A popular Marathi saying goes like this, Pune tithe kai une, which loosely translates to “Pune lacks absolutely nothing”. It is a confident reference to the city’s rich cultural history, excellent living conditions and academic supremacy. But beneath the façade of a modern Pune—with slinky new cars, fancy apartment complexes and malls with dazzling neon signs—is a metropolis caught in a violent clash of ideologies.
Over the past few years, a series of events have put the city in the headlines—from the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, to arrests of suspects from Hindu right-wing organisation Sanatan Sanstha, to a politically-charged rally and subsequent arrest of rights activists for allegedly inciting violence, and protests by civic action groups against the government. India’s most liveable city, according to this year’s Ease of Living Index, it appears, is living a double life.
“Increasingly, we have bipolar groups, who are being brainwashed and are accepting propaganda without questioning, just like one adopts religion. People need to understand that human rights is a subject related to good governance and are not mutually exclusive,” lawyer Aseem Sarode tells Outlook. “I also believe that having two separate schools of thought following Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar has not helped our society. Historically, they never rejected each other and the present separation is being used by the right-wing.”
In recent times, it all started with the assassination of Dabholkar in 2013 and the half-hearted investigation by the police. A few months later, techie Mohsin Sheikh, on his way back from work, was killed by a mob driven by allegedly derogatory Facebook posts about late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and...