Tag Archives: Mumbai

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


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

दिल्ली बनाम बम्बई

भारत के दो महानगरों राष्ट्रिय राजधानी दिल्ली और बम्बई को यूनेस्को द्वारा विश्व धरोहर की सूची में नामांकित करने की तैयारियां चल रही हैं, कुछ मित्रों ने दिल्ली या बम्बई की बहस शुरू कर दी है जो वास्तव में पूर्णत: अनर्गल बात है.

में दिल्ली बनाम बम्बई के पचड़े में पड़ने के बजाये ये सवाल पूछना चाहता हूँ के ऐसा क्यों है के 65,436,552 की कुल आबादी और 6,74,800 वर्ग किलोमीटर के कुल क्षेत्रफल वाले फ्रांस में 35 स्थान, नगर, इमारतें प्राकृतिक स्थल आदि ऐसे हैं जो विश्व धरोहर की सूची में शामिल किये गए हैं मगर इस सूची में भारत का नाम केवल 29 बार ही आता है.

जो सवाल पूछना ज़रूरी है वो यह के सिर्फ दिल्ली या/और बम्बई ही क्यों? जोधपुर, जयपुर, अजमेर, इंदौर, उज्जैन, भोपाल, बनारस, इलाहबाद, लखनऊ, पटना, वैशाली, हैदराबाद, विदिशा कालिंजर, मदुरै, कांचीपुरम कलकत्ता और मद्रास क्यों नहीं ?, आप ने नोट किया होगा के बम्बई कलकत्ता और मद्रास के नए नाम में इस्तेमाल नहीं कर रहा हूँ और दिल्ली को भी देहली नहीं लिखा है. यह जान बूझ कर किया जा रहा है दरअसल विरासत कहीं अतीत में जड़ हो गयी कोई चीज़ नहीं है और इसलिए नाम बदलने की समस्त परियोजनाएं विरासत से छेड़ छाड करने की निन्दनीय प्रवर्ति का ही हिस्सा हैं. Continue reading दिल्ली बनाम बम्बई

Review: ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ by Katherine Boo

Guest post by MITU SENGUPTA

In a remarkable book about slumdwellers in Mumbai, Katherine Boo brings to light an India of “profound and juxtaposed inequality” – a country where more than a decade of steady economic growth has delivered shamefully little to the poorest and most vulnerable.  But though indeed a thoroughgoing and perceptive indictment of post-liberalization India, the book fits into a troubling narrative about the roots of India’s poverty and squandered economic potential.

This is a beautifully written book.  Through tight but supple prose, Boo offers an unsettling account of life in Annawadi, a slum near Mumbai’s international airport.  In Boo’s words, this “single, unexceptional slum” sits beside a “sewage lake” so polluted that pigs and dogs resting in its shallows have “bellies stained in blue.” It is hidden by a wall that sports an advertisement for elegant floor tiles (“Beautiful Forevers” – and hence the title).  There are heartrending accounts of rat-filled garbage sheds, impoverished migrants forced to eat rats, a girl covered by worm-filled boils (from rat bites), and a “vibrant teenager,” who kills herself (by drinking rat poison) when she can no longer bear what life has to offer.

Continue reading Review: ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’ by Katherine Boo

Some Questions for the Maharashtra ATS Chief: JTSA


The Maharashtra ATS claims to have cracked the 13/7 blasts case. Its chief has revealed in a press conference that Indian Mujahideen was behind the Mumbai blasts. And yet, the Ministry of Home Affairs remains far from impressed—indeed, it appears rather irritated. And the press, also unusually, has been circumspect about his revelations. The ATS Chief says that he did not want to call a press conference. But the rumours about Naquee’s IB links were threatening the credibility of the ATS. Such were his compulsions when he launched into a monologue about the ‘breakthrough’ his team—under his guidance of course—had achieved.

Despite his loud proclamations however, there are few who are willing to buy the ATS’ arguments. Here are some issues for the ATS Chief to mull over: Continue reading Some Questions for the Maharashtra ATS Chief: JTSA

The Gandhi Chawl Incident: Meena Menon

This guest post by MEENA MENON is an extract from her recently published book, Riots and after in Mumbai- Chronicles of Truth and Reconciliation

It was all in the eyes. Beneath the finely drawn brows, they were haunted and distant. For Naina Bane, the night of 8 January 1993 will remain a night of absolute terror. Her escape was miraculous as was her recovery. It took me several months and wrong leads before I met her finally at a family reunion in the suburbs. Dressed in a long mustard coloured ‘maxi’, her hair was drawn back tightly. I found it hard to recognize the same girl who was almost burnt alive on that fateful night in Gandhi chawl. Now 40, there is a faraway look about her and her eyes widen when I ask to speak to her. She got married in 1996 and lives outside Mumbai. Her 6-year-old son keeps her busy. Her husband worked for a mill which closed down, a typical story in Mumbai. He was a badli (temporary worker) and he lost his job. He now works as a watchman. Continue reading The Gandhi Chawl Incident: Meena Menon

City in Terror: Dilip D’Souza

Guest post by DILIP D’SOUZA

Starting today eighteen years ago, for much of December and January (and then March 12), Indian killed Indian on the streets of my city. Terror at its most elemental: I felt it then. I saw it then. Others told me about it then.

Some memories of those weeks, in no particular order but they all still make my hair stand on end.

Memories of another time: Dilip D’Souza

Guest post by DILIP D’SOUZA

The anniversary began, for me, with a phone call. Someone I haven’t heard from in some years, mother of a soldier who died fighting for India in Kashmir. Her voice faltered several times during our conversation, and I could hear her tears. “Look at the tamasha,” she said, “over remembering the people who died on November 26 2008. Yet do we remember my son? Do we remember so many others” — and here she named several soldiers — “who died facing bullets on our border? Really do we remember people who died for no reason?”

