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The Sena is tottering on a crumbling base
21 January 1999
SPECIAL FEATURES
DEEPALI NANDWANI / Mumbai

SHIVAJI Park, at the heart of Mumbai, is the nursery of Indian
cricket. Legends like Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar, Subhash
Gupte and Sachin Tendulkar have grown up playing cricket on
its sprawling grounds. Most residents of the buildings
surrounding Shivaji Park have played cricket either in the park
or in the narrow gullies that crisscross the area.

Ironically, Shivaji Park and Dadar, its neighbouring area, are
also Shiv Sena strongholds. The residents of these areas were
once the biggest supporters of the Sena, and its 'son of the soil' ideology.

No longer. When crazed Sainiks dug up the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium's cricket pitch in Delhi or stormed into the Mumbai office of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, beat up its staff, and smashed the cricket trophies (see right), they did not realise they were alienating their own support base.

The Shiv Sena's rabble-rousing against the Pakistani cricket team, its pigheaded insistence on not allowing Pakistani cricketers to play in India, and its strong-arm
tactics have shocked the middle class Maharashtrians, for whom cricket is more than just a game. Anger against the party they once rooted for is obvious.

Nilesh More is a student of the Balmohan Vidya Mandir, Tendulkar's alma mater, and captain of the under-14 and under-16 cricket teams of the Bengal Club. He
wonders why Thackeray is bringing politics into a game they all love so
passionately.

Ashish Wadekar, 14, who captains the Balmohan
Vidya
Mandir's cricket team, says: "My parents were
Sena supporters.
My kaka is a member of the Shiv Sena. But now
they are
embarrassed by what is happening. They say the
Sena has
gone too far by doing things like breaking up
the
BCCI office."
And what does he feel about it? "I don't know,"
he shrugs. "I only
hope that the cricket match takes place. We were
all looking
forward to watching it on TV."

Ravish Desai, a cricketer from the G D Somani
school, fumes:
"Pakistanis are cricketers and not mad bombers.
They are
certainly not enemies." Ashish Naik, who is
coaching with
former cricketer Dilip Vengsarkar's Elf Academy,
is equally
agitated: "When we are allowed to play in
Pakistan, we should
also allow them to play in our country. And
cricket is a game to
enjoy, and not to be used for political ends."

Everywhere, you hear the angry voices of people
asserting that
the Sena has gone too far this time. That, under
the guise of
nationalism and patriotism, the rabble-rousing
is
just a ploy to
grab public attention and underline the party's
nuisance value.
To take attention away from the fact that
Thackeray is losing
support on all fronts, that his government has
performed
miserably. So, the only way Sena can gain
attention is by taking
up the cricket issue.

Sadashiv Rao, who has represented Maharashtra in
the Ranji
cricket tournaments says: "Cricket is such a
passion for most
Indians that there is bound to be a lot of anger
against the
Sena's threats and goondagardi. There is at
least
one budding
cricketer in every Maharashtrian home."

By attacking the BCCI office, the Sena was just
continuing its
tradition of violence. In the last four years in
office, the party has
continued to indulge in violent acts. Like
breaking up theatres to
stop them from showing Deepa Mehta's film Fire
because it
depicts a lesbian relationship, or the
disruption
of the concert of
Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali at Centaur
Hotel in Juhu in
North Mumbai.

Unfortunately for the Sena, the recent acts of
vandalism have
boomeranged and it faces widespread condemnation
from its
own constituents.

The middle class Maharashtrian's disillusionment
with the Sena
began quite a while back, with the Ramesh Kini
case. In 1996,
Balasaheb's nephew and heir apparent, Raj
Thackeray, was
accused of complicity in the death of Kini, a
resident of
suburban Mahim. Kini's wife alleges he was
murdered because
one of Raj's 'friends' wanted the flat in which
they lived. And Kini
refused to sell cheap.

Four years after the Sena was unanimously
elected, enthusiasm
has given way to disgust. Far from being the
avenger of the
common man that it so successfully projected
itself as, the
saffron outfit is viewed as a corrupt and
lawless
entity.

