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Mumbai for all? Four different views

Last updated on: October 15, 2010 12:01 IST

Mumbai for all? Four different views

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Prasanna D Zore in Mumbai
It was a motley group of people a politician, an actor-athlete, newspaper editors, a chief economist of a corporate house and a professor of political science that had gathered in Mumbai to debate on an issue, which according to Kumar Ketkar, editor of local Marathi morninger Loksatta, would not end even in 2060.

'Mumbai for All' was the theme of the evening that was called to celebrate the successful completion of 15 years of the Outlook group.

The presentation made by each speaker Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena, Kumar Ketkar, Rahul Bose and Professor Deepak Pawar except Sir as Manohar Joshi is fondly called, squarely blamed the parochial politics played by the likes of the Shiv Sena and its recent twin, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for the decline of Marathi culture in Mumbai.

While Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta chaired the debate and regaled the audience with why he has named his pet dog Editor (much about that later), Ajit Ranade, chief economist of the Aditya Birla group moderated the debate.

While most of the panel of the distinguished guests were Marathis, Vinod Mehta likened himself to a Punjabi manoos from Nana Chowk.

Of course, the odd man in the crowd was Manohar Joshi who staunchly held fort with his 'Mumbai belongs to Marathis' theme. Deepak Pawar, Rahul Bose and Kumar Ketkar, however, had their own take on who Mumbai belongs to.

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'Don't make us apologetic for being Marathi'

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Professor of political science Deepak Pawar had the most engaging and interesting presentation on the topic telling a cosmopolitan audience why there should be a cap on the number of migrants coming to Mumbai.

"What's the capacity of this city? Is Mumbai not saturated?" he asked the audience.

Pawar said that most cities and financial centres in the world had this problem whereby an influx of migrants made the locals feel insecure. However, he believes that the way the Shiv Sena and MNS treat the problem is absolutely condemnable.

Pawar rued the fact that in our fight for who Mumbai belongs to the importance of Marathi language as a tool of empowerment and governance for the benefit of Marathi manoos.

"The Shiv Sena's understanding of Marathi is very limited," he observed. However, he also caustically remarked that Marathis were being excluded from the discourse on who Mumbai belongs to and supported his observation by pointing out that a majority of Marathis have been moving out of Mumbai into the extended Mumbai Metropolitan Region that included satellite towns like Karjat, Kalyan and Badlapur.

"Marathis just can't afford the high cost of real estate in Mumbai," he told rediff.com.


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'India's soul is inextricably linked to Mumbai's soul'

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Actor, athlete and social activist Rahul Bose said nobody can stop the influx of migrants into Mumbai simply because it was a city of dreams for the dispossessed and the poor.

His fundamental point was: India's unity and integrity depended on Mumbai's integrity.

"India's soul is inextricably linked to Mumbai's soul. If Mumbai breaks, India breaks," he said.

He also rued the fact that the state government had utterly failed in implementing and enforcing the law of the land. "The law of the land was never implemented when people needed it the most," he said taking an indirect dig at the Congress government's administrative failure in containing the violence that engulfed the city in the aftermath of the anti-migrant agitation by the MNS.

Speaking like a universalist he said "Our lives have their own momentum, and it's called survival".


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'Mumbai has lost its Marathi character'

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Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar came down like a brick of ton on all those who oppose the entry of migrants into Mumbai.

He squarely blamed the Shiv Sena's emergence as a parochial party based on the hatred of the migrants first it was the South Indians in mid 1960s when the party was born and later North Indians as responsible for the decline of Marathi culture in Mumbai.

"Between 1960 to 2010, Mumbai lost its Marathi charatcter," he said. He noted that 2.75 lakh Marathi families had disappeared from Mumbai during this period as the Shiv Sena shot into prominence ably assisted by the crippling Mill workers' strike in the city since 1982. "The Shiv Sena has failed the Marathi people," he said.

Interestingly, Ketkar observed, Mumbai assumed a Marathi character as more than 75 textile mills sprung up in the city since 1856. While rich Parsis brought most of the capital into the city, Marwaris, Gujaratis the people who worked in these mills were Marathi.

Ketkar maintains that it was because of the Marathi language that he could shrug off his inferiority complex and attain a global outlook.


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'Mumbai belongs to the Marathi manoos'

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Senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi stubbornly began his address in Marathi and maintained throughout his presentation that Mumbai belonged to Marathis. He took the help of the basis of linguistic division of states in India in 1956 to support his claim.

"Mumbai Marathi manasachich," he said in chaste Marathi at an event, 'Mumbai For All', organised by the Outlook Group in Mumbai on the occasion of its 15 years of existence.

"Mumbai belongs to Maharashtra and hence to the Marathi manoos," he later translated for an audience that represented Mumbai's cosmopolitanism. He said the issue was settled way back in 1956 when Indian states were formed on the basis of language.

However, he rued the fact that supporters of people migrating freely within India were abusing Article 19 of the Indian Constitution that grants freedom of movement and freedom to reside and settle in any part of India as a fundamental right.

"People don't read Article 19 completely. The Constitution has given us these fundamental rights but with reasonable restrictions," he said.

Later, Joshi clarified that 'reasonable restrictions' could mean only those people who have a job and place to live in Mumbai may migrate here.


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Am not Sonia's chamcha: Vinod Mehta

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Vinod Mehta, editor of Outlook magazine was at his wittiest best when he rose to speak about Mumbai and regaled the audience with his funny anecdotes. Interestingly, he didn't say much about who Mumbai belongs to.

Sample these wonderful anecdotes from "Congress chamcha and Sonia chamcha."

People always ask me why I have named my pet dog as Editor.

His answer: My dog is pompous, wilful and stubborn. Delhi editors too are pompous, wilful and stubborn, he told to an audience that split into loud laughter.

He also regaled the audience on his take on the character of India's two most important capitals: Mumbai and Delhi.

His take: While people in Delhi enjoy failure of others, Mumbaikars love success stories.

He recalled how people in Delhi believed that he would do no good in Delhi after he lost three jobs in two and a half years in Mumbai. "You will fail in Delhi," the Delhiites would tell him.

"Oh, you lost your job? Don't worry you will get another one," is how Mumbaikars would react he said about the different characters of the two cities.


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