Off with his head, the sequel

News item:

The Shiv Sena on Thursday attacked MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi for his refusal to say `Bharat Mata Ki Jai` and said he should be “legally beheaded”.

Taking umbrage at Owaisi`s utterances in Latur last week that he would not say `Bharat Mata Ki Jai` even if he was threatened with a knife, the Sena said, “Why should anybody do this? He should be legally beheaded.”

How do you even put “legally” and “beheaded” in the same sentence? And what can you even say about this game of patriotic oneupmanship, where a BJP MP offers a one crore reward for someone’s tongue and the Shiv Sena ups the ante and demands the whole head?

There is this much to be said, though — the Shiv Sena understands that patriotism is its own reward — notice that no reward is being offered?


On hate speech

On Scroll, lawyer and research associate Siddharth Narayan examines the laws and remedies applicable in the case of hate speech, with reference to HRD minister of state Ram Shankar Katheria and beyond:

Sections 295A and 153A constitute serious offences – cognisable and non-bailable, carrying a maximum punishment of up to three years. If the speech in question is made at a time when the Election Commission has announced the election dates and official campaigning has begun, then a conviction under section 153A can be used to disqualify a candidate for indulging in a corrupt practice under sections 123(3) A of Representation of Peoples Act. In addition, “promoting enmity between classes” in connection with an election is an electoral offence under section 125 of the same Act.

Despite these protections in law, politicians continue to spout hate speech, while the same laws – 153A and 295A in particular – are often used to harass and intimidate artists, dissenters and academics. The irony is hard to miss. The most striking example is that after all the explicit hate speech made by Shiv Sena leaders in its mouthpiece Saamna, especially in and around the period of the 1992-’93 communal riots in Mumbai, there have only been two convictions by trial courts, and that too, of party members near the bottom of the hierarchy.


It’s official: the Shiv Sena has lost it

Not so long ago, Shiv Sena activists egged on by their supreme leader and the party mouthpiece were urging Shah Rukh Khan to go to Pakistan, after the actor supported the participation of Pakistani players in the IPL.

It is a different matter that the odor of opportunism pervaded the whole affair. Shah Rukh, whose franchise had along with the others refrained from picking up any Pakistani players in the latest round of auctions, got considerable face time on national television thanks to his pronouncement, and managed on each occasion to bring up his about to be released film. And the Sena — which operates on the belief that even bad publicity is better than oblivion — managed to grab a few headlines, before the issue got defused.

In a measure of how irrelevant the Sena increasingly believes itself to be, it has now latched on to another promising bandwagon for a few more headlines. And this time the comments emanating from the party are mind-bogglingly WTF:

Sena objects to Sania’s marriage, says in its mouth piece, Saamna that she should marry an Indian in order to retain nationality & represent India.

“After marriage she will be going to her in-laws, how will she then play for India? It’s being irreverent to this country and its laws” said Sena.

“After marriage Sania will become a Pakistani citizen. How can she have Pakistani citizenship and play for India? Has this country become a tennis ball to Sania that she plays with it however she pleases?,” said Sena.

Sena further said that in any case chief of Pakistan Tennis Federation Dilawar Abbas has welcomed you (Sania). He has already expressed his desire to see you play for Pakistan, but if you are so keen to play for India, you ought to have chosen an Indian instead of a Pakistani as your life partner.

“Morally she (Sania) has no right to get into this wedlock in the cost or expense of another individual. On one hand, Sania Mirza stands for ‘Save the Girl Child’ campaign and on the another hand she is showing absolutely no respect, no care , no attitude for another girl, women or lady of this country” said Shiv Sena legal head Rahul Narvekar.

“Is Sania Mirza’s achievement in isolation of the nation? If nation has supported her , it is her duty to have sentiments, values and emotions for the people of this country” added Narvekar.

On Twitter, many have mocked the party for its double-speak, pointing out that it cannot in one breath continue to claim that Sonia Gandhi, despite marrying an Indian and accepting Indian citizenship, is an Italian, while also claiming that Sania loses her right to represent India just because she has married a Pakistani.