The threats and forcible eviction of people from
their homes
didn't stop with Kini. Madhav Deshpande, the
Sena's estranged
founder member, alleges that the Kini affair is
being played out
over and over again in homes across Mumbai. Take
the case of
Shakuntala Gawadkar. In August 1997, this
45-year-old widow
was threatened by Sena shakha pramukh Rajendra
Godbole
that if she would not vacate her three-room flat
at Dadar within
15 days, he would "take some action". He offered
her Rs
1,000,000 for the flat, which has a market value
at least seven
times that amount.

Gawadkar registered a complaint against Godbole
at the Dadar
police station. "He was not arrested," she says.
"The police
even refused to call him to the police station."
Sadly, Gawadkar
had to vacate the flat and move to Mira Road,
about 50
kilometres away.

Or take the case of Kusumkunj, a building in
suburban Matunga,
whose tenants were allegedly forced out by a
builder to make
room for a palatial flat for Balasaheb's son
Uddhav Thackeray.

"Even Balasaheb did not listen to us. We
couldn't
do anything.
We had no choice but to leave. We can't believe
this is
happening in Dadar and Matunga, the areas in
which the Sena
was born and nurtured. All the families have
some
members in
the Sena. If they can do this to us, their own
supporters, what
must they be doing to people who are critical of
them?" says
Sushobha Dhavle, whose 23-year-old son quit the
Sena after
the Kusumkunj incident.

Uddhav says these allegations are the Opposition
parties'
campaign to defame the Thackeray family. "No one
was forced
out of homes. We paid people money according to
the market
rates. No force was used."

According to the Sena's critics, the party is
still behaving as if it
is in the Opposition. "They haven't realised the
perils of power,"
points out Chhaggan Bhujbal, ex-Sainik and the
leader of the
Congress in Maharashtra's Vidhan Sabha. "The
only
thing that
they are using power for is to do what they know
best: extortion."

Both Bhujbal and Deshpande give instances of the
way Sena
extorts money. Even if it is a small sum like Rs
500. "Go to any
Sena MLA for a letter for, say, your kid's
admission to a local
school, and you will be charged money for it.
There is nothing
that the Shiv Sainiks will not do for a little
bit of money," alleges
Bhujbal.

The Sena, and the government it runs in
partnership with the
Bharatiya Janata Party, has managed to acquire
an
image of
being commercially manageable. "Yeh log kaam bhi
nahi
karte, aur loot-te bhi hain," claims Sushil
Wahadne, a former
Sainik. Wahadne left the Sena in April 1998,
after the Lok
Sabha elections. "They refused to accept any
responsibility for
the debacle. The kind of language Balasaheb used
against
Sonia Gandhi was disgusting. Will any decent man
talk like this
about a woman?"

Then there are the government failures: the
state
treasury is
more empty then full; industry and investor
confidence is at an all
time low; the Sena and the BJP are constantly at
war with each
other; the crime graph is zooming; the
administrative machinery
moves in slow motion; and the people in power
themselves
support acts of vandalism.

Says the state's Culture Minister and one of
Sena's founder
members Pramod Navalkar: "This has been a
learning
experience for us. We had no previous
experience.
We are
trying our best against all odds. There are
people who extort in
the name of the Sena. Why judge us so harshly?"

Hardcore Sainiks point out how the Sena is
losing
touch with the
'sons of the soil' and are regular fixtures in
Mumbai's cocktail
circuit. "They all carry mobile phones, the
younger generation
wear jeans, they have nice cars. And they all
feel that they no
longer need the ordinary Maharashtrian. How many
people has
the Shiv Udyog Sena got employment for?" says
Wahadne.

The Sena had promised 2,700,000 jobs by the year
2000.
Critics claim that the only two unemployed
youths
who got jobs
under the Sena regime are Balasaheb's son and
nephew,
Uddhav and Raj.

The proof of the Sena's falling popularity graph
is the failure of
the Saffron Week organised from 9 to 16 October
1998. The
celebration was aborted midway as the Sena
couldn't even
pack halls with a capacity of 300. The party
blamed the
unseasonal rains for the debacle. But it was a
humiliating
experience for a party which once drew crowds by
the millions,
rain or shine.

