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Arch-communalist Thakeray's new game:
Well-planned attack on the Khans of Bollywood

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s unprovoked and sudden attack on the Khans of the film industry, presumably Shah Rukh, Salman and Amir and newer mortals like Fardeen, is actually a part of an overall and planned agenda of playing the anti-Muslim card more aggressively. 

According to a large number of senior Sena insiders, Bal Thakray, who had taken a backseat in the recent past, called son Udhav and senior Sena functionaries a week before the Sena’s 34th anniversary and told them to ‘stop sleeping and wake up and do something.’

However, when Azharuddin said that he was being targeted because he was a Muslim, it provoked Thakray no end. A senior Sena shakha pramukh, who enjoys the confidence of Thakray, said: ‘In April, three Sena leaders were killed by Muslims. The Muslim underworld is making retaliatory attacks on our cadre. We have to react in order to instill confidence in Shiv Sainiks.’

The attack on the Khans of Bollywood is not a knee-jerk reaction. Those who know the Mumbai film industry will state that Bollywood was perhaps the only fragment in the psyche of Mumbai that was untouched by communalism.

Calling the Khans Muslim and ‘puppets of the underworld’ may have shocked Bollywood but has done its bit to mobilize the flagging morale of local Shiv Sainiks who saw three of their leaders killed in April.

Secondly, with elections in Uttar Pradesh next year and possible snap polls in Maharashtra not ruled out in the future, the Muslim card has been played with a vengeance. Mr Nikhil Wagle, a close Sena watcher and editor of the Mahanagar, said: ‘It’s a measure of acute desperation. It’s a sign that the Sena needs to go back to what it does best: whip up passions.’

The Sena’s attack on Bollywood’s Khans could also have been sparked off by the alleged activities of the ISI in Aurangabad and the alleged call by the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIM) for an all-out jihad against Hindus. SIM has denied these allegations.

However, the film industry, though taken aback, has not reacted very strongly. President of the All-India Motion and TV Producers’ Association Pahlaj Nihalani has said that ‘he was glad that the film industry has never been touched by the communal virus.’

With Mr Thakray’s comments, a divide has sought to have been created. Already there is a vigorous media campaign to promote two non-Khans superstars – Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan.

The Sena’s other card, ‘Maharashtra for Maharash- trians,’ has not worked this time around. There was no response to their move to prevent Gujarati teachers from teaching Marathi. Nor was there any show of support when the Sena demanded that all signposts be changed to Marathi.
Vaibhav Ourandhara, the author of The Sena Story, says that ‘The Sena has not managed to change with the times. There are less Maharashtrians around than before. The Marathi manus card will not work.’

Only Sena ideologues like Gajanan Kirtikar feel that the regional card has its use: ‘Ours is a linguistic organization which was set up to fight for any kind of injustice against the Marathi manus and for their upliftment.’ 

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