Logical argument, that — but when, in recent times, has logic permeated anything the Sena has said, and done?

Meet the new home minister

Cricinfo reports on a meeting at Matoshree:

Pawar, also president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, was accompanied by current Indian board president Shashank Manohar to Mumbai to meet with Thackeray and his son Uddhav, and the four sat behind closed doors for an estimated two hours. “We presented our viewpoint before Thackeray on this critical issue,” Manohar told reporters. “We tried to convince him that only one or two Australian players will participate in the IPL matches and by not allowing all IPL matches it is the state players [Marathi players] who will lose ultimately.

“We also explained to them the format of the IPL teams and matches and how there were one or two Australian players in each team. Thackeray has asked for a detailed presentation on the issue which we will be providing in couple of days and thereafter he would consider our request.”

How ironic is this? Shashank Manohar hasn’t had to make a similar presentation to the Federal Home Minister to ensure security for his event — but he feels the need to treat an unconstitutional authority — to wit, the head of a regional party whose influence has demonstrably eroded even in its own area of operation — with such deference? And worse, he is accompanied on this mission by a Federal minister, no less, and a colleague of Mr P Chidambaram.

If Pawar, a member of the Federal Cabinet, prefers to deal with those who hold the state to ransom through the threat of violence rather than depend on his own Cabinet colleague and on the home ministry to ensure security within the country, why then should we ordinary citizens trust our security to the government? Maybe all those who are of non-Marathi origin living in Mumbai need to make our own ‘detailed presentation’ to Thackeray, and ask for his protection?

Seriously, just what is it going to take before someone calls the Sena’s bluff?

Save the tiger

So I had read that the tiger is seriously endangered, and that there is a major effort on to save it — what I didn’t realize till these last 24 hours is that it refers to the Shiv Sena and its chief.

The Sena was, till a week ago, down and almost out. Raj Thackeray and the MNS had hijacked the ‘marathi manoos‘ plank; another election had come and gone, and the Sena’s support base had continued to erode. It had attempted to garner some headlines by attacking Sachin Tendulkar, and the ploy had boomeranged badly. Oblivion beckoned.

And now, almost overnight, the Sena is the cynosure — with the Congress, the BJP and the RSS all pitching in to help the transformation.

In recent days, the Sena chief told Mukesh Ambani to shut the eff up when the Reliance Industries boss made a public comment that Mumbai is for all Indians — the identical comment Tendulkar had made some time back.

Then came the Shah Rukh episode. The actor said he was saddened by the fact that Pakistan players wouldn’t be featured in this year’s edition of the IPL. The Sena and its chief, in trademark crass, over the top style, suggested he take the next flight out to Pakistan and make 26/11 perpetrator Kasab the captain of his team, among other edifying remarks. It also called for a ban on Shah Rukh films [nice — you can’t pay for publicity of that kind when you have a My Name is Khan in the chute, waiting for the starter’s bell].

Where, when and how did the North Indians come into all this?

Damned if I know — but the RSS suddenly jumped into the fray, vowing to protect North Indians [the talking heads keep banging on about Biharis and other North Indians — that the next state election is in Bihar is of course purely coincidental]; the BJP vowed to do likewise before it didn’t [there seems to be some cross talk between Nitin Gadkari and Gopinath Munde on this], and now Rahul Gandhi has stuck his oar in as well.

The Sena must be laughing fit to bust — it has just been handed, gift-wrapped, the ownership of the anti-north platform Raj T had made his own through much of last year.

Does something smell very strongly of fish?

Move over Ekta Kapoor

A well-informed source tells me that over at the Balaji Telefilms headquarters, they are beginning to worry. Ekta Kapoor is understood to have called her producers and told them in no uncertain terms that they have to immediately come up with ideas to combat the emerging threat to their soap opera dominance from the IPL and the sundry noise-makers associated with it.

