Who does he speak for?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Those are famous lines from a poem by Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime in the 1930s.

And the lines are very chilling. I am always reminded of them whenever I come across xenophobia in modern times and I never fail to speak up (or, more correctly, write) for people who are targeted by bigots and narrow-minded parochial politicians of the day.

But I have always been heartened to note that, unlike Pastor Niemöller, there are many who speak up for today’s victims of xenophobia and against petty politicians who whip up such divisive sentiments.

In the context of Bal Thackeray and his numerous followers, the case for ‘outsiders’ was never more strengthened than when Sachin Tendulkar made a bland statement at the height of the Shiv Sena’s agitation against north Indians last year. “Bombay belongs to all,” he said adding for good measure that he was a proud Mumbaikar for the very reason of the city’s inclusive nature.

Nothing could have been more devastating for Bal Thackeray than for a fellow Maharashtrian, not just a national icon but an international celebrity as Tendulkar, to speak up for the Sena’s targets and therefore point out to the world that the Sena/Thackeray’s view was not that of other people belonging to the state and that Thackeray, perhaps, stood in a minority of just one or two.

The Sena, of course, was not one to take that lying down – so he lambasted Sachin through the columns of his party mouthpiece, Saamna, asking him to keep himself to just playing cricket and stay off the political turf for that was something he knew nothing about and would be better off leaving it to, well, his betters.

The kind of instant scorching reaction that Thackeray got from fellow Maharashtrians for targeting a greater icon than he could ever be to any of them, took him aback and he had to wisely abandon the move to prove Sachin wrong.

But soon thereafter, there was another Maharashtrian (and national) icon who spoke up for non-Maharashtrians – noted singer Asha Bhosale and this time in context of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray’s targeting of North Indians living in Maharashra.

Her words were virtually the same as Tendulkar’s and left Raj, the Sena tiger’s nephew, fuming and looking rather foolish and red-faced and, like his uncle before him, isolated from the rest of his community.

He is also now mad at nightingale Lata Mangeshkar for choosing Bal Thackeray above him. Lata had sung at a fund raiser for Raj’s Shiv Udyog Sena, a sort of private employment agency, during which he raised crores that have since gone unaccounted. But that was when the Shiv Sena was a united force and the Thackerays, all, belonged to one family.

After Raj’s split with his uncle, Lata chose to sing for Balasaheb at another Shiv Sena do a couple of years ago and that cut Raj Thackeray to the quick. He saw that as taking/switching sides.

So when Sachin Tendulkar moved into his new bungalow and it was discovered that his papers were not quite in order, Raj chose to root for Sachin demanding why the municipal corporation – incidentally controlled by the Shiv Sena and, by association, his cousin Uddhav Thackeray — had chosen to slap a fine on the national icon rather than writing off his dues for the very fact that he was such an icon.

Of course, he hoped to gain Sachin’s sympathy and support but the wise man that he is, the cricketing legend did not rise to the bait and as far as he might be concerned he has said what he had to say and there is really little to choose between the Thackerays and the Thackerays.

But with civic elections round the corner, Raj has chosen to make life as difficult as possible for his cousin Uddhav. And seeing that the Mangeshkar sisters (Lata and Asha) are no longer with him after he went xenophobic and began to smash up North Indians and other outsiders making a living in the city, they are now on his firing line.

It is a well-known fact that the sisters had approached Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2000 when the state government first mooted a second flyover for Peddar road and appealed to him to scrap the project — for fear that the dust raised by the bridge would get into their homes and, therefore, their throats and threaten their golden voices.

With such iconic personalities as the Mangeshkar sisters opposing the flyover, Deshmukh did not dare go ahead with the project though the government found it difficult to junk it either, since this arterial bridge is a crucial need for the city. Recognising that fact themselves over the last decade, the Mangeshkar sisters have bought new apartments elsewhere to escape the dust and grit from getting into their present homes should the flyover project be revived at any time. They also ceased to be actively part of the residents’ movement to oppose the flyover, realising that they were, perhaps, being used by other apartment owners on Peddar Road for their own ends – and that a project that could benefit millions, could not be discarded just for the convenience of a handful few.

However, after Prithviraj Chavan took over as chief minister, the government began to have other ideas, most significant of them being to develop a coastal road from point to point where the flyover was supposed to begin and end. The extension of the current Bandra-Worli sea link is also believed to be one which will further ease traffic to the main business district of Bombay.

