The battle of Mumbai


February 20, 2008


Bombay | Mumbai

Original article by Deepak Lokhande in the Mid-Day

Should I be wasting another 400 words on what went on in our city during the last week? I should.
For over two weeks, the city remained hostage to Raj Thackeray and his men, to Amar Singh, Abu Asim Azmi and their men and to an extent to the Hindi news channels. It was complete madness on the part of all the three parties.

Raj wanted to create his vote bank for the 2014 assembly elections, Amar Singh and his party wanted their share of pie in the 2009 assembly elections, where Mumbai will have new constituencies dominated by north Indian votes and Hindi news channels were simply interested in their TRPs so that they can seek more advertising revenue. Everybody got what they wanted, but the city lost the social fibre created over the centuries.

Mumbai never belonged to the natives much as I would like to hate it being a Marathi maanus. Sir Geral Aungier wrote the script nearly four centuries ago when he brought Gujarati traders from Surat and Parsi shipbuilders and offered them incentives, so that the city could turn into a port for trade. Opening the Suez Canal brought it closer to the West, creating job opportunities and attracting more migrants.

Barring Kolis, who were the true natives, Marathis hardly came to Mumbai at that time. What would they do here? Trade belonged to the Gujaratis and Parsis, ironsmiths, goldsmiths and weavers came from elsewhere and Andhra provided labourers, settled outside the British city confines at Kamathipura. The Marathis’ only job was policing Bhandaris were the first policemen of the city.

The Marathis, especially the Konkanis, started pouring in large numbers after the textile mills set up their base. It required a large workforce that didn’t need much skill. They didn’t hold any economic clout. Numbers gave them political might, but only just.

Raj and his ilk have conveniently forgotten that the first battle over the claim for Mumbai was with the Gujaratis, whom Raj’s spokesperson described as sugar dissolved in milk.

The legend of milk and sugar, by the way, belongs to the Parsis who landed on the coast of Gujarat and sought refuge, not Marathis and Gujaratis. Theirs is a love-hate relationship. Gujaratis famously taunted Marathis then Mumbai Tumchi, Bhandi Ghasa Amchi (Mumbai may belong to you, but you will continue to wash our vessels).

History is repeating itself as north Indians are trying to mock at Marathis. Former police commissioner M N Singh almost did it on NDTV before the anchor stopped him he reeled off figures to suggest that Marathis were outnumbered in the city and almost said they have lost the battle.