Arindam Chaudhuri
[February, 2010]

SRK is great! Not just because he is such a star, but because he genuinely is the most amazing person and has such a logical and sound brain. And now the entire nation idolizes this man all the more because he has become a symbol of sheer courage as well! And I think all it required was someone like him to stand up coolly and say, “This is not right, I’ve done nothing wrong and I won’t apologise.” When he was saying this, one could almost see the schoolboy rebel in him – not ready to cow down to an illogical man trying to act as the school headmaster. I am writing this editorial immediately after coming back from a show on NDTV 24x7, which was on the topic, “Is Sena the real power in Mumbai?” I was one of the speakers. It was sad to see Uddhav Thackeray, who was another speaker in that show, sticking to a stance that cannot be defended by any sense of logic. When questioned on the show by the NDTV anchor on his tendentious comments against SRK, Uddhav’s reply was that one should ask the average man on the streets how many times had he (Uddhav) troubled him on similar issues. True, he hasn’t. Then why now? Uddhav’s answer was an illogical “everyone should do their own work rather than commenting on everything” – implying that SRK should keep acting instead of speaking on issues! What a joke! We live in a democracy – and look at what we are saying! That we don’t have the right to speak on subjects of national interest? Unbelievable!

And then, we had a few others on the show even from Bollywood, giving apologetic and diplomatic answers. It’s so sad that despite seeing that someone had taken a brave stance and decided to stand up to illogical hooliganism, no one was ready to speak forthrightly in his favour! What’s more amazing is that the entire Bollywood is standing like a mute spectator virtually. It’s sad... Very sad... They make us really feel as if the real power is with the Sena. But the truth is that it isn’t! The real power rests with the State and the intellectuals. Unfortunately, with the intellectuals abandoning their duty and most people more interested in protecting their personal interests, it all becomes an illusion.
Barring once, the Sena has never ever won the assembly elections in Mumbai; and never got more than a 25% mandate in the state! Despite that, we not only see the film fraternity – filled with security-less individuals – not coming forth, but also notice a similar shameful behaviour from the State. It’s time for the State to show its power. And with Rahul Gandhi showing a clear tilt against the Sena, let’s hope this will happen soon. However, what I want to say goes much beyond this.

I want to challenge the very concept of Bombay belonging to Marathi manoos – not just from the perspective of India being a democracy and the city belonging to everyone, but even from the perspective of history. Bombay, till 1960, combined Gujarat and Maharashtra till the two states were separated. What then came to be known as Bombay – that is, today’s Mumbai – was built literally by the Gujaratis and the Parsis, with the Marathi manoos playing a much lesser role. It symbolises the ‘city of the great dream’ – if we were to borrow this phrase from the Great American Dream – where people from everywhere came and chased their dreams. They made Bombay what it is today. Even today, fifty percent of people are non-Marathis who run this city – a city that is the backbone of the Indian industry. So even historically, this concept of Bombay being for the Marathi manoos, is incorrect. Of course, one doesn’t really need to care too much about history when the key question is about the democratic right of an Indian to live anywhere he wants and say anything he wants. It’s a shame that such an incident is actually happening... and there is still no guarantee that this will be stopped soon! The solution is to make Mumbai a union territory. Give it independent statehood if required, because the heart of the Indian industry cannot be held to ransom by a few parochial politicians whose last hope depends upon dividing a great city on the basis of language and regionalism for no real cause. Of course, they are free to do so in a democracy, but the majority must come together and destroy such forces without a real cause.

If the cause of Marathi manoos was really so important, then the Shiv Sena should have been holding the state government to ransom for keeping the Marathi manoos hungry and jobless for years and forcing them to commit suicides. What a shame that when it comes to the real Marathi manoos, the Sena’s heart doesn’t seem to beat as aggressively. So Bombay needs to become free of Maharashtra and acquire a character of its own. The character of the great melting pot of languages, religions, values and beliefs. The character where every Indian is safe and goes on to fulfill his big dream! Something that SRK symbolises so well!

And till then, I would say the same things as my colleague Sutanu has written in his editorial in Business & Economy’s latest issue. It’s time for the Nana Patekars, Ritesh Deshmukhs, Madhur Bhandarkars and Ashutosh Govarikars (all Marathi manoos) to come up and show the same courage in real that their reel avataars are about. It’s time for the Marathi manoos to come up and repay the love that they have got from every non Marathi. And speak up! Get inspired from Sachin. Lataji where are you? You wouldn’t have been what you are without the RD Burmans and Yash Chopras. Speak up… Sing a song. Not just for SRK but for the cause of India and its democracy!
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