One of these days while travelling in the train, one of my maharashtrian friends told me how Shiv sena was the crucial player in the formation of Maharashtra and inclusion of Mumbai in the state. I believed her. I thought no wonder Bal Thackrey is so staunch about his rigid ideologies and actions. He might be the man behind the creation of Maharashtra and the tough struggle might have made him a hard man.
…And so most of the non-Maharashtrians make a naive and flawed connection of the movement with the Shiv Sena. We misinterpret the saffron clad man as the father of Maharashtra. Little knowing the fact, that shiv sena as a party never existed in the 50’s when the struggle for a separate state started. Today, after 50 years of statehood, congress hasn’t done much to preserve and impart this historical struggle to the state and generations. It was a movement against the congress. Later, regional parties like Shiv sena hijacked the topic and gave birth to other cousin issues like the Marathi language issue. With all this happenings, the real truth got
buried. The fact that the real heroes who fought this war were the communists and the textile workers.
“Of the 106 martyrs, most were mill workers and poor people. The fight for them wasn’t just about having a Marathi speaking state but moreover it was there livelihood. The dominance of Gujaratis meant the rule of capitalists.” Says veteran journalist Neeta Kolhatkar. “But today the contribution of Acharya Atre’s ferocious paper like Navyug and Maratha, the contribution of SA Dange and the textile mill workers has been completely forgotten.” She continues
This organization that fought relentlessly for the formation of Maharashtra was founded on February 6, 1956, under the leadership of Keshavrao Jedhe in Pune. Prominent activists of Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti were Acharya Atre, Prabodhankar Thackeray, SM joshi and SA Dange. They all came from different political background and ideologies. As a political party, it was hard to imagine these people coming together but the motive being one, they did. Once the objective was achieved i.e. formation of a separate Maharashtra state, the party disintegrated completely. “After the protest, congress lost badly in the assembly election. Samyukta movement was a clear winner. Had the party stayed, today the story of Maharashtra would have been completely different. The state would not have lost its Marathi identity and would not have struggled for its cultural identity. Mumbai would have always remained the heartland of Marathis. There would have been no debates of ‘boomiputr’ and ‘marathi-manoos’. Says Rammohan, a research scholar. ‘But it was impossible for that party to stay.’ Argues P.K. Ravindranath, journalist and professor at many media colleges. ‘ The only common force that kept them together was Maharashtra. Other wise, there was nothing that could keep them together. Can you imagine a hardcore communist like SA Dange getting along with the jana sangh party (now called the BJP)? They had high level intellectual internal clashes.’
So what was the closely related reason for communism and trade unions to die in Maharashtra when they were the sole player in the state formation?
A lot of researchers believe that the formation of Shiv sena and the rise of Bal thackrey was definitely one of the reasons for the death of communism in the state. ‘The Communist Party of India played a dominant role in the labour politics of Mumbai. The Shiv Sena was supported by elements inside the Indian National Congress, who hoped that the new organization would be capable of weakening the communist trade union influence as it was the only indirect weapon congress could use against them’. Continues Ravindranath.
It is alleged that Shiv Sena cadres were involved in a series of violent conflicts with the communist trade union activists. The worst trigger happened when CPI MLA Krishna Desai was assassinated. It was only later that Shiv sena shifted its ideology and targeted south and north Indians and introduced the concept of ‘bhoomiputr’.
Today Shiv sena and MNS are the strongest regional parties in Maharashtra cashing and banking upon a Maharashtra that was once the result of the immense sacrifices of unknown faces. The government has done little to preserve anything about the movement. Though recently Bal Thackrey inaugurated a Samyukta Maharashtra museum at shivaji park. Shripad Amrit Dange’s house has been replaced by a shopping complex and almost all the mills have been replaced by malls or skyscrapers. Politicians shrug off responsibility saying there is only so much a government can do; citizens too need to learn more about their history and culture themselves.