Friday, February 22, 2008

Violence spares no one

In the recent spate of MNS disturbance in the city the ‘Marathi manoos’ has suffered too

Dibyajyoti Sarma & Hrishikesh Joshi

Pune: The plumbing work at Shirish Gokhale’s flat needs urgent repairs. The problem is there is no one to do it. His regular plumber, Lalan’s mobile is not working for the last two days. He has been asking around for him, but no one has any idea of whereabouts. Gokhale has know Lalan for some years now. In fact, he has handled the plumbing at almost all the houses in the neighbourhood. Trustworthy and humble, his service is cheaper than an average plumber’s. But Lalan is missing. His mobile is switched off, and no one knows where this guy lives. Now, Gokhale is not sure whether he should wait for his regular plumber or give the job to someone else.
The violence by the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) activists has triggered situations that have affected not only the ‘outsiders’ in question, but the local people, the ‘Marathi manoos’, too. Not only has the government machinery in the city incurred severe losses, for instance the number of buses being damaged, the common man, irrespective of personal belief and political ideology, has been affected. There are many in Pune like Gokhale whose plans and daily lives have come to standstill due to the MNS chaos.
Says Madhav Parashar, “Till the campaign against the North Indians began, I did not know the watchman in my building in Kondhwa is a North Indian. After I read the news about the North Indian migrant labourers leaving in hordes, I went down to check if our watchman was still there. When I saw him, I asked why he had not left the city. He told me that this was his city too. He said he had been here for the last 15 years and would not just leave.”
Amit Kulkarni was to shift to his new flat in Kothrud on February 16, after the painting job there was complete. Kulkarni had hired a reliable man to do the job, a man who was trustworthy and known to him for several years. But, now, the shifting has been postponed indefinitely since the painter is missing. It was after several attempts to find him that reality hit Kulkarni, his painter was a ‘bhaiyya’ from Bihar and must have gone home, like so many of his kinsmen. But Kulkarni is in a fix as he is getting married next month and his flat is not yet ready. The other contractors have demanded more money for the same work. Kulkarni is a frustrated man and asks whether the people, who have created this situation, come to his rescue?
In case of Suresh Kulkarni,the workers giving his bungalow a facelift have disappeared, before the work’s completion. The contractor, who had provided these men, is under tremendous pressure to complete the pending work at different places. The contractor says he is in the business for the last five years. Most of his customers are locals and they have never had any problems with the migrant labourers working for him. However, his workers are now frightened. They have witnessed scenes of some other migrant workers being brutally beaten with iron rods. Now, they are scared to step out of their homes. The contractor does not know what to do. Kulkarni, who has already spent Rs 1.5 lakh on his bungalow, feels he’ll have to wait indefinitely for the work to be complete.
Explaining the phenomenon of the violence, R. Raj Rao, professor at the department of English, University of Pune, says, it shows that the city is changing, and is becoming more cosmopolitan. According to him, migrant labourers and for that matter, outsiders, have always been a part of the city. But till recently, they were an invisible minority, as Pune was still dominated by Marathis. However, in the last few years, thanks to Information Technology (IT) and other industries, the visibility of the outsiders have increased here. The violence is a direct repercussion of that.
About the victims of the recent violence, Rao reiterates that the mob knows no logic. Most of the properties affected belongs to the state of Maharashtra and the Maharashtrian people. Rao aptly winds up the debate by giving the example of a school bus, which belonged to a Maharashtrian, and was damaged during the violence.

(Particulars of the people interviewed has been omitted to protect their interest)

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