The Sena's silence

Print edition : September 20, 1997

SHIV SENA chief Bal Thackeray is among the 49 persons facing the charge of conspiracy to demolish the Babri Masjid. When mediapersons contacted Thackeray, his only response was that he would have to consult his lawyer. He will be represented in court by Adhik Shirodkar, lawyer and Rajya Sabha member of the Shiv Sena. Sena mouthpiece Saamna was also uncharacteristically silent on the court order.

Thackeray has made his views on Ayodhya very clear on many occasions. For instance, addressing the Shiv Sena's first ever Rajyapramukh Parishad (conference of State chiefs) in Mumbai in November 1995, he said: "I am proud of our involvement in Ayodhya." Thackeray also expressed his views on militant Hinduism. He said: "I appreciate the new militancy in Hinduism. If the law is not there to protect us, then we have a constitutional right to take up arms." At the same conference, Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi echoed his leader's views: "We are proud of our involvement in the Babri Masjid episode."

That the Sena and the BJP are on the same wavelength on the Ayodhya issue was clear from what L.K. Advani told Frontline in May. Speaking about the Shiv Sena-BJP Government, he said, "Balasaheb is in complete agreement with the BJP on issues like the Ram temple in Ayodhya." At a press conference, when asked about the extent of the Sena's involvement in the demolition, Thackeray used words to the effect that if his Sainiks were there he was proud of it.

Of late, however, Thackeray has said different things on the issue of communalism. Addressing party cadre at the the golden jubilee celebrations of Independence at Shiv Sena Bhavan, the party's headquarters in Mumbai, he said: "Henceforth by burying all religious differences, we will not allow any communal riots or conflicts to take place anywhere in the country." He further said: "We should take oath not by placing our hands on the Gita because we are Hindus, the Koran because we are Muslims or the Bible because we are Christians, but by touching the Constitution of a sovereign nation." Ever since Union Home Minister Indrajit Gupta castigated the Maharashtra Government over the death of 11 Dalits in a police firing in Mumbai, Thackeray has been talking of "power with responsibility".

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