With additional reportage by PRACHI
BARI

Frenzied Shiv Sainiks ransack BCCI headquarters

Deccan Herald, Jan 18, 99


Mumbai: Vandal Shiv Sainiks ransacked the headquarters of the Board of Control for
Cricket in India located within the precints of the Brabourne Stadium at Churchgate on
Monday, the party's latest bid to stop the India-Pakistan test series from going ahead.

According to the police, about 50 Shiv Sena activists barged into the BCCI office
around 2.30 pm and broke glass panes and windows raising slogans. According to the
police, the men were shouting slogans saying, "We wonít let them allow to play a match
between India and Pakistan."

According to one of the BCCI employees, the Sainiks damaged everything in the office,
including tea and coffee cups that lay strewn all over the place. BCCI executive
secretary Sharad Diwadkar was manhandled by the miscreants.

Diwadkar was also slapped several times by the miscreants, joint police commissioner
(law and order) P S Pasricha said. The Sharjah Cup, stored in the office, was also
damaged by the sainiks.

According to eye-witnesses, the crowd waved Shiv Senaís saffron flags and was armed
with hockey sticks and other weapons. They barged into the unguarded office and
damaged furniture, a glass panel, fax machines and pulling out telephone wires.

Sharad Diwadkar later lodged a complaint with the Azad Maidan police station. Soon
after the incident top BCCI officials had an urgent meeting with Board president Raj
Singh Dungarpur. The office was closed down immediately after the incident.

However, none of the BCCI officials were available for comments. The office had been
cordoned off and security stepped up to prevent any untoward incident.

BCCI president Raj Singh Dungarpur has also been offered protection. The State
Reserve Police Personnel has been deputed at the Mumbai Cricket Association office.

A case of rioting has been registered by police in connection with the ransacking of the
BCCI office. "Security has been beefed up for various concerned people and we are
trying to identify the culprits with the help of BCCI," said Pasricha. Stern action would
be taken against those responsible for the ransacking after they are identified, he said.

Union Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani was in town when the attack took place.
Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Chhagan Bhujbal, who
visited the vandalised office, said: "With this incident, Thackeray wants to tell the Centre
that he will go ahead with his hate agenda and they can do whatever they deem fit."

A disturbed Chief minister Manohar Joshi rushed to Matoshree in the evening and
apprised the party high command of the situation. Shiv Sena Minister of State for sports
Pratap Jadhav had told UNI on Sunday that Indian cricketers should be "prepared to
face the consequences" if they played Pakistan. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray on
Monday hastily denied the statement.

Meanwhile, president of the Republican Party of India, Ramdas Athawale, MP, said
that a contingent of Bhim Sainiks from Mumbai will be proceeding to Chennai where
the forthcoming test match between India and Pakistan is scheduled. He said RPI
activists would oppose Shiv Senaís attempts to disrupt the cricket match between India
and Pakistan at Chennai.

The incident follows the pitch-digging at Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi on January 6
by four Shiv Sainiks who committed the act to demonstrate the Sena's opposition to the
Pakistan tour.

DIFFERENT STROKES

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday denied that it has ever threatened Indian cricketers over their
participation in the upcoming series with Pakistan. Sena leader, Uddhav Thackeray, son of party
supremo Bal Thackeray, said that the Maharashtra Minister for Sports Pratap Jadhav had already
clarified his position after a report in a section of the press quoted him as having warned Indian
cricketers to "boycott the series with Pakistan or face the consequences."

Karachi: Pakistan captain Wasim Akram on Monday urged Indian fans to forget the threats of
violence around his teamís tour of India and concentrate on cricket. "I appeal to Indian fans to
forget all that happened and now be ready to enjoy some good cricket and support the team that
plays well," Akram said.

Meerut: Shiv Sena on Monday said its activists would enter stadia as spectators to disrupt Test
matches between India and Pakistan during the coming series. "As long as Pakistan continues its
terrorist activities against India, question of friendly relation does not arise," Goel said adding
"games and cultural relations can be developed with friends only," said northern India Sena chief
Jai Bhagwan Goel told reporters here.

Calcutta: Altogether 21 Shiv Sena and Indian Nationalist Forum activists were arrested on
Monday from near the residence of International Cricket Council president Jagmohan Dalmiya for
taking out a procession in protest against Pakistan cricket team's ensuing tour to India, police
said.

 

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .