Through all the tears for Bal Thackeray

Dear Justice (Markandey) Katju, as a former judge of the highest court in the country and as a defender of free expression in your current capacity as chairperson, Press Council of India, you are understandably outraged by the criminal conduct of the Maharashtra police in arresting two women from Palghar in Thane district last week for having "dared" to express their disapproval on Facebook of the bandh enforced by sainiks following Bal Thackeray's "unacceptable" demise. You have shot off a strong letter to Maharashtra's chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, demanding suspension and arrest of the policemen who buckled under threats of the Sena's musclemen. You have said that if he failed to act, you will conclude that as CM, he is unable to run the state.

Since it's unlikely that the CM will come clean on the subject, I am making bold to respond as his self-appointed spokesperson for this moment: Respected sir, you are perhaps unaware of the decades-old power-sharing parampara of Maharashtra. Anyone from the state can tell you that it has long been the political arrangement in the state to encourage the Shiv Sena to run a parallel government. Since its inception the Sena's thokshahi ("constructive violence", sainiks on the rampage) has been an integral component of Congress's lokshahi (democratic governance).

But maybe you are right, Justice Katju. Now that a million tears have been shed, it's time perhaps to spare a thought for our ailing democracy and shed a tear for the "idea of India" too. Perhaps we should be outraged not only by last week's criminal conduct of a few policemen in Palghar, but our collective complicity for so long.

In less than a month, Mumbaikars will recall how Bombay's Muslims were "taught a lesson" 20 years ago under the benign gaze of the then Congress government of Maharashtra and the watchful eyes of the then defence minister Sharad Pawar. As in the case of the massacre of innocent Sikhs in 1984, there has been no punishment worth the mention for the perpetrators and the masterminds of the mass crimes committed during December 1992- January 1993.

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