To Elphinstone Road

When a system is forced to run at four to six times its capacity for years on end, it doesn’t break – it was always broken. Elphinstone Road is the story of almost all urban infrastructure in our cities. It’s a template. It’s a warning. It’s our history, our everyday, and our future. It’s horrifying. It’s utterly banal.

When only death can make you think of repair, maintenance, upkeep, and expansion, then the everydayness of our infrastructure is a state of violence. When that death will still not make you change the way you manage that infrastructure, that violence is a siege, and we have Stockholm Syndrome. Not resilience, but a hostage situation.

The real challenge to us – all of us, in all our locations – is to realise the deep insufficiency of our anger if it is anger just at death. Anger is needed as much at the way we live, not just the ways in which we shouldn’t die.

Continue reading “To Elphinstone Road”

Protest the communally motivated murder of Yakub Shaikh in Mumbai!

A CALL FOR PROTEST on 29th October 2015 outside Toyota Shinrai, Cotton Green, Mumbai.

On 29th September at 2:30 pm,  a day after Dadri lynching in Uttar Pradesh, Yakub Shaikh, a worker at the Toyota Shinrai workshop cum showroom at Cotton Green, Mumbai, was brutally murdered at his workplace. The murder took place as a result of some of his co-workers forcefully inserting an air pipe at 140 PSI pressure into his rectum. His organs burst open leading to what must have been a painful but instant death. The gruesome `lynching’ was sought to be suppressed by the management and co-employees at the showroom.

His family was misinformed throughout, the various versions of the death being told  to them as “heart attack”, food poisoning, medicine overdose and finally “a prank”, by the company and police. The two CCTV cameras covering the spot of murder were reported by the Toyota Shinrai management to police as having been out of service for months, whereas a close inspection shows that they have been tampered with and damaged very recently. Clearly there seems to be an unholy nexus between the police and the Toyota company.

The police have recorded the statement of an 18-year old temporary worker as the complainant and registered an FIR in his name. Why wasn’t the  management made the complainant? In a large workplace where 40-50 people work, why were the statements of co workers not recorded? The single witness / complainant is likely to  turn hostile at any moment. Why have the police refused to accept the version from the victim’s family? Why has the management given different versions of the death to the family? Why the management wanted to give a false story of heart attack, and why the police ACP was trying to do a negotiation for 3 lakhs? Why was there a delay in doing post mortem? The management’ s false heart attack story and the delay in deciding on post mortem itself warranted demand for charging/implicating the management in covering-up/destroying evidence, if not conspiracy with the murderers.  Does not a single arrest to such a gruesome murder point to a conspiracy and a deliberate attempt by the police to shield the Toyota Company and the other accomplices to the murder? Throughout, the police have taken every possible step to silence the victim’s family.

A fact-finding team of lawyers and activists from various organizations have submitted a report after their own investigation that a minimum of 5-6 people were involved in pinning down Yakub Shaikh and inserting the air pipe into his rectum. It is clearly a case of pre-planned murder. The murder also happened a day after the Dadri lynching soon after Eid and Yakub Shaikh had been threatened for having eaten `meat’.

A month after the murder of Yakub Shaikh, the police and management are singing in chorus that Yakub was killed because of a prank that misfired. We concerned citizens strongly condemn the murder and demand that the officials of Toyota Shinrai showroom along with the employees responsible for the murder be booked and justice be given to the family of Yakub Shaikh.

We appeal  to all democratic citizens, trade unionists and secular activists to gather in large numbers at 5 pm on Thursday, 29th October . We will gather at Lal Maidan and from there we will proceed to Toyota Shinrai as a sign of protest against the gruesome murder of Yakub Shaikh to demand justice for the victim and his family.

CPDR, BBA, JKA and concerned citizens.

A letter to Father Frazer Mascarenhas SJ

Endorsed by academics, activists and educationists across India.

Dear Father,
In these troubling times, when the mightiest are being bought over, lured, seduced, or silenced, we salute you for your courage and moral clarity in asking your students to choose wisely. By drawing the attention of your students (who would have voted for the first time) to the seamy underbelly of a ‘model’ that is being promoted unabashedly by the corporate media as the panacea of all that which ails India, we believe you acted responsibly and ethically. The purpose of education is to inculcate critical thinking, to provide
tools of analysis, and to make students sensitive to social realities – no matter how unpleasant they may be. Far from abusing your position, as the BJP is alleging, we think that your advice is the appropriate way for a teacher, and head of an academic institution, to act. Continue reading “A letter to Father Frazer Mascarenhas SJ”

People’s Participation in Planning Mumbai?: Hussain Indorewala and Shweta Wagh

This is a guest post by Hussain Indorewala and Shweta Wagh

Since the past six months in Mumbai, there has been an unusual convergence between urban activists, community groups, rights groups, unions, Non-Governmental Organizations and academics, who have come together to provide a theoretical critique of the city’s neoliberal development model, to formulate a more diverse and hopeful vision for the city than the one proclaimed by its power elite, and to present practical alternatives to plans and projects promulgated by faceless state bureaucracies and unaccountable private consultants.

