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Posted at: Jan 4, 2018, 12:38 AM; last updated: Jan 4, 2018, 12:38 AM (IST)

Maharashtra clashes

Asleep at the wheel in Sachivalaya
Maharashtra clashes

THE tinderbox-like situation in Maharashtra is as much a commentary on the quality of the CMs handpicked by PM Modi to states won by the BJP as it is about political Hindutva's narrow-mindedness towards countervailing forces generated by its own agenda of communal polarisation. Tensions had started rising in Pune's rural belt some days before the celebrations for a rare Dalit military victory; there was an extra special element this time because it was the bicentennial celebration of a battle in which they had joined forces with the British to humble the Peshwas (Brahmins). Surely, the administration in Mumbai should have grasped that this was not a quotidian, everyday event, of minor proportions. Rather it is de rigueur for the authorities to keep close tabs on every historical, political and religious celebration, especially if it contains the seeds of contestation, as this one.

It is obvious that the Sachivalaya in Mumbai was tardy in spelling out the standard operating procedures to the local administration; once given a carte blanche, it promptly nipped the trouble by rounding up the two principal provocateurs who, unsurprisingly, headed two local pro-Hindutva outfits. It later emerged they had been itching for a showdown on that fateful day. The Dalits, suitably motivated by the opposition from political Hindutva, had given an extra edge to the celebrations as a means of asserting their identity against the backdrop of strains generated by the agrarian distress.

The BJP-RSS’ stridency in attempting to submerge all sub-regional distinctiveness has led to a countervailing movement by forces that have felt shortchanged in the battle for resources, identity and patronage. This has led to the weakening of inter-ethnic networks that would otherwise peacefully manage the structure of civic life. PM Modi's brand of Hindutva takes no prisoners; there is hardly any attempt to build bridges and manage tensions. By deliberately restricting the space for local networks of civic engagement and consensus, the attitude of BJP's spear-carriers in the countryside and incompetence in governance risks tensions degenerating into conflict.

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