Mee Mumbaikar


This is not about what Mee Mumbaikar really means. I believe I am not close enough to the Mumbai culture even after living here for 10 years to make an informed opinion about it. However, I have been observing the Shiv Sena and its political/social activities for a while and probably can say something sensible about them.

Mee Mumbaikar right now is a phrase adopted by the Shiv Sena, and in many ways, identified with their campaign to play to Marathi parochial sentiments.

So the English speaking or cosmopolitan Mumbaikar is led to believe by the various statements emanating from Sena quarters that this is a campaign against them. That the Sena does not want them around. That Mumbai is for Maharashtrians. That Mee Mumbaikar can only be a marathi manus. Let us try to sift the actual message of Sena's Mee Mumbaikar from their own propaganda and subterfuges.

 The Shiv Sena would like Maharashtrians to believe that the Mee Mumbaikar campaign is to protect Marathi culture from outsiders. The outsiders in this case mean North Indians, South Indians, Muslims and the English-speaking classses who smooch and booze on page 3. The point is, the Shiv Sena would like the Maharashtrians to BELIEVE so. For the Sena, this is a nice play on Marathi sentiments - let's reclaim our city as our own!

Fortunately, this is not so. The Sena is parochial, and frankly, would like to drive everyone away and turn Mumbai into the ultimate Maharashtrian dream. However, they are clever enough to know that this is not practical. But it is a dream still, and what harm is there in pretending to your votebank that you are actually moving in that direction? Even the votebank would like to think that the Sainiks can do it, and may be doing something about it. But the votebank is also clear that it is not practical, and will be satisfied with some small victories in that direction.

In their public meetings, Saamna and the statements of the leaders targeted to the Marathi community, the Sena PRETENDS that the campaign is to oust the non-Marathi classes. Makes everyone feel good.

However, every time they have to face the English media or TV channels, they have steadfastly refused to do so. I have watched the Sena leaders several times on Aaj Tak and NDTV, declaring in loud voices that the Mee Mumbaikar campaign is not against non-Maharashtrians. It is not even against those who have arrived in the city post-1994! The few Mahashtrians I know to whom I related how Sanjay Nirupam and Pramod Navalkar aggressively denied any such suggestions, were shell-shocked. That is not what we have been told. We have been told that a Mumbaikar is a Maharashtrian. We have been told that all those who came after 1994 should leave. We have been told that Mee Mumbaikar is a campaign to preserve Marathi culture in Mumbai, and in effect, against other cultures.

Why is the Shiv Sena playing this double-faced game?

There could be a clue in what Sanjay Nirupam and Pramod Navalkar says on TV. Navalkar says, "It is not against any of you in this audience, it is not against non-Maharashtrians, it is not against people like you in this audience!" Then who is it against? "Mee Mumbaikar campaign is against those Bangladeshis and outsiders who come to Mumbai, work here and stay in the slums and ruin the city!"

My guess is: This is what the Sena really means. The Mee Mumbaikar campaign is an electoral strategy to play on Maharashtrian sentiments to generate support for themselves during the next elections. The Sena knows that it is not possible for them to reclaim Mumbai, though they would like to. So - play on sentiments, shout Mee Mumbaikar!, get elected, and put the practical aspect of the campaign into action - try and drive out Bangladeshi Muslims and illegal or non-Sainik slumdwellers from Mumbai.

Tell me what you think.




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