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Stop The Sena - A Comment in The Times of India

18 October 2010

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The Times of India, Oct 18, 2010

Two recent incidents have once again highlighted the bullying tactics of the Shiv Sena, to which established authorities appear to have no answer. First, the banning of Rohinton Mistry’s book, Such a Long Journey, from the English literature syllabus of Mumbai University; and secondly, the intimidation of producers of Bigg Boss, the TV reality show, for featuring Pakistani artistes. In the first instance Aditya Thackeray Balasaheb’s grandson and perhaps the future face of the Shiv Sena impressed upon the vice-chancellor of Mumbai University to ban Mistry’s classic. The book was banned within 24 hours through an emergency provision. Academic freedom is the cornerstone of a liberal, democratic society and cannot be held to ransom by vested political interests. But instead of upholding academic autonomy, or consulting faculty on the advisability of such a ban, the vice-chancellor of a prestigious university simply caved in.

Similarly, the Sena’s umbrage at Pakistani artistes getting a platform in India is completely unwarranted. Bollywood has a huge market in Pakistan, and nowadays there’s even official sanction for screening select Hindi movies at theatres. The entertainment industry is a positive link between the people of the two countries. Interrupting these links would give a handle to precisely those forces the Sena finds inimical. Besides, using muscle power and intimidation to make people fall in line with a particular ideology cannot be justified. Both the incidents represent an alarming trend of democratic values and constitutional propriety being subverted by mob rule. The Maharashtra government needs to step in and come to the aid of citizens forced to fall in line by political bullies.