The mob has always made its presence felt in this country. Greater men with more determination than those looking after India’s state of affairs today were unable to stop the mayhem that was unleashed across the country in the lead-up to Partition. Many more bullying mobs, fuelled by political instigation, have run their writs and continue to do so.
Compared to conflagrations like the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the violence that broke out after the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, the massacres of Godhra and the Gujarat riots that ensued in 2002, the Shiv Sena holding theatre owners in Mumbai hostage and scaring off Mumbaikars is but a blip. But the contagion, relatively minor as it seems, involving an organisation targeting one man, comes from the same viral strain: the violence of a few that finds little or no resistance from the authorities.
Much has been made of how the citizenry of Mumbai, especially Shah Rukh Khan’s fraternal colleagues in the film industry, have, at best, mumbled in the past fortnight against the open bullying tactics of the Shiv Sena. But going by Shah Rukh standing his ground, at least till the film, My Name Is Khan was released, some form of standing up to the threat from the House of Thackeray has already been on display. On Friday, with the public release of the film, many Mumbaikars responded to the Sena thuggery in the most potent way possible: by going to the cinemas to watch My Name Is Khan.
There are more Shah Rukh Khan fans in the state of Maharashtra than admirers of Balasaheb Thackeray. There are even more Mumbaikars unwilling to sublet their city and the lifestyle choices to a gang who sees it fit to impose its tastes by force. So when it comes to the crunch — and standing up to watch a film of one’s choice is as forceful as things can get without turning into a life-and-death situation — this is the moment when the people of Mumbai should do the math and shout a collective ‘Boo!’ to the Shiv Sena and its ilk. The Maharashtra government has failed to take a stand against Mumbai’s seasonal goons. All that Mumbaikars have to do now is to stand against the village ogre simply by ‘braving’ some goons and having a few hours of good time inside a cinema near them.