On 22nd October 2013, more than 1500 people gathered at Azad Maidan to formally present “The People’s Vision Document for Mumbai’s Development Plan (2014-2034)” to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).[1] The People’s Vision Document (PVD)[2] is a remarkable collective vision statement, an outcome of discussions focused around specific issues in the city with more than a hundred grassroots and community groups, along with activists, experts and academics who participated in them. With this movement, the less advantaged residents of the city have announced and forced themselves into an exclusionary and secretive Development Plan process; refusing to be silent spectators, in a striking example of initiative, organizational ability and creative agency, they have asserted their right to the city’s future, whose owners and managers have done much to keep them out. To use the language of other social urban movements around the world, some of the most marginalized groups of the city are fighting for spatial justice, urban democracy, and have claimed their ‘right to be equal in diversity.’[3] Continue reading “People’s Participation in Planning Mumbai?: Hussain Indorewala and Shweta Wagh”

Ek Tha Tiger: Death and Bal K. Thackeray

We have reasons to be grateful that Bal K. Thackeray has died, a normal, natural death. Several of those whom he admired, didn’t. Adolf Hitler, the fellow ‘artist’ he often invoked, killed himself, his mistress and his dog. Indira Gandhi, and her son Sanjay, the mother and son firm of despots that Bal Thackeray endorsed, didn’t go gently into the night either. Sanjay Gandhi, the ‘bold young man’ whom Thackeray recognized as a fellow spirit came spiraling down in his own airplane, demonstrating that the indifferent sky does occasionally listen  to the prayers of the earth to alleviate its burden. Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv both fell to the forces that their own ruling dispensation had nurtured, Khalistani zealots and the LTTE.  Bal Thackeray was lucky to have lived as long as he did, sipping his lukewarm beer, spitting out his bile. Very lucky. As for us, we are fortunate that Thackeray did not get to go down as a Maratha martyr, just as a lapsed cartoonist, a would-be caudillo and a has-been demagogue. Continue reading “Ek Tha Tiger: Death and Bal K. Thackeray”

Social Media Regulation vs. Suppression of Freedom of Speech: Pranesh Prakash

Guest post by PRANESH PRAKASH

This morning, there was a short report in the Mumbai Mirror about two girls having been arrested for comments one of them made, and the other ‘liked’, on Facebook about Bal Thackeray:

Police on Sunday arrested a 21-year-old girl for questioning the total shutdown in the city for Bal Thackeray’s funeral on her Facebook account. Another girl who ‘liked’ the comment was also arrested.

The duo were booked under Section 295 (a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 64 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Though the girl withdrew her comment and apologised, a mob of some 2,000 Shiv Sena workers attacked and ransacked her uncle’s orthopaedic clinic at Palghar.

“Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that,” said PI Uttam Sonawane.

What provisions of law were used?

There’s a small mistake in Mumbai Mirror‘s reportage as there is no section “64(a)”1 in the Information Technology (IT) Act, nor a section “295(a)” in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They must have meant section 295A of the IPC (“outraging religious feelings of any class”) and section 66A of the IT Act (“sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.”). The Wall Street Journal’s Shreya Shah has confirmed that the second provision was section 66A of the IT Act.

Section 295A of the IPC is cognizable and non-bailable, and hence the police have the powers to arrest a person accused of this without a warrant.2 Section 66A of the IT Act is cognizable and bailable. Some news sources claim that section 505(2) of the IPC (“Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes”) has also been invoked.

This is clearly a case of misapplication of s.295A of the IPC.3 This provision has been frivolously used numerous times in Maharashtra. Even the banning of James Laine’s book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India happened under s.295A, and the ban was subsequently held to have been unlawful by both the Bombay High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Indeed, s.295A has not been applied in cases where it is more apparent, making this seem like a parody news report. Continue reading “Social Media Regulation vs. Suppression of Freedom of Speech: Pranesh Prakash”