Gurpreet Singh: Indian leaders should be ashamed for giving state funeral to hate monger Bal Thackeray
The passing away of ultra-Hindu nationalist leader Bal Thackeray has exposed the "secular credentials" of the Indian establishment.
Thackeray, who died at the age of 86, led Shiv Sena, a party that promoted violence and hatred not only against religious minorities, but also against Hindus from states other than Maharashtra. That's where Shiv Sena has a strong base.
Twenty-one guns were fired at his funeral in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. Prominent political and film personalities showed up among the mourners. This was despite the fact that the so-called secular Congress party's ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, is in power in Maharashtra.
In fact, some former Shiv Sena leaders now comfortably sit in the Congress party.
Thackeray was known for his anti-Pakistan rhetoric and Muslim-bashing, instigating large-scale violence against them in the 1990s. His supporters were also involved in pulling down Babri Mosque in 1992.
In addition, Shiv Sena thugs targeted Hindus coming from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh at different times blaming them for marginalizing Maharashtrians within his state.
Shiv Sena has remained an ally of the Hindu nationalist BJP, which has been in power in Delhi.
Just like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a maverick Sikh saint who died fighting against the Indian army, Thackeray was a creation of the Congress party that wanted to weaken the Communists.
Bhindranwale's emergence was a part of Congress calculation to diminish the Akali Dal, a regional party of Punjab. He later became powerful and was blamed for stockpiling arms in Golden Temple Complex, the holiest Sikh shrine, in Amritsar.
Whereas Bhindranwale died in an army invasion on the shrine in 1984, Thackeray remained part of mainstream electoral politics in Maharashtra and died a natural death. While extremists belonging to minority sectarian groups have been liquidated in staged encounters in India, Shiv Sena activists have continued to act at will.
The secular Indian establishment has clearly sent conflicting signals by according him a state funeral and legitimizing his sectarian politics. It's sheer pandering to sectarian forces who are bent upon turning India into a Hindu theocratic state.
It not only reflects poorly on the ruling Congress party, but also on the Indian republic.
Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings.