Earlier this week, a video of a Shiv Sena leader promising to organise an Azaan recitation competition for Muslim children went viral on the internet. The proclamation drew severe flak from netizens on social media websites and invited criticism from the opposition parties like the BJP.
Several social media users criticised Shiv Sena for its brazen pandering to the minorities. The BJP, on the other hand, accused Shiv Sena of bartering Hindutva for minority votes. One of the BJP leaders slammed Shiv Sena for its decision to organise an azaan recitation competition and alleged that the only thing left for Shiv Sena now is to carry a “green flag” on its shoulders.
Unnerved by the criticism his announcement garnered, Shiv Sena leader Pandurang Sakpal, who had claimed that Shiv Sena would organise an azaan recitation competition on the lines of Bhagavad Gita recitation and even reward the winners, made an about-turn, stating he has no plans on conducting such an event.
However, it appears that the party is bent on tying itself in knots as it tries to defend the indefensible. Earlier today, an editorial was published in party mouthpiece Saamana, lambasting the critics for Sena’s contentious announcement of organising an azaan recitation competition.
In its bid to criticise the detractors accusing the party of courting minorities, Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Raut, who is also the editor of Saamana, proffered a bizarre and ambiguous analogy in the editorial that lends itself to multiple interpretation.
“Dragging Shiv Sena through the mud on the issue of azaan recitation competition is akin to calling protesting farmers in Delhi Pakistani terrorists,” the editorial published in Saamana said. This ambivalent parallel drawn by Sanjay Raut in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece can mean a host of things. Here are the four things that Raut could have meant with this absurd comparison.
Did Sanjay Raut mean Farmers are Pakistani terrorists?
The most basic interpretation of the aforementioned analogy in Saamana could mean that Shiv Sena agrees that the protests carried out in Delhi are done by Pakistani terrorists. This assertion may not be far-fetched as the protests convulsing the national capital region and the Punjab-Haryana border has seen participation from pro-Khalistani elements.
At the very least, it would seem like political parties, Khalistani elements etc have come together to mislead farmers, spread misinformation, and ensure that the country burns.
Deep Sidhu, a Punjabi actor, became the face of the protests after his video threatening a security official manning a barricade went viral on the internet. Subsequently, Sidhu was offered a platform by Barkha Dutt and Shekhar Gupta to come clean on the allegations of him being a Khalistani supporter. However, Sidhu dug his heels in, hailing Khalistani terrorist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as a revolutionary fighter who fought for a strong federal structure and refusing to condemn him as a terrorist.
It is an established fact that Khalistanis, in their heydays during the 1980s, were morally and financially supported by Pakistan. The ulterior motive of Pakistanis then was to dismember India as a retributory action for the secession of Bangladesh back in 1971 by aiding the Khalistanis. In this context, Pakistan had waged a proxy war on India with the help of Khalistanis. The Khalistan supporters and sympathisers can therefore be effectively compared to Pakistani terrorists, who are trying to revive militancy and stoke unrest in India.
Did Shiv Sena imply Khalistanis are not terrorists?
If Sanjay Raut did not mean that the protesters thronging the national capital are terrorists, then the corollary that naturally follows it would imply that for Shiv Sena and Sanjay Raut, Khalistanis are not terrorists, since the protests were decidedly hijacked by Khalistani proponents.
The protests and blockades carried out by the so-called protesters saw posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale being raised at various places. On other instances, protesters could not hide their Khalistani impulses. The demonstrators gloated on former PM Indira Gandhi’s assassination and threatened PM Modi with a similar fate. Pro-Khalistan slogans were also raised by the protesters who were apparently demonstrating against the three new agriculture laws.
Since Shiv Sena has a history of trading their ideology for petty political gains, it remains to be seen what is Sanjay Raut’s stand on Khalistanis who had taken over the farmers’ protests. Would Shiv Sena condemn the protests or will it, like its alliance partners—NCP and Congress—continue to turn a blind to the Khalistani presence in the ongoing protests?
Shiv Sena is being humanitarian in respecting azaan and hence, Shiv Sainiks were brutish thugs earlier?
Another interpretation that the ambivalent analogy lends itself to is that Shiv Sena is being humanitarian in respecting azaan and minority sentiments. However, admitting to this would effectively mean that Shiv Sainiks in the past were cruel ruffians who allegedly targeted and harassed the state’s Muslim populace.
Ironically, Sanjay Raut which claims Sena of being a ‘secular’ party, had in the past asked for disenfranchisement of Muslims. In an editorial published in Saamana in 2015, Raut had called for barring of Muslims from voting, stating that the masks of the secularists will come off if Muslims are disenfranchised. For a long time now, Shiv Sena had preened itself on being a party whose members played an instrumental role in levelling the controversial Babri structure in Ayodhya. Shiv Sena leaders have also been convicted of orchestrating the riots in 1992 in which several Muslims were killed.
The party’s past antecedents do not jibe with this interpretation of Shiv Sena being an inclusive and pluralistic party in organising the azaan recitation competition. Nonetheless, if Shiv Sena still persists with this outlook, it would mean denouncing its past and therefore implicitly admitting that it was a party of radical fundamentalists earlier.
Anyone who does not agree with Shiv Sena is a terrorist and must be treated so
The last interpretation that emerges from Raut’s absurd comparison is that whoever does not agree with Shiv Sena is a terrorist and must be treated as one. This appears to be the most likely case when Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that criticising Shiv Sena for keeping Azaan recitation competition is tantamount to calling protesters in Delhi terrorists.
This stance was evident in its full glory when the Uddhav Thackeray government relentlessly pursued Republic TV, just because it asked uncomfortable questions of the Uddhav Thackeray government.
Ever since Arnab Goswami criticised the state government on its handling of Palghar lynching of Hindu sadhus, the Maharashtra government, of which Shiv Sena is a part, carried out a relentless witch hunt against the journalist and his channel Republic TV. Multiple FIRs were lodged against him. Republic TV employees were routinely harassed. A Republic TV crew was unlawfully jailed when they were pursuing an investigative story in Navi Mumbai.
Mumbai Police commissioner called out a press conference to allege that Republic TV had indulged in manipulating TRPS. Later, it was found that the complaint had mentioned India Today and not Republic TV. The culmination of this witch hunt resulted in the arrest of Arnab Goswami, who was arrested by a phalanx of armed police officials and lodged in the Taloja jail. Mr Goswami had claimed that he was treated like a terrorist and not allowed to meet his lawyers.
Similarly, actor Kangana Ranaut was also attacked by Shiv Sena after she likened Mumbai to Pakistan occupied Kashmir after Azaadi graffiti had defiled the streets of the city. In response to her remarks, BMC demolished her office. The Bombay High Court recently slammed that BMC, stating that the demolition was carried out with malafide intent and directed the corporation to compensate the actor for her loss.
We really have no idea what Sanjay Raut really meant, but that is ok. We are used to it. Aren’t you yet?