Monday 3 December 2012

The man who changed Bombay to Mumbai
Like many others I have also been taken by surprise at some of the tributes being showered on the late Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackrey making him out to be some sort of a statesman and his death a great loss to the nation. I also noticed some prominent Industrialists and Bollywood personalities taking part in his funeral. To me, however, he will always be someone who changed the cosmopolitan, outward looking, vibrant and multi-cultural city of Bombay to the bigoted, inward looking and deeply divided city of Mumbai. It has to be said that a series of terrorist acts in Bombay have played a role in this decline of the city but if there was one turning point which shook the foundation of erstwhile Bombay, it has to be riots of 92-93. Shiva Sena was at the forefront of systematic targetting of Muslims and their properties and they were openly exhorted by Bal Thackeray’s inflammatory editorials in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Samna’. The Srikrishna Commission, which enquired into the riots, clearly implicated the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray but it was sad to see that very few people seemed to bring this up during discussions up on the various TV channels post his death. Also, Muslims are not the only minority which have been at the receiving end of Shiv Sena since its inception in the sixties. South Indians, trade unionists, Dalits, people from Bihar/UP have all been targeted by the Shiv Sena at one time or the other. All of this in the name of ‘protecting’ the livelihood of the local Maharashtrians. But if one was to scratch a bit deep we will find that these minority groups were only being used to create a bogey to first scare and then seek retaliation from the innocent Maharashtrians, the main motive being to grab political power at whatever cost. Even when they did come to power (along with the BJP) what concrete step did he take to uplift the living standard of the common Maharashtrian? Did they open any special educational institutes for providing quality education to local Maharashtrians so that they can compete with people from other states in open competitive tests? Did they bring in any scheme to encourage entrepreneurship amongst the locals? No. The only solution they could come up was to push for reservations for the locals in competitive exams.
I am not against changing names of cities per se. After all, Madras was changed to Chennai and Calcutta is now Kolkatta. But nowhere has the implementation been done by the use of force and intimidation as was done in the case of Bombay by Shiv Sena. Any signage or usage of Bombay (however unintentional it may be) was (and still is) met with an immediate threat or intimidation by the Shiv Sena. Poor Karan Johar had to apologise to Shiv Sena for using Bombay instead of Mumbai in his movie ‘Wake up Sid’.
So, the question arises, where do we go from here? All is not lost. We still have pockets of Bombay in present day Mumbai and it is now upto the people of Mumbai to reclaim the lost glory of Bombay from these goons.But do the people still have the strength to brush aside the divisive machinations of Udhav and Raj Thackrey ? Only time will tell but I am not too optimistic about it.

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