beyond shrill and divisive rhetoric.

If the politics of 'son of the soil' is subject to the law of diminishing returns, what is Rajdeep's view on Bangladeshi immigration? Does he advocate an open borders policy?

Maybe you are a prisoner of your legacy: having consciously tried to model yourself on Balasaheb, it is perhaps too late to break away from the past. Maybe you don't wish to offer a real alternative. Maybe, Mumbai is destined to be caught in the cross-fire of the militant Senas. Which is a pity for a city in desperate need of urban renewal and, above all else, good governance.

Post-script: I have many Bihari friends today, including my driver, an honest God-fearing man from Darbhanga who is driven by a singular desire to ensure his children get the best possible education. He asked me the other day why Raj Thackeray disliked Biharis so much. As a proud Maharashtrian and Indian, frankly, I had no answer.

As a proud Maharashtrian, you should have surely asked the honest '(possibly) Allah-fearing, non-Muslim-hating man' that if he realized that Bihar was not good enough for his children and himself, why he wanted Maharashtra to become like Bihar, instead of wanting Bihar to become like Maharashtra? And yes, if Rajdeep's driver is not Allah-fearing, then Rajdeep must be accused of practising discrimination against Dalit and poor Muslims.

Analogously Rajdeep must also ask a similar question to Paki and Bangladeshi immigrants: If they are running away from the holy land of Islam, then why do they not run away from Islam itself? Why do they want India to go the Pak and Bangla way?

And we are sure, that Rajdeep has no courage to speak out legitimate answers to these questions as well.

- Rajdeep Sardesai

There is an urgent need to guard against Marxist eulogy of  multi-culturalism, pro-immigrationism and such hogwash. While Rajdeep advises Raj to make cross-class, cross-cultural bridges; it is Marxists like Rajdeep who destroy peace and harmony by emphasizing the 'victimhood' of the lower-classes and of the immigrants.

It is Marxism which has as its ethics 'eternal victim-hood' of the  proletariat, and its yearning for the revolutionary uprising to bring about a 'just' society, which has had the worst violent streak.

Rajdeep and media-morons of his ilk are the worst perpetrators of the Jawaharian meme of anti-Hinduism.

While Raj Marathi-Manoos Thackeray deserves to be severely chastised for his  Savarkarisn 'Secular-Marathitva'; Rajdeep's Marxist criticism holds no water.



  1. Thakre family belongs to the CKP Marathi caste. Chandraseni Kayastha Prabhu's are originally north indians. They migrated to west Maharashtra less than a millienium ago. So, should we Marathis kick Thakres out of aapli Mumbai?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Shivaji had called CKPs as brave helpers of Maratha empire.


Comments are not moderated. Please read the About Us page. If you have outright disagreement, then you may not have much use commenting. You are free to record your disagreements in a civil manner. Repeated abuse, and irrelevant postings will be removed. Please avoid advertisements.

This blog does not honor political correctness. If your comment is posted, this does not mean that this blog endorses your views.

While I allow anonymous comments, please quote your twitter account if you want to have a referenced discussion.

There is a Suggestions Page, please post your suggestions regarding this blog as comments on that page.