So with the government having finally made up its mind to junk the Peddar Road flyover for reasons other than the Mangeshkar sisters’ convenience, it is now Raj Thackeray’s turn to thunder at not just the government and his uncle and cousin but also at Lata and Asha.

I do not think the MNS has any presence in South Bombay and not too many of them might need to traverse Peddar Road on their day to day business. But Raj is now certain that it is the Mangeshkar sisters who have tood in the way of the flyover and has threatened action if the government junks the project in their favour.

When the Shiv Sena came to the sisters’ defense, he taunted them with the taxes slapped on Sachin Tendulkar: if you really cared about Maharashtrians, or aapla manoos (our people) as it were, why did you not save him from the embarrassment of those taxes, he queried.

He was clearly dividing the turf: keep the Mangeshkars, for all I care, he seemed to be saying, Sachin Tendulkar is all mine.

But there has been no response from either the singing sisters or India’s greatest batsman. For they are what they are and they belong not just to Bombay or Maharashtra but to the entire country and perhaps even the world.

Meanwhile, Raj’s political gambit might just have fallen short of the results he might have wished to achieve. Very recently, as I was talking to a shopkeeper who stood to be displaced by the new bridge if t it were ever to come up, he said, “Tell me how to get a gun for myself. And I will shoot Raj Thackeray the moment he steps into my ilaaka (turf). Who is he to decide for us and destroy our lives?”

The shopkeeper, too, is aapla manoos. As ‘aapla’ as Raj Thackeray would wish. But like the good pastor from the Nazi era he might soon be standing alone. In quite the opposite context – for speaking too much for people who don’t care for his divisive ways.

He should now just speak for himself.

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  • Karan

    Sujata, you obviously don’t know that the MNS got over 1.5 lakh votes in Mumbai South.

    “I do not think the MNS has any presence in South Bombay”

    It’s shameful that HT has resorted to publishing pieces by useless simpletons like you who couldn’t even spell politics


  • Anil Chopra

    Having been part of the fashion week’s journey over 12
    years, my comments; Lakmé India Fashion Week (LIFW) started in year 2000, prior
    to which there were no fashion weeks. LIFW met with a huge response from
    designers, buyers, media, sponsors and end customers of fashion products. LIFW
    for 6 years was held once a year rotating between Delhi & Mumbai. By 2005
    it gave an opportunity for 35 shows with 50-70 designers showcasing. Most
    designers were established names showing year after year, with little
    opportunity for new & young designers. Talent consisted of 32 models, 3 choreographers
    and 3 makeup artists along with 100+ buyers & select media attending. The
    event became a rich source of sponsorship revenue for FDCI. With interest in
    fashion rapidly spreading across the country, the event did not provide
    adequate opportunities for designers who wished to participate, particularly
    the younger and emerging ones.

    Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) was launched in 2006 at Mumbai.
    Certain vested interests at FDCI saw this as a threat to its monopoly and
    employed many unfair means to stop LFW from succeeding. LFW and FDCI moved into
    two fashion weeks a year in keeping with seasonal requirements. Hence, from one
    LIFW a year it became four, two LFWs in Mumbai and two Wills – FDCI in Delhi.
    There was huge uproar created by ‘interested parties’ stating there was no room
    in India for four fashion weeks. This was proved to the contrary by the response
    to all four being immensely successful. Inspite of this, efforts continued to
    scuttle LFW, till the MRTPC verdict against FDCI and several senior designers
    supporting initiatives of nurturing young and new talent at LFW. The success of
    Gen Next shows at LFW has become a rich source of young talent which over the
    last six years has produced many an outstanding designer who compete
    effectively with the old stalwarts from the LIFW days.

    Between these four events it now generates opportunities
    for 200+ designers to showcase along with 100+ models, 8-10 choreographers and makeup
    artists, stylists and host of support talent such as set designers, lights/sound
    & music experts. The attendance from buyers across the country including
    small towns has multiplied with each event getting 200+ registrations. Media
    interest has been enormous, with 350 registrations for each week. This has
    attracted several sponsors too. From a ‘boutique’ event 10 years ago with
    limited potential, the LFW & Wills events have become an industry
    generating business and employment for many. This can be sustained, like in any
    other industry, when there is sufficient demand from end customers of fashion products
    across India.

