December 15, 2019
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"No More Fanaticism"

Bal Thackeray speaks to Outlook about the Sena's changed attitude towards Muslims

"No More Fanaticism"
How has your tough anti-Muslim stance, held for so long, changed?
How long can you sustain this enmity? There were 2.5 crore Muslims in '47, today they're 20 to 25 crore—much more than Pakistan. Where're you going to drive them out—Pakistan won't accept them. Will you shoot them like Hitler killed the Jews? Let us stay amicably. No more fanaticism. No more, mine is mine and yours is mine.

Is this a new colour and tone?
You can't keep sewing old chappals and wearing them. You have to get new ones.

Do you still maintain there should be a national monument at Ayodhya?
It's a very clear-cut statement. In '92 when Babri was demolished, the Muslims got up and said it was theirs. There were riots in Mumbai. It's a religious and political problem. It was religious—it became political. It was the government's responsibility to solve it. But it passed the buck to the Supreme Court which has been scratching the Babri bite for five years. How long can riots, bloodshed continue? If Vajpayee's building the Ram mandir—go ahead. But if no one can do anything, turn it into a national monument. Build a mandir, masjid and a martyr's plot—not for Indira or Rajiv, we're fed up of them—but for Mangal Pandey who fired the first shot for freedom against the British.

Is your changed view on Ayodhya because of the delay or is it conciliation with the Muslim community?
I'm not wooing Muslims for votes. I told George Fernandes this and asked him to announce it. He did, but none took notice.

The VHP, RSS and others in the Sangh parivar have criticised your stand...
Why bother about the Sangh parivar? I only bother about my parivar (Shiv Sena). My views are not based on parivars.

How was your meeting with the Pakistani high commissioner?
I'm not a fool to allow the Pakistani cricket team to play here as some papers reported.I told him (Qazi) unless Pakistan proves its bonafides for good relations with my country, I can't allow them to play here. I told him they must stop two things: the ISI sabotages—bomb blasts, extremists coming to Kashmir, even here to kill me. And seal the border—the extremists are coming in and creating havoc with Pakistan's blessings. Unless you stop this and change your attitude why should I allow the Pakistan team to play here? I found him (Qazi) nice. He conveyed the desire of his people and prime minister for change. I spoke of Kashmir and said enough is enough. He said it would take time to solve but accepted what I said is right.

Many Muslim leaders from the North are meeting you. Is there a change in their views of you?
They've understood. Even Arab countries are sending me letters. They're very happy. It'll pay me dividends. Many Muslims are coming over to the Sena. There've been no communal riots here for three years.

Won't this pale shade of saffron annoy your militant supporters?
Till I am here, and after me, the response will always be there.

Is it because militant Hindutva may invite de-recognition from the EC?
It is a rule, what can we do? After spending so much money, our candidates get disqualified. Why jump in the ditch?

Don't you think a Congress-SPtie will consolidate Muslim votes?
We never used to get Muslim votes. Now, there's terrific appreciation from them.

What's the main issue in your campaign this time?
My suppliers are in Delhi—the main issue is the unauthorised leader that's Sonia.

You question her citizenship?
It doesn't mean people get a green card and do what they want. There're Bangladeshis here with voting rights—can you accept them? Why has she taken citizenship after 20 years of marriage? We're not shameless to accept a whiteskin. I'll marry an Italian girl—will they make me president of Italy?

Congress isn't projecting her as PM...
They need not say it. This is the beginning. You can't avoid the thrill of ovation. I'll accept Rahul, Priyanka or Subhash Chandra Bose—but not Bose's German wife.

What about the response she's got?
The crowds are coming to see her. Let her go again to the same places—that would be response. The Sonia factor's zero, except to the leaderless, ladderless Congress.

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