“If we have a remembrance for one,” she said, “I want it for all. I want it for everyone who dies like this. Otherwise we wonder, what did our sons die for?” Continue reading Memories of another time: Dilip D’Souza

Creative Destructions

Part of a Series. See here.

In January of this year, I had taken a friend to Mumbai. One of the places we went to was Lower Parel – I wanted to show him what I could of the Mills. You could still see the Mills then, if not in the same form. The same compounds now housed small galleries and boutiques. There were advertisements for a ‘mills culture tour’, sold as something in between a bar hop and an art gallery cruise. I knew big clubs had opened here, as had malls. Phoenix Mills was Mumbai’s version of Delhi’s DLF Emporio – all the major global brands were there. Even here, however, I remember laughing and pointing out to him that some of Bombay’s stubborn egalitarianism remained. Armani was next to Addidas. Rohit Bal next to a paper store. Unlike in Delhi where no non-hyper-elite brand could get near DLF Emporio, in Bombay, even Armani couldn’t buy space away from Adiddas.

Continue reading Creative Destructions

The Suicide of Sense

Mumbai has been in the grip of a wave of student suicides this past month. According to the Mumbai Mirror, as many as 25 suicides have taken place in the city in the new year, most of which have been by students. As expected, the media has tripped over itself reporting every sordid and tragic detail of the students’ personal lives, and public anxiety in Mumbai is climbing to the level of all-round hysteria. The general consensus is that there is too much pressure on young minds from schools and parents; the Maharashtra State government has reacted by issuing directives to all eight regional education boards in the state asking principals to arrange workshops to identify depressed students and urge them to seek psychiatric help. State education minister Balasaheb Thorat has promised a stress-free curriculum in school boards, and followed this up by a new rule that allows failure in one subject for an overall pass result in the SSC. A south Mumbai hospital has recruited a former depressive who has a history of three suicide attempts to counsel others against suicide. The Thane Mental Hospital has in the meanwhile gone one step ahead and created what they call a ‘20-minute anti-suicide psycho drama skit’ to be performed on the streets and in educational institutions. According to hospital superintendent Dr. Sanjay Kumavat, the skit will focus on the trauma that family members go through when a child commits suicide, and the ‘problems created by such a situation’ (Mumbai Mirror Jan 18th 2010) – this will hopefully prevent them from taking the proverbial ‘drastic step’.

Continue reading The Suicide of Sense

A postcard from Bombay for Raj

Don’t think it’s a good idea and you’ll do it one of these days. Do it today! Go to your nearest post office, buy a postcard and address it to Raj Thackeray. Don’t be abusive, write a peace message, and when you write the MNS office address, write BOMBAY instead of Mumbai. And shoot it off today! If you like the idea, buy more than a few postcards and give them to friends.

Details here.

Of Bhoomiputra and Housing

DSCN8740I was moving around Mumbai city on that weekend, mainly in the western suburbs. Several posters and banners were put up all over, announcing a call to a mass rally by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Thackeray’s clarion call for that meeting was: “Housing for the bhoomiputra“. Bhoomiputra literally means son of the land. On an overt reading of the poster and slogan, one could conclude that the Sena is back to its advocacy of the sons of the soil theory which originally raised it to prominence in the 1960s. But when I attended the rally and noticed the people who attended it, I asked myself, so who exactly is this son of the soil that the Sena is talking about? Is it the Marathi manoos, the local underdog who the Sena argues has no social and economic space in his/her own city? If it is truly the Marathi manoos, then how do I interpret the presence of North Indian women, Bohra muslim women, perhaps even Dalit women, and many other women who I tried to mark but could not classify as either Hindu or Christian or any other particular else.  Hmmm …. Continue reading Of Bhoomiputra and Housing

Let Us Not Forget – South Asia Solidarity Initiative

Statement by the South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI) at ‘After Mumbai, Which Way Forward? A Public Dialogue’, City University of New York Graduate Center, New York, December 15th, 2008. Co-sponsored by The Center for Place, Culture and Politics, The Brecht Forum and SALAAM Theatre.

Let Us Not Forget

Like many in South Asia, we watched with anguish as nearly 180 people of different castes, classes, religions and nationalities lost their lives in the events in Mumbai that unfolded over several days. We mourn their loss in this large tragedy and condemn the perpetration of such terrible violence. We also express solidarity with those intrepid groups and individuals who have tirelessly sought to build deep-roots of social, political, economic and cultural understanding for peace and justice in South Asia.  At this moment, we call for reflection on recent histories of South Asia and the world.  Hence lessons may be drawn, collective action contemplated and spaces of hope created from the debris of despondency. Continue reading Let Us Not Forget – South Asia Solidarity Initiative

Looking Kabul, talking Rawalpindi?

Strategically speaking, that is. It is important to think this question through.

For one, there’s hardly anybody disputing that the Lashkar-e-Tayebba was behind the attack. Pakistan wants evidence, but doesn’t deny the LeT could be it. 

Parvez Hoodbhoy says in an interview:

LeT, one of the largest militant groups in Pakistan, was established over 15 years ago. It was supported by the Pakistani military and the ISI because it focussed upon fighting Indian rule in Muslim Kashmir. Today it is one of the very few extremist groups left that do not attack the military and the ISI; Continue reading Looking Kabul, talking Rawalpindi?

The monster in the mirror

Arundhati Roy wants you to choose:

There is a fierce, unforgiving fault-line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let’s call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially “Islamist” terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.

Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm’s way. Which is a crime in itself. [The Guardian, Saturday, 13 December 2008]