Please Let Us Love Our Mumbai

“Arrest me and be ready to bear the consequences….you will have to regret it.”

“If Raj is arrested, Maharashtra will be set on fire”.

These two statements will make you feel that Raj Thackeray is the biggest political figure in the country. Unfortunately, that is not the case. But the attempt to pump the same in the mind of people is going on for quite some time now in the state. Going into an election season, Raj Thackeray is getting publicity in the national media. He has become an iconic figure after being arrested in the wee hours of Tuesday (October 21). Every big politician has to court arrest for some time, right?

But then, there is a huge difference between Raj being arrested and others. Others were arrested for a progressive cause while Raj has been arrested for a total selfish and divisive cause. His Maharashtra Navnirman Sabha (MNS) clearly understands that after failing in Brihanmumbai Municipal Elections, it can’t let the same thing happen in upcoming assembly and general elections. If the story repeats itself, then MNS will become one of the many political parties in the country and the future will be gruesome. The party thus is playing to a clear plan of getting traditional and Shiv Sena vote bank by gripping the state and city in identity politics. Well, political pressure can let you do anything. So what if the state’s image is being maligned or people are facing unnecessary troubles or destruction to public property or death of innocent people (a student from Bihar this time and a native of Nashik in the last violence)? MNS has lost the way completely. It was formed to bring about a change in the state in positive sense; but has turned into a bunch of goons shouting “Mumbaikar mhanje Marathich aso,” which means “Mumbaikar should be a Marathi only”. There are many problems that can be addressed by a political party in much more democratic manner and without dividing the people.

It is disgusting to see the way Mumbai is being targeted by some parochial agenda. Mumbai was tense after the arrest of MNS leader, which was followed by a rampage by the MNS activists. Public property was destroyed and in some parts of the city, taxis were damaged. Why it always the poor man who loses or is the centre of target, when such incidents occur. I guess the reason is plain and simple – that there is no one to hear his voice and he is a very easy target. What is a taxi driver, who earns his daily bread after driving from morning to evening, supposed to do when his taxi gets destroyed? Who will help the family of bhaaji waala’s or other vendors when they are brutally beaten? What was the fault of that paanwala who has been selling paans in the city for the last 25 years?

The identity politics has gripped the city many times this year and innocent people have suffered the most. When the state of Bombay (Maharashtra and Gujarat) was being formed five decades back, it was argued that Bombay be made a union territory.

The simple reason was that it was so multi-cultural that it could not be classified based on regional or linguistic identity. But that was not done, considering the importance of the city in the development of the state. So despite pressures from various sections of the society, Bombay or Mumbai was merged with Maharashtra. The point I am trying to raise here is that India has always been aware of Mumbai’s multi-cultural nature and this is something very special about it. Mumbai is known worldwide for its cosmopolitan nature. So one should refrain from sowing the seed of regional identity in this vibrant city and let it remain the Mumbai we love and adore.

Rishabh Srivastava

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