The Evil Father

‘If the British left, India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages.’
– Winston Churchill, December 1930

Last week, we came almost close to proving Churchill right. India have an ineluctable habit of frequently pressing the self-destruct button and then, almost miraculously cancelling it in the last minute, incredibly escaping to safety, only momentarily. So, in a way, nobody was surprised. It is only an interminable, agonising suspense when we’ll miss the escape button and plunge into the dark hole.

The man whom everybody equates with the The Godfather, Balasaheb Thackerey, brought Mumbai to a standstill. Responding to a flippant comment made by Shah Rukh Khan, the superstar of the Hindi film industry, Thackerey threatened to stall the release of his new film, My Name is Khan. Immediately, the cadres of Shiv Sena plunged into action. The theatres were worried about the safety of their property. The police forces were deployed to ‘protect’ the theatres. As if we didn’t have enough news, the media was full of the news about preparations and run up to the film release or the riots. Dozens of 24×7 news channels got excited about the possibility of filling in space with something sensational. Once again, the Indian society made a mockery of themselves and proved that their democracy is a sham.

Going into judging what Shah Rukh Khan commented would require a separate blog. Prima facie, he was not justified about seeking to allow Pakistani players to participate in IPL. We cannot be happily playing sports when the two governments are at loggerheads and our friendly neighbourhood nation is cheerfully sponsoring mass-murder in our cities. That said, Khan has a right to have an opinion, however misconstrued it might be. And it should be noted that the central government has not taken a clear policy stand in banning Pakistani players, which means Khan was not saying anything that was illegal. We can debate about his opinion, or perhaps even condemn his statements if we wanted to.

But all of these give no right to the Godfather of Mumbai to issue blatant threats to stall the screening of the film. That’s nothing but a criminal act. That someone could so brazenly issue criminal threats without even batting an eyelid and the state government would do absolutely nothing about it is a ghastly ridicule of us, the peoples of this wounded civilisation. More than the Godfather, more than his sons, nephews, and brainless, barbaric cronies, the rulers of the state and their puppet masters in the centre are to be condemned passionately and angrily. This government cannot claim to have a backbone anymore especially after sending Sharad Pawar to beg and plead with the Godfather to let the Australian players to participate in the tournament.

The fact that one man stood steadfastly to his words and did not prostrate to these hooligans is to be appreciated immensely. Shah Rukh Khan might have refused to apologise because of commercial reasons. That doing so might affect the business he gets from Pakistan and even Pakistanis in the UK. But then, Mumbai brings almost 30-40% revenues to his films and at one stage it looked like that MNIK will not get released in Mumbai. The pressures, financially and emotionally, must have been enormous and the fear might have been extremely real. Amitabh Bacchan had fallen for that pressure before along with countless others who had made the Godfather what he is today. The Godfather who is an arrogant, bloated, insensitive barbarian, the likes of whom Churchill feared would tear up India into pieces. Bal, Raj, and Uddhav Thackerys aided by Ashok Chavan are dragging India to the privations of middle ages. If we don’t clearly recognise these barbarians and ostracise them from our society, we would soon be joining the very small queue of our failed South Asian neighbours and successfully fulfilling Churchill’s dreadful prophecy.