    On the issue of new fashion opportunities or weeks, in a
    free and open market the end customer will decide whether it is a success or
    not. Already some have succeeded while many failed. The market place & end customer should be the one taking this
    call and no one else. Those using unfair means to stop a new initiative should
    look back into history! Anil Chopra


  • Mullah

    Bad Breaking News for the Muzzies: Please forget your magical concept of heaven, hell and 72 virgins. Near-death experiences occur when the soul leaves the nervous system and enters the universe, claim two quantum physics experts. Please Google for ‘Quantum Physics dailymail’ and click on the first search result. This has opened the doors for reincarnation. Also, check out hinduismworldwide(dot)in for Western Science’s validation of Vedanta. All the best Muzzies.


    Human Reply:

    Hope.. your vedanta also has scientific validation of how people born from Brahmma’s various body parts and only suthra born from penni. :)


  • Spot on

    Mia, this news article of yours is for consumption of Pak citizens, please migrate their as your ideology and mindset more suitable for living and working there.

    Lately you have become intolerant of India. Now you have started writing about neighboring country that’s good as we Indian are spared of usually being anti muslim.


    Azhar Hussain Reply:

    little praise or positive news about Pakistan you people start barking at the writer. Relax we should arrange trips for more you to have your open eyes and minds. Cheers


    shimr choudhary Reply:

    hindus are bunch of idiots their minds are closed.victims of brhmnst/zoinist propaganda machinary.least knowledged english speaking gang of idiots.live on propaganda,pass their life on hoarding and stealing.


    Faulitics Reply:

    Here comes another arabized idiot. There are just too many of these types for comfort.

    Faulitics Reply:

    What’s positive about a bunch of fanatics preventing girls from going to school and blowing up girls schools? Do you want such people where you live? Your brain seemed to be wired differently. Strange one.


  • fairworldwide

    Malala Yusufzai deserves sympathy for her suffering like other girls who suffer just like her or even more in FATA. Behind all this hype, she is a propped up leader created by a power hungry father out of an ordinary girl whose sole merit is her looks. The statement “Malala Yusufzai symbolizes Pakistan” is a metaphor. She symbolizes the lies, deception, hypocrisy, and duplicity of Pakistan. Her father possesses the Pakistani skill to dupe the world and reap benefits for his daughter through parroted instructions, while secluding his wife, like any fanatic Muslim. Pakistani government manipulates this incident to cover up all their evil activities and bask on reflected sympathy. They succeeded in making the world forget that they are protecting the terrorists as a state policy. Propping up a leader out of an ordinary girl lacking much virtues; by money and influence is a deplorable precedence. There are plenty of children all over the world with more virtues than Malala Yusufsai. The hype attributed to her is an injustice to many deserving children manifesting more kindness, compassion and selfless motivation. Please look at the video clip youtube.com/watch?v=9F5yeW6XFZk and reason out whether this girl have virtues, to justify the accolades being bestowed up on her.


    aswathy Reply:

    Her cruelty to her so called pet reveals her mean mentality. Her father demanding fees from parents when the whole place is war ravaged shows his merciless nature. good video. dont know why people praise them. she is a mean girl to demand ice cream in such times.


    Iac Thiruvananthapuram Reply:

    The way she shouted “valley valley swat valley” is as mechanical and insincere as Chaprasi Singh or Sonia reading a speech. That courageous girl who tried screening Malala with her bare hand and severely damaged her hand deserves a thousand times more appreciation than this propped up leader.


    Faulitics Reply:

    Dude, Taliban are real and they are fanatical murderers. It needs courage to openly say things against them. This girl has a lot of courage. I would go as far as saying that this Pakistani girl has more balls than all the Pakistani males put together.


  • REX

    for 6 years sared hindu zoinists were planting the bombs and muslims were blamed and cursed.at the end they are cught and and imprisoned.SAME WAY ATTACKERS OF MALAL ARE ZOINISTS NOT TALIBANIS.TRUTH WIL COME OUT SOON


  • vijay !

    I have only heard of malala from newsreports.

    She could be a symbol of hope of the hapless tortured woman of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The voice agaisnt the hopeless Sharia and the geder unequal Muslim personal law.

    I hope she comes out of the injury and takes on the mad fanatic Mullahas who want to convert the world and repress women into medieval ages.


  • Plumbline

    Jesus Loves the World………