The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai clears barriers in bandh
- Minority community throws full weight behind blast protest

Mumbai, July 30: At 6 pm sharp, Hussain Kabadiwala opened his small shop dealing in scrap at Kandivili in the western suburbs of Mumbai. But that’s just the way Mumbai is — dhanda first. And Hussain is no exception.

What was exceptional, though, was that Hussain and thousands of minority community members today came out in open support of the bandh sponsored by their known baiters, the Shiv Sena and the BJP.

Called to protest against the killing of three passengers of a bus in an explosion on Monday, the bandh was a slap in the face of the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government in more ways than one.

Nothing much moved in Mumbai, the stock market did, however — business taking customary precedence. But more important was the active support for the call from the minority community that constitutes the Congress’ traditional base. A minister close to chief minister Sushil Shinde said he was surprised at the “Muslim reaction”.

Members of the Muslim Youth of India — which calls itself an “India-loving, patriotic conglomeration of mostly educated and employed Muslim youths’’ — offered the explanation.

“It is a two-pronged move,” said a spokesman for the organisation, which prefers to be referred to as MY India.

“Not only did we and the other organisations want to show that we are as much disgusted and shocked by the attack on innocent people, but we also felt the need to blunt the campaign to paint Muslims as supporters of terrorism and anti-national activities.”

Minority-dominated areas like Bhendi Bazar and Crawford Market, which usually defy the diktats of the Sena and the BJP, wore a deserted look. It was not MY India alone but older and more influential organisations like the Muslim Council of India, Jogeshwari Muslim Front, Raza Academy and the Ulema Council that also felt the minorities should protest against the killings.

Five deadly blasts in eight months have prompted the people to express their anxiety by backing the bandh, transcending community and even political divides. Even outfits like the Samajwadi Party and the CPM, known enemies of the Sena and the BJP, fell in.

“We don’t care if people think we are playing into the hands of the saffron forces, this is much bigger than this,’’ Ishtaq Masood, a Samajwadi supporter, said.

“It is imperative that Muslims don’t keep quiet now as it is both unfair and counter-productive.”

Even as BEST took unprecedented steps like allowing conductors to frisk passengers and making other security changes in its system and buses, the government made little headway in the investigation into Monday’s blast.

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