Mumbai/New Delhi: With the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) far right social agenda based on Hindu fundamentalism, also called Hindutva, and its hardline ally Shiv Sena sounding the war cry “Maharashtra for Maharashtrians” Mumbai — the glamour and commercial capital of India — is fast losing its sheen.
Just two days ago, Shiv Sena workers led a large protest outside the house of acclaimed writer Shobhaa De, drawing criticism from many. De had objected to Maharashtra government’s plans to force multiplexes to screen a Marathi film every evening. The move provoked fierce criticism from the film industry and others, who accused the government of trying to impose its will on owners of private cinemas.
Although Shiv Sena said it felt De has “no right anymore to live in the state,” the plan was revised on Thursday by the state government, which now says Marathi films can be screened any time between 12pm and 9pm.
However, this morning, an editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece excoriated De for suggesting that the government was indulging in bullying with cinema owners and moviegoers.
Most Mumbaikars feel such draconian orders leave a bad taste in the mouth.
‘May consider goat ban’
Last week, the BJP government justified the ban on the slaughter of cows in the Bombay High Court, telling a two-member bench that it is “making a beginning and may consider a move to ban slaughter of goats as well.”
The bench was hearing two petitions challenging beef ban, enforced by the state government last month. During the hearing, the court asked state Advocate-General Sunil Manohar why only slaughter of cows and their progeny had been banned. To which the government responded by saying “we are making a beginning”.
The beef ban has not gone down well with beef eaters, including many sailors and navy personnel.
Noor Ahmad of Colaba’s Baghdadi restaurant said navy men craved beef items before the ban crippled his business.
“My hotel would be patronised by naval personnel and foreigners, mainly from African and Gulf countries. Now business has dipped by 60 per cent, and the future seems bleak,” Ahmad said.
Maharashtra’s beef trade is controlled largely by Muslims of the Qureshi community, who work as butchers, agents and dealers.
But Hindu farmers from across the state and neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were among those who sold their old and infirm cattle to the abattoir. Muslims are stung hard by the recently enforced beef ban in the state.
This is not all, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine has more on their agenda. The state government now wants to regulate opening and closing time of pubs, bars and restaurants in the state. Last month, the BJP asked Mumbai’s police commissioner to withdraw the approval given to an earlier proposal that pubs, bars and restaurants could remain open all night.
Shiv Sena youth leader Aaditya Thackeray had proposed that such places along with certain malls should be allowed to operate 24/7 so that tourists and night shift workers at places like airports and call centres can avail of such facilities in the night. Mumbai’s Police Commissioner and local administration immediately issued orders clearing the plan. Thackeray then went on an overdrive on social media, trying to run away with the credit, leaving BJP high and dry. BJP, in turn, went ahead and stalled the move.
BJP’s Mumbai city President Ashish Shelar dismissed the demand to extend the city’s nightlife saying, “What is important is finding ways to improve the living conditions of the common man. Even pav bhaji and wada pav stalls should be allowed to stay open through the night,” Shelar said.
Most activists and intellectuals feel such ideas to unnecessarily regulate everything are likely to cripple and paralyse portions of Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai, India’s most westernised metropolis and commercial hot spot.
Attacks on migrants
Going back in time, the series of attacks on migrants from Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, in Maharashtra, following Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leaders’ critical remarks, centred around language politics and regionalism, hurt sentiments of many.
Shiv Sena and MNS accuse migrants from UP and Bihar of spoiling Maharashtrian culture and not mingling with them. Defending his party’s stand, MNS chief Raj Thackeray explains that the attacks are a reaction to the “provocative and unnecessary show of strength and uncontrolled political and cultural dadagiri of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar migrants and their leaders”.
After his campaign against north Indians, Raj Thackeray on July 14, 2008, asked English medium schools in the state to make Marathi a compulsory subject from first standard, and shop owners to put up nameplates in Marathi. Later, around 50 activists of MNS were arrested in south Mumbai for forcing shop owners to put up Marathi nameplates instead of English signboards.