Yesterday, on the occasion of the late Balasaheb Thackeray ’s 90th Birth Anniversary, I happened to carry out an Internet search of the much revered leader. To my surprise, the internet search made me stumble across an article that made a reference to Balasaheb Thackeray’s alleged complicity, in the 1992-93 riots of Mumbai.
The following passage is an excerpt from the said article entitled “The poisoned earth” written by a currently serving Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court, Justice Gautam Patel, prior to his appointment as an Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court:
“Against those who instigated, triggered and participated in the carnage, and ravaged forever the face of an entire city, nothing followed. Nothing, that is, except two decades later, a valorization of Bal Thackeray that is as perplexing as it is disquieting. Not because he had legions of followers, but because in accepting the elision of the past of people like him, we move ourselves closer to fascism and an acceptance of everything we should not aim to be, everything our Constitution demands we not become.”
Justice Gautam Patel’s uncharitable personal opinion of Balasaheb Thackeray, in the context of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai, would most likely be dismissed by the late leader’s ardent supporters, as yet another example of allegedly biased left wing propaganda, that routinely finds space in a partisan Mainstream Media narrative, which in my opinion, has seldom taken the trouble to present a balanced assessment of tragedies like the 1992-93 riots of Mumbai.
Why should the Hon’ble Justice Mr. Gautam Patel’s personal opinion of Balasaheb Thackeray, in his published article from the year 2012 be of any relevance, one may ask? Well, this is a question I shall address in the latter part of this article.
But to begin with, it has been exactly 23 years since the Hindu-Muslim riots of 1992-93 ravaged the city of Mumbai (following the demolition of the disputed structure on the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya); and in all honesty, despite being on the opposite end of the ideological divide from Justice Gautam Patel, I find myself quite incapable of taking on, as it were, his strident views expressed on the matter. This isn’t because I agree with anything he has expressed in his opinion piece; but largely because there is a seemingly formidable foundation for him to base his views on; this foundation is the report tabled by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry was a committee originally constituted by the then Indian National Congress ruled State Government of Maharashtra in 1993, to inquire into and investigate the causes that lead to the widespread rioting in Mumbai, in the aftermath of what transpired in Ayodhya. Interestingly, the Commission was temporarily disbanded after the Shiv Sena assumed power in Maharashtra in early 1996; only to be reconstituted later that year with an additional mandate of also inquiring into and investigating the Serial Bomb blasts of Mumbai that occurred in March of 1993.
The 800-page report of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry when finally tabled in the year 1998, had in effect indicted Balasaheb Thackeray and members of the Shiv Sena; and had significantly observed (among other things) that Bal Thackeray had, “like a veteran general commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate with organised attacks against Muslims”.
It is however pertinent to note, that even though the findings of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry, have frequently been used as a point of reference by Mainstream Media commentators to amplify the alleged atrocities committed against Muslims, in the course of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai; the fact remains that a commission like the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission which was constituted under the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, does not possess the same judicial sanction which is the defining feature of verdicts pronounced by Courts of law in India.
And while I do not want to be perceived as belittling the apparently exhaustive inquiry conducted by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission; there is in my mind, absolutely no reason why the report tabled by the said commission, cannot be described as an exercise carried out with the sole intention of endeavouring to assuage the Muslim community in India, by attempting to interpret what was after all a chaotic communal madness that engulfed Mumbai from the 7th of December 1992 to the 26th of January 1993.
In other words, if there is a school of thought that interprets and condemns the role played by the Shiv Sena under Balasaheb Thackeray in the riots, as being the primary retaliator to what is widely acknowledged (in the report of the commission as well) as a trigger for the said ‘Hindu’ retaliation; namely the killings of the Hindu, Mathadi Kamgar Workers in the Muslim dominated area of Dongri, along with the widespread stabbings and burning of six Hindus (including a physically handicapped girl) at the Radhabhai Chawl at Jogeshwari; carried out by fanatic Muslim mobs that also went on an assertive rampage against a Mumbai Police, that was completely overwhelmed, then there is also a school of thought that regards the Shiv Sena as the defenders of the Hindu Community in Mumbai, from the wrath of a Muslim Mob, whose initiation of the riots in Mumbai is often excused by Mainstream Media commentators on the subject, with a sort of convoluted justification, that the demolition of the structure in Ayodhya somehow gave them a license to vent their anger and break the law.
Hate begets hate; Violence begets violence; and it really serves no purpose for us to reopen old wounds. But neither must we allow the Mainstream Media to mislead us into a guilt trip for what happened in Mumbai 23 years ago. We must insist on giving a fair hearing to both sides of the story (If at all the story has to be heard at all after all these years). The Teesta’s, Sardesai’s and Gautam Patel’s of the world must never be allowed to have the final word on what the legacy of the Tiger of Maharashtra, or perhaps I should say the whole of India, should be.
Anyway, coming back to why the Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel’s personal opinion of the late Balasaheb Thackeray, is of some relevance; I’m sure the readers would be interested to know, that the Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel is the same judge who until very recently, had been assigned the job of adjudicating a currently pending dispute before the Bombay High Court, arising out of the Last Will and Testament of the late Balasaheb Thackeray; the validity of which has been challenged by his eldest son, Shri Jaidev Thackeray.
Now I must clarify that I have no reason to call into question the ability of the Ld. Justice Gautam Patel to have dispensed justice in the said dispute, in an unbiased and dispassionate manner; for his personal opinion of Balasaheb Thackeray, would not have had any bearing on his judicial mandate to decide the validity of the late Balasaheb Thackeray’s Last Will and Testament.
But all the same, I find it rather amusing that he should have been assigned the task of adjudicating a dispute concerning the Last Will and Testament of a man, whose past (in the context of the 1992-93 Mumbai riots), he did not want the public to omit from their memories; lest it moved them closer towards fascism; the same purported fascism which, it could be argued, has now been inherited in the form of a political legacy by Uddhav Thackeray; who incidentally also happens to be a benefactor of the Will in dispute.
– Mailed by Guest Author who prefers to stay anonymous!