The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sena roars, targets yawn

Mumbai, June 3: The Shiv Sena wants the bhaiyyas from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar out, but no one is budging.

Mumbai houses more than a lakh people from the two states and their number is increasing every day. The Sena has created an uproar by asking them to leave, saying they are the ones most responsible for proliferation of slums in the city where more than 55 per cent of the people are slum-dwellers.

On May 26, Sena activists disrupted a railway examination at suburban Malad to stop non-Maharashtrians (read people from Uttar Pradesh) from getting more government jobs. A large section of railway employees in the state are from Uttar Pradesh.

But it seems that the bhaiyyas’ long stay in Mumbai has made them immune to Sena threats, as not many are bothered about what the party is saying.

Fashion Street, one of the city’s shopping hotspots stretching from Churchgate to Metro cinema, is an unending row of 470 stalls of cheap cotton garments, many of them export-rejects, price highly negotiable.

Most of the stall-owners and salesmen are from the two heartland states; they know that the Sena wants them out, but they are unfazed.

Mumbai kisi ke baap ka nahin hai,” says Mohammed Sohail, a salesman from Bihar. “Who cares what Bal Thackeray says' We have been living here for so many years. It’s not as if the Sena will come and ask us to go and we’ll leave,” he adds.

“We are all licensed stall-owners here,” says Kallan Khan, who has been here since the 1970s. His family lives in Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh. “We have read about the warning, but no one from the Sena has come here or met us,” says Khan.

Rahul, who came here five years ago from Patna as he had friends in the city, many of them working in Fashion Street, also shrugs off the threat.

The feeling is echoed by A.L. Kudroos of the Mumbai Taximen’s Association, most of whose 58,000 members are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “It is a political stunt by the Sena before the elections,” says Kudroos, adding that 90 per cent of the 95,000 taxi drivers in Maharashtra are from the northern states.

Last month, the junior Thackerays, Raj and Uddhav, made a pointed statement against migration into Mumbai from the heartland, creating an uproar. While Uddhav said the influx from the heartland should stop as the city’s resources were being stretched, Raj went to the extent of saying people from those states should be driven out.

The Sena’s attack is targeted at the poor: the party is open to the entry of potential flat-owners from any part of the country. While the Sena statement was criticised for being blatantly anti-poor, poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar was slammed for associating with the party.

Akhtar agreed to write a song for Mumbaikars on the Sena’s invitation, though he made it clear that the song would have none of its agenda. It would be written from the viewpoint of a cosmopolitan, secular, contemporary Mumbaikar.

But the Urdu Times slammed Akhtar for becoming part of the Sena agenda.

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