You can see her point — with all the drama around in the real world, who needs TV?

A day after welcoming the news that KKR has approached Abdur Razzaq with a view to securing his participation in IPL-3, reading those tea-leaves and finding among the dregs signs that there is a thaw in Indo-Pak relations, and suggesting that maybe the climate is now right for bilateral talks, Pakistan did an abrupt volte face and decided to cancel the NOCs to Pakistan players to take part in the IPL.

Let’s see, now — the PCB seems to be saying that India has no business insulting Pakistan players; any insulting that is required will be done by the PCB itself, thank you very much. [And that is not surprising either — after all, it was the PCB that pointed a match-fixing finger at its own team captain not so long ago].

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena and its gracelessly aging leader decided to take up cudgels against a sea of troubles. That is to say, against Shah Rukh Khan, with the party’s Thane unit led by its MLA Eknath Shinde ordering a ban on all SRK films until further notice. You can’t blame Shinde, really — the Sena is a monkey-see, monkey-do party, and its loyal ‘leaders’ know nothing better than to blindly jump in whatever direction Mr B Thackeray points his finger.

Khan’s fault, apparently, is that he spoke up for Pakistan players. If the Sena means to say that anyone expressing a personal preference for seeing some of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup-winning stars in action in the IPL is to be banned, then I wonder what the Sena plans to do about Dr Manmohan Singh? Who, while remaining mum about a host of pressing issues ranging from price rise to the growing intel that India is apt to be the target of a major terrorist attack sometime soon, did manage to find time to “signal his displeasure” at the IPL and at Lalit Modi for shutting a “growing window of opportunity”.

Seriously, Dr Singh — what window of opportunity was that? Is it your contention, and that of your mouthpiece, that if the IPL had allowed a half dozen Pakistan players to feather their personal nests by turning out for sundry franchises, Indo-Pak relations would have improved to the point where Islamabad would have immediately handed over those it now acknowledges as having had a role in 26/11 to India for punishment, shut down all terrorist camps, thrown every member of the LeT into prison for life, and abjured the use of terrorism as state policy for ever?

Or maybe you were not so ambitious — you only wanted to create a conducive climate for talks? But then, isn’t it you, and your government, that has been consistently saying there can be no talks with Pakistan without Islamabad acting and being seen to act to end terrorism?

So again — could you throw your tame mouthpiece please explain what “window of opportunity” got shuttered by the IPL?

Back to the Shiv Sena: So now that the Federal Home Minister has, at the behest of the Prime Minister of this country, expressed a desire to see Pakistan players in action on Indian soil, what are you going to do?

Do you have the courage of your stated convictions, and the cojones, to threaten the Home Minister and the Prime Minister with “dire consequences” for their words? Do you have what it takes to publicly suggest that Mr P Chidambaram and Mr Manmohan Singh [not to forget the Federal Sports Minister, who also expressed similar sentiments] will not be allowed to set foot in Maharashtra? Or is your soap-operatic rage so small in scale that it can only be used against small, soft targets — a film star here, a movie theatre there?

Could it be that you are, as your friendly enemy Mr Sharad Pawar once told me in an interview, a coward after all?

PostScript: Irrelevant to the above, but interesting: Aakash Chopra talks of the futility of having premier games in the domestic circuit played out on dead tracks.

The recently concluded semi-final between North and West Zone vindicated my point of curtailing the maximum number of overs at a team’s disposal for the knock-out matches. It was, as usual, a batting paradise in Rajkot and both teams knew that the toss might just decide the fate of the match. And boy it did…that too with style.

West scored nearly 800 runs, perhaps the highest in the season, and batted North out of the game. Yes, North could have fought harder and got closer to the total but overhauling it was a forgone conclusion. But what followed after West got a mammoth 465-run lead devalues the importance of a first-class century. West opted for some batting practice instead of going for an outright win which was perhaps there for the taking. But since a first-innings lead was enough to see them through to the finals, they can’t be blamed for not forcing the issue.

See you Monday.