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Mumbai Matters: Locals versus migrants

by Dilip, 17 March 2013

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if the head officials of some of these channels and language papers are able to sleep peacefully at night whilst blatantly parading lies... then good luck to them.

This happened almost a year back near the Sion railway station: Four young drunk men were ruthlessly beating up a stranger over a flimsy fight. The guys used whatever they could find on the road to smash the young man’s head. At one point, it got so brutal that one of them tried to gouge out the eyes of the youth. It took a while for a few people, including me, to rescue the boy from those who were intent on killing him. A year later, the very thought of the incident is still disturbing. It’s actually not the beating, but what transpired during the fight. As we tried to separate the drunkards from the boy, a few of those observing the fight asked, "Bhaiyya ahe ka", meaning, is the guy who’s being beaten up a north Indian? Only when people replied in the negative did some of them jump in to quell the fight. 

Would the boy, who was being mercilessly beaten up, be alive today had he not been a Maharashtrian? I am afraid to take a guess. It is easy to arrive at a conclusion by blaming Raj Thackeray and his party, the MNS, for this rise in anger among the ’locals’; however, while Raj is partly responsible for creating hostility, there are others who have played a far bigger and dangerous role in fanning the anger against north Indians. 

The local media, for instance, has played an equal role in the polarisation between ’locals’ and ’migrants’. The recent alleged rape and murder of three minor sisters in Bhandara is a case in point. The girls, children of a widowed mother, went missing last month, and their bodies were found in a well in Bhandara a few days later. One of the Marathi news channels that carried the story on its website claimed that migrants (read north Indians) were involved in the crime, and a few of them had gone missing after the incident. 

Bear in mind, this came almost a day after the girls’ bodies were recovered and the news channel had conducted its own investigation, which pointed to the north Indians as the culprits. As it comes to light, now, there is even confusion of whether the girls were sexually assaulted or not, because the forensic reports are inconclusive. But such is the standard of news in our country, that the website of the news channel has not even carried an apology for insinuating that migrants were involved.

It becomes more troubling as Raj has now shrewdly shifted from his stance of migrants taking jobs from locals to blaming them for all the ills in the state, such as the rising crime wave. For instance, during a recent rally, Raj read out a news report where an accused man, who had been arrested for rape, claimed that he committed the crime to avenge the attacks against north Indians. The MNS chief, in the rally, said every time a migrant touches a girl in the state inappropriately, he should be thrashed. 

Anyone who watched Raj’s rally and the website of the channel would simply draw a conclusion that migrants have begun raping girls in the state as revenge. This leads to a situation where only a small trigger would be enough to get north Indians beaten up. 
I am not going to repeat the oft-repeated thing of all of us being Indians and blah blah, but if the head officials of some of these channels and language papers are able to sleep peacefully at night whilst blatantly parading lies, at a time when tempers are flaring high, then good luck to them. 

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