Divya Marathi Rasik
Where do we want to lead Maharashtra?
Dr Amol Annadate
No conscientious citizen has been untouched by the social and political events in Maharashtra in the last few weeks, the actions and reactions triggered by these events and the comments and responses that have followed in their wake. Where is the social political discourse in Maharashtra headed and what lies in store for the state, are the questions facing us.
Riots broke out between two groups in Kolhapur, the city of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, which has hitherto been known for its social camaraderie and has been untouched by communal tensions. At the same time, the brutal killing in Mira-Bhayandar, the rape and murder of a resident in a government hostel in Mumbai, the recent incident of a girl being abused in a running Mumbai local train, extortions at gun point and incidents of ATMs being robbed….such crimes are occurring with impunity and show no signs of abating. However, political leaders in power and in the Opposition are adopting a stance of political convenience rather than taking steps to ensure citizens’ welfare. One is tempted to question the constitutional responsibility of the positions occupied by these leaders when the state’s home minister and deputy chief minister, known for being sensible leaders, start mouthing platitudes while reacting to the events occurring in Kolhapur. Citizens belonging to all communities and classes are supposed to be equal in the eyes of those who govern us. It is surprising that these leaders should forget that, particularly in times of social and religious tensions, they aren’t just leaders of any party but ministers responsible for maintaining law and order in the state. It is equally unfortunate that leaders of the Opposition too have not taken a firm stand, but have been making statements that are merely convenient or plain wishy washy.
The real reason behind the grave discrepancies between the statements and actions of those in power and those in Opposition is the race to set the narrative for the political climate in the state. This race might help some people to come to power, but as a state, we don’t even seem to have realised that we have lost the credibility we enjoyed as being one of the most progressive states in the country. There’s stiff competition among parties to usurp the Hindutva card touted by Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena thus far, ever since the Maha Vikas Aghadi government collapsed and a new government came to power. There’s also some covert competition to own the ‘real Hindutva’ label, between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, who were once as thick friends as the legendary Jai-Veeru. The war rooms of these parties are buzzing with plans like the Jan Aakrosh Morcha and the Savarkar Gaurav Yatra to lure the Hindu vote. To top it, IIM educated election strategists are nowadays brainstorming to come up with novel strategies. The only goal of these corporate battle strategists is to get their ‘client’ parties into power. They are busy checking if the existing religious polarisation model can be exploited to their advantage and strategies are chalked up accordingly.
Those who indulge in such activities for political gain should note that the social fabric of Maharashtra has been strengthened over the years by communal harmony and progressive thought. This is the DNA of the state. It is thanks to the inclusive nature of the state that a city like Mumbai could become the financial capital of the country and make its mark on the global landscape. Right since Independence, people belonging to all communities as well as migrants have called Maharashtra home, and have contributed to the progress of the state. A girl from the Baramulla district in Kashmir is currently studying her Masters programme in gynaecology at the taluka hospital where I work. During her admission to the course, her father told me, “I don’t need to worry, my daughter will be studying in Maharashtra…” Maharashtra should ideally be recognised as the country’s premier centre of academic excellence thanks to the quality of education and the excellent facilities offered here. In light of the recent events however, we need to assess whether we would like to strengthen the state’s good image or have it maligned as one of the ‘crime states’ in north India. For years, Maharashtra has maintained its image as an industry-friendly and tolerant state. But now, thanks to the violent events and provocative statements being made by political leaders, we need to evaluate the ‘brand image’ of Maharashtra that is being propagated among industry circles as well as in the world. We should be worried that hate speech and communal tension might win votes, but this could irreparably damage the tag of ‘progressive state’ that Maharashtra has won through hard work over the years.
On this background, it is also important to understand the responsibility that lies with the voters. There are 3 kinds of voters in this country. A large chunk of these is engrossed in a struggle for daily survival, and is not concerned about the state of the nation, but is worried about their own fate. The second group no longer struggles for survival, but is content with the identity they have forged on the basis of their state, language, religion and terrain. Issues related to these topics are more important to them than human development and the global image of their country. Importantly, only these 2 classes of voters are interested in casting their votes. The third class of voters is the educated, intellectual, thinking class, which believes that the country’s politics should be development oriented rather than religion oriented. However, this remains as a belief and this class has no wish to act on this. The indifference of this class is evident from the apathy shown towards the voting process as well. This class of voters doesn’t know who their graduate MLC is, and how they are elected. The first category of voters casts its vote by checking for immediate gratification or on the promise of freebies, while the second category casts its vote driven by emotion and identity. As a result, the country’s politics is governed by emotional tides and manipulated strategies. For an inclusive, citizen-oriented state to flourish, the educated youth need to look beyond commenting on and making reels for social media and become conscious voting citizens. While there’s a new dawn of progress on the global horizon, we need to now take stock and decide whether we want Maharashtra to become a magnet of progress for the country and the world, or lock our doors with communal hate, crime and unrest.
-Dr. Amol Annadate
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