Mumbai, June 11: The politics of survival has caught the tiger by its tail and forced it to retreat.
In an unprecedented effort at damage control, the Shiv Sena last night said its Mee Mumbaikar (I am a Mumbaikar) campaign was not meant to target “Indians from other states”.
The Sena had faced a lot of flak, even from its own units in Uttar Pradesh, when it announced that Maharashtrians were being edged out of Mumbai and people from other states would have to leave the city.
The Sena had also directed local Maharashtrians to boycott vendors and small businessmen from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Caught unawares, the Sena unit in Varanasi struck back by saying that if people from the heartland were thrown out of Mumbai, Maharashtrians settled in the state would get the same treatment.
Sena leader Bal Thackeray then called a party meeting and said the “Mee Mumbaikar campaign” was not aimed at any ethnic or linguistic group.
“People are making attempts to drive a wedge within the Hindu community by pitting one group against another,” Thackeray said.
“But we have to thwart such a design. Everybody who has come here before 1995, whether they are from Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat or Bihar, should come together and oppose the influx of people into Mumbai.”
The Sena, which put up a slide show on “slum proliferation in Mumbai” at a Bandra stadium, said the cut-off date did not hold for Bangladeshi refugees. Sena leader Raj Thackeray, who put up the show, said the slums, from Colaba to Malad, had become the den of activities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India.
“Nobody will find Mumbai safe or beautiful anymore,” Raj said. “This rapid expansion of slums has to end.”
Each slide presented in graphic detail how Mumbai’s slums had damaged the city. While the slums in Mahim were full of “bogus doctors and illegal madarsas and masjids”, those on Reay Road had taken over bus stops and community parks. Slums at Mahatma Phule Nagar, Ganesh Murthi Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar were destroying mangroves and causing pollution, he added.
Thackeray asked his party workers to stop proliferation of slums in their constituencies. Directing the elected representatives to take “stringent action” against slums, the Sena leader said: “Do not allow a single new slum to come up now, the task to oppose slums must be undertaken by you now, don’t wait for action from the government or the municipality.”
But his Mumbai-for-Maharashtrians rhetoric was far less strident than before. “I appeal to uttar Bharatiyas (north Indians) and Biharis to understand the campaign and to cooperate,” Thackeray said.
Asked about the Sena’s directive to companies to employ 90 per cent Maharashtrians, his explanation was: “We are not against north Indians, but against the companies that refuse to employ Marathi youths.”