The name ‘Mumbai' is derived from ‘Mumba' (native goddess) and ‘Aai' (mother in Marathi). This idea is similar to the personified representation of ‘Mother India.' In this context, does the scuffle surrounding the rights over Mumbai stand relevant? The Shiv Sena's and its offspring, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's violent moves not only stem from their linguistic chauvinism, but are also are attempts at reviving the lost glory.
Icons like Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan are used as mere masks to shield its political opportunism. Besides, heinous acts of bullying couples on Valentine's Day, opposing a particular author and curtailing the freedom of speech and expression are the outcome of their egocentricity. These self-proclaimed custodians of culture should understand the diverse and evolving nature of our cultural ethos, especially in the context of globalisation.
Mumbai is a global city. It is unfair to judge its current culture with something that was prevalent centuries ago. While a mere aping of western concepts is not correct, any form of degradation of our cultural ethos and value systems should be checked, but not by violent means. We cannot preserve our culture by enforcing it; rather, we must make our education system value-based so that the future generations will accept western ideas without forgetting their cultural moorings.
The culture of Maharashtra is beyond just speaking Marathi. It is about folk art forms, dances, handicrafts, literature, films, paintings and so on. It is important to preserve these elements rather than blow the futile trumpet of linguistic chauvinism. Sabotaging public property, cinema halls and art galleries is actually vandalising the cosmopolitan nature and economic basis of Mumbai.
Mumbai is one of the most populous cities of the world. Excessive migration has put a severe strain on its resources. The hostility shown by the Shiv Sena and the MNS towards north Indians, especially those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, is due to the tremendous migration of unskilled labour form the two States, mainly Uttar Pradesh. This has increased manifold the socio-economic problems. There are people from other States as well as Maharashtra residing in these unauthorised dwellings. Thus, it is unfair to hold any particular regional community responsible for this problem.
Although the Shiv Sena's moves are driven by good intentions, namely saving Mumbai from overcrowding, its method of attaining this goal is, indeed, questionable. A similar situation can occur in other cities as well. The first step should be to stop the further growth of unauthorised dwellings in urban areas. Next, it is necessary to clear out all the unauthorised dwellings and provide alternatives to the evacuated families in adjoining towns, or in newly developed areas.
Inclusive growth should focus on rural development through industrialisation — development of handicrafts and cottage industries, fillip to infrastructure development and revamping of the educational infrastructure so that rural youth do not feel the need to migrate to cities. We have to understand that India as a union is as good and developed, as the most underdeveloped unit of our federation. The Centre should take special interest to help the underdeveloped States to come up.
Similarly, the developed States should also help the less developed States. Competition among the States should remain healthy, without forgetting that we all are Indians first.
As far as Mumbai is concerned, if at all we assume that it belongs to a particular community, it will not compel the other communities to leave Mumbai; nor will it solve the existing socio-economic problems. Moreover, it is not Mumbai that belongs to Mumbaikars, but the Mumbaikars who earn their daily bread in the city, irrespective of their diverse languages, religions and regions, that belong to their mother ‘Mumba Aai.'