Shiv Sena accuses Jains of double standards, they perfected the art early on

Meat ban Shiv Sainiks recognize double standards when they see it
Voices Friday, September 11, 2015 - 20:08

Don’t jump for joy just yet. The Shiv Sena has not become a defender of civil freedoms even though it has called out the Jain community for “double standards” in demanding a ban on meat during the Paryushan festival.

In an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna on Thursday, the Sena said that it was not right for one group of people to infringe on the rights of others so that their own sentiments are ‘not hurt’.

It also went on to broaden the definition of violence and said: “Non-violence cannot be expressed only through food, but has to be practiced through deeds. While many traders and industrialists are Jains, are their employees happy? Will they declare that they will not take black money during this season?”

In a statement that exposes the double standards even in society’s understanding of violence, the Sena said: “There is drought in the state and people are going hungry. However, Jains in Mumbai and its neighborhood have created a controversy over vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism. Demanding a ban on meat in such times is inhuman and a form of violence.”

“Most of the builder lobby in Mumbai is Jain. Moot of their dealings are black and white. Will they stop black money deals during Paryushan? Jains should stop this useless issue immediately. It's good for them.”

It also hinted at why such a ban was possible. The Sena editorial also rightly said: “The Jain community is indulging in uncalled for activities as it has wealth.”

This statement is true of any community which has been powerful even though it may not be a large one. But other parts of the editorial, as reported by the media show that the Sena hasn’t changed its stance of threatening violence against those who disagree with its views.

Falling back on its anti-Muslim rhetoric and general tactic of threatening others into submission, the editorial said: “Muslims at least have Pakistan for them. But if this fanaticism of Jains keeps on increasing, what land do you have to go to? If you mess with the sons of the soil, you will have to eat dirt. It will not take much time to burn down your financial empire.”

Read: The “meat ban”, political parties, and the real minority appeasement

This is, however, a threat that the Sena is not likely to implement, given that a section of the Jain community in Mumbai ensures that it supports every political party, come election time. The role of money in India’s elections and politics ensures that no party can win an election on pure political programme alone, even though they release manifestos detailing their political agenda. Once in power, every government acts in ways that ensures it stays in power, and gives in to demands that it thinks will guarantee them votes in the next election.

The Bombay riots

The Sena’s diktat to the Jain community to withdraw its ban comes with a reminder. The editorial tells the Jain and Gujarati communities that they could talk of non-violence all they liked, but it was the Sena that “protected” them when the Mumbai riots broke out.

“Our Gujarati-Jain brothers were safe because Marathis countered the violence of religious fundamentalists with violence. And the Jains would be praising the violence which saved them,” the editorial said.

However, the Sena has always projected the violence it carries out in the language of “self-defence”, and this has to be understood in the backdrop of the Sena’s history vis a viz the larger socio-political scenario of the decade before the riots.

Violence has been very much a tactic that the Sena has used since it was founded. In the 1980s, Bal Thackeray used an extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric that even the BJP was uncomfortable with, says Sujata Anandan, Balasaheb’s biographer and Political Editor of Hindustan Times. The BJP began to use the same rhetoric much later, when LK Advani launched his Rath Yatra and Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the late 1980s.

Read: If Bal Thackeray was alive, would Shiv Sena's fortunes be different?

The repercussions of the Ram Janmabhoomi event, which eventually culminated in the demolition of the Babri masjid, were immediately felt in Mumbai, which witnessed terrible violence and in which rampaging mobs killed many people.

But independent documentation of the violence has shown the involvement of Sena in carrying our targeted attacks against Muslims. In her book Hindu Hriday Samrat: How the Shiv Sena changed Mumbai forever, Anandan recounts Marathi journalist Yuvaraj Mohite’s visit to Matoshree when the violence had just begun.

The Gujarati-Jain remark, is also a throwback to one of the Sena’s original targets. This grouse – that “outsiders” are taking away opportunities and jobs that should “rightfully” have been open to Marathis, the “rightful” settlers of Maharashtra – is once again in the limelight.

The historical dominance of these two communities in Mumbai’s economic landscape as opposed to the lesser influence of Marathis, was used by Bal Thackeray to build his support base.

Shiv Sena’s core has always been Hindutva and the idea of the Marathi Manoos. But after the death of Bal Thackeray, the claimants to his legacy are struggling to chart a course for the party, and a tenuous relationship with the BJP appears to be a manifestation of that.

The Sena’s tongue-lashing directed at the Jain community over the meat ban may just be a shrewd political move made at the right moment – both the Sena and the BJP share the Hindutva space in Maharashtra, but the Sena’s core constituency are non-vegetarian Marathis.