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Over to Mr Fadnavis

MNS threatens Pakistani actors. Supine governments allow it to get away with its xenophobic politics.

By: |
September 27, 2016 12:02:38 am

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is back to its favourite pastime — issuing fatwas based on geographical indication. The boss of its cinema union has served eviction orders on Pakistani actors who flourish in Mumbai, and threatened producers who employ them with grievous bodily harm. As usual, the organisation which competes with its parent, the Shiv Sena, for the allegiance of the xenophobic vote bank, has focused on the softest target — individuals who are not backed by political parties or industry bodies. They may be celebrities, but being foreign nationals, they are easy to isolate and threaten. New films are soft targets too, since cinema owners will not risk showing them if vandalism is threatened. Instead of targeting cultural links, the MNS could have attacked the other element of Track II — commercial ties between India and Pakistan. But then, it would have had to go up against trade bodies and government policy.

The MNS is able to get away with xenophobic bullying because of the pusillanimity of the government. If the ministry of Devendra Fadnavis only called its bluff and offered security to the threatened artists, this lumpen nationalism would cease. This ugly brand of politics is flourishing at all levels because of the reluctance of government to do its fundamental duty, to protect people and keep the peace. The trend was set by the Central government, which signally failed to protect the artist M.F. Husain in the late Nineties, when he was being hounded out of India by the empire of hurt sentiments. His flight demonstrated that in this realm, anything was possible.

The MNS and the Shiv Sena have always chosen soft targets, scaling up from cabbies from Uttar Pradesh and kids from Bihar in Mumbai for a recruitment exam, to Ghulam Ali and the Pakistani cricket team. Less than half a decade ago, the most outrageous thing that MNS leader Raj Thackeray could do was to take a kitchen knife to his birthday cake, which had been baked in the shape of the word “Bihari”, and invite the media to witness the festivities. Now, his lieutenant in the cinema industry has got away with threatening Karan Johar and some popular Pakistani actors. That’s progress for you.

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