It remains to be seen whether the NDA would step in and protect the Constitutional guarantees enjoyed by every citizen and ensure that the movie is released on time.

Lessons from the West Modi must step in to protect Constitution from MNSs goons
Voices Opinion Saturday, October 22, 2016 - 14:53

Vivian Malone and James Meredith are two names which may not strike a chord of familiarity with the present generation Indians. For those like myself who grew up in the 1960s and later harboured an interest in Civil Rights, they were inspirational icons.

It may be difficult for the present lot to understand the racial segregation that was prevalent in the United States of America not that long ago. Even after the landmark Brown vs Board of Education ruling, several large universities still practiced almost complete segregation and were vehemently opposed to even entertain the prospect

of having an Afro-American within the university campuses. 

James Meredith demanded that he be allowed to join the University of Mississippi to complete his education. The Governor of the state Ross Barnett was a Democrat. Like most Southern Democrats at the time, he was a passionate segregationist and it was only after the then Attorney General, Robert Francis Kennedy, spoke to him that he agreed to admit Meredith to the University. 

Around the same time Vivian Malone, a young Afro-American decided to seek

admission to the University of Alabama. Like Governor Barnett of Mississippi, the Alabama Governor George Wallace was a segregationist too and he had to be spoken to again by Robert Kennedy before he relented. 

But that was only the beginning of the travails these two remarkable individuals had to endure. The student population at both these centres resolved not to let them derive any benefit from the institutions and both of them were subjected to intense humiliation and even physical assault. When Barnett and Wallace refused to take action against these unsavoury characters, the Kennedy government decided to send in 500 Federal Marshalls at each centre with instructions that these two students be allowed to attend the classes despite protests from both the governors. 

At the time, Kennedy stated that the Constitutional dictates was of paramount importance and the state could not be given the right to defy provisions enunciated within the Constitution. The Federal Marshalls did their jobs well and as a consequence both Meredith and Malone were able to take the exams and complete their education. Both these individuals entered the American folklore and ensured their place in the Civil Rights Valhalla.

This incident came back to me when I observed the manner in which the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is using not-so-veiled threats against a producer who has completed the production of his movie using perfectly legal means and utilizing the services of a Pakistani artist when it was not only permissible but in vogue to do so.

It would be in order to disclose my own position vis-a-vis Pakistan and its recent antics. I believe there are very few countries, if any, which are edificed on principles as flawed as that of Pakistan. I deeply loathe the actions of its amoral rulers. I also have strong personal reasons for deep antipathy towards the political class of that nation. No fewer than nine among my kin have lost their lives in the battles that are being orchestrated from there.

Having said that, I have visited the country several times and have no hesitation in admitting that the hospitality that I have received in Lahore, Multan and Karachi has not been matched by any that I received in the other 101 countries that I have been fortunate enough to visit. That does not detract in any way from the need to isolate the country for what it persists in inflicting on the Indian nation.

But the question we have to ask ourselves is whether inflicting punishment on a hapless producer who stuck to the letter of the law in making a movie without the benefit of clairvoyance to foresee what would happen when his product was completed, is the right course to take. I would be all for not utilizing the services of Pakistani artists until such time as we can be confident of their inclinations towards India. But I do not feel it would be fair to penalize those who have invested financial resources at this juncture.

The other question we do have to ask ourselves is whether an organization steeped in thuggery like the MNS is entitled to be seen as a flag-bearer of patriotism. It’s founder Raj Thackeray has never ever hesitated to flout all the essential Constitutional dictates throughout his entire inglorious political career by using goonish and completely illegal tactics against those he wishes to terrorize, like Muslims and Biharis. The fact that he has not been brought to book for these cheap and cowardly acts is the severest indictment of our system and its inability to enforce the Constitutional protections. I would submit that his saccharine sentimental patriotism and odious suburban gentility is as phony as it gets. To be fair, he is not the one who initiated this reign of terror in the metropolis. The credit or discredit for that should go to his uncle Bal. And the reason he was able to enforce his Ayatollah-like fatwas were the amoral stances of all the political formations that used him for their unholy ends. Violating the constitutional principles should make them forfeit their patriotic claims. And I might add that I was most upset when Modi invited this undesirable figure as a state guest on taking oath as the Chief Minister, for he knew perfectly well what Raj and Bal stood for.

I have stated this earlier and do so again. If the MNS is so patriotic, I would suggest it sends its grassroots workers to fight on the borders. That applies to all who spout love for their country. But if I were a betting man, I would say this was unlikely as the armed forces thrive on discipline while the politicians of the MNS thrive on indiscipline and chaos. Moreover, I have always believed that mobocrats are always cowards at heart.

It remains to be seen whether the NDA would step in and protect the Constitutional guarantees enjoyed by every citizen and ensure that the movie is released on time. Jack Kennedy took on his own entire party in the South to protect this principle. Would the NDA demonstrate the same courage and take on the errant party?


(The views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.)

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