May 11, 2021
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Mumbai Musings

Maharashtra might become the first state in the country to make "social boycott," a punishable offence through a new law.

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Mumbai Musings
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Peter Mukherjea arrested

Three months after Indrani Mukherjea was arrested for allegedly killing her daughter Sheena, for reasons ranging from relationship with Peter's son Rahul to financial threats, husband and media honcho Peter Mukherjea was arrested last week. The CBI is investigating his role in the larger criminal conspiracy and has got extension of the remand till November 26th. When he was produced at the court for extension of remand, his siblings and son Rahul, whose statement will go a long way in establishing roles of all the family members, were present in the court. Mukherjea's lawyer argued that he had cooperated for three months and had shared all the information with the Mumbai Police and then the CBI.

However, the CBI contested that Mukherjea was looked upon only as a witness in the case then and they needed his custody after he has been found to be involved in the conspiracy. They stressed the need for custodial interrogation for 10 days to trace his financial trails and confront him with records of his telephonic conversations with Indrani and Rahul. The court granted custody till November 26 on grounds that accused was of tough mentality and progress in the probe. In the meanwhile, details from the 1000 page plus chargesheet against Indrani, Shyam Rai and Sanjeev Khanna, are steadily finding their way to the public domain.    

The unending story of a memorial

So finally it seemed as if it was over when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray came together to announce a "fitting" place for late Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray's memorial, three years after his death. The duo announced Mayor's Bungalow, a heritage structure, to be the final selection to house Bal Thackeray's memorial, which currently stands on Shivaji Park in the form of a flame on a small patch of garden.

Thackeray's funeral at the iconic ground amidst lakhs of followers was followed by inability of Sena to get an important venue allocated for the memorial. After many flip-flops and after coming to power with BJP, the Mayor's Bungalow was decided upon. However, soon after the announcement, reports of a Supreme Court decision saying official residences cannot be converted into memorials, started pouring in. The opposition once again jumped at the chance, suggesting that the heavily guarded fortress-like Thackeray residence "Matoshree" be converted into a memorial. MNS, Congress, AIMIM leaders have opposed the idea of evicting city's first citizen, Mayor, to make way for the memorial. Watch this space for more.

For liberty, equality and fraternity

The reports of multiple terror attacks in Paris may have been viewed with shock and horror by the rest of the world but for Mumbaikars, unfortunately, it also had a sense of déjà vu. Just days before we observe seventh anniversary of the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 and injured many more, Paris attacks bore an eerie resemblance to Mumbai attacks.

Citizens, officials and media couldn't decide whether to go overboard in pointing the similarities in the two fidayeen attacks and hence poke the wounds of victims all over again or to be restrained, like the French, and be content with expressing solidarity.

However, with the alleged masterminds and conspirators killed in the raids in France, the discussion moved to our response to dealing with emergencies like this and catching, convicting the culprits. While many of the new measures, required by the ill-equipped and inadequately-trained-for-terror-operations police force, were lauded and highlighted, little is now known about their present status. Be it the amphibious boats for marine policing, bullet proof jackets, armoured vehicles (which are still seen all over the city), drone technology and robots for the fire department and so on. Come 26th there will be an evaluation of "preparedness" and memorial services and declarations of Pakistani threat and reminders of the execution of Ajmal Kasab.

We, the spirited citizens, will mostly try not to remember (which is and isn't that hard these days) and work our backsides off in trains, in traffic and 12-hour shift offices. Here is to peace, which may be in absentia now, but still. Amen.

Boycott social boycott

Even as it may seem that Maharashtra is making news for all the wrong reasons, here comes a significant and positive step. It will be the first state in the country to make "social boycott," a punishable offence through a new law, the Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, 2015. In the past few years many incidents of Dalits being attacked, killed, ostracised have been recorded in the state and according to activists crimes against Dalits have increased.

If the law comes into place and is implemented well, then practices such as not allowing families of certain castes to enter certain areas of villages, not allowing them to interact with members of upper castes (let alone having a relationship, marriage etc.), not allowing them access of basic facilities such as water, will become punishable with a jail term of upto seven years and a fine of upto Rs 5 lakh.

For those who want to know just how tough this might be watch Fandry, a stark piercing film by Nagraj Manjule on a family that traditionally lives on the outskirts of a village and is expected to catch and kill pigs to keep the village clean.    

Fury at Film Festival

When the students called off their epic strike at the Film and Television Institute of India, one assumed it was curtains for the saga. However, as per their statement the students have continued to protest in peaceful manner, against appointments of Gajendra Chouhan and other society members. And perhaps expectedly so, the government continues to try to reduce the space and opportunity for their protests. The only difference is that the venue has shifted from Pune to Goa, at the International Film Festival of India.

First, the section showcasing students' films was scrapped altogether, citing lack of window for the same. Reportedly as many as 55 FTII films made it to this section in 2012. In a statement released by the students, they have listed the incidents such as V Raghvendra dismissal from his internship at FTII, arrest of ex-students Kislay and Shubham by the Goa police for displaying placards and shouting slogans, arrest and detention of students for wearing FTII T-shirts, denying passes to students under administrative reasons and so on.

"The students of FTII are being victimized and forced to miss screenings at IFFI. IFFI is an academic activity for students which is crucial to a student's learning. Having created all the possible obstacles in stopping students from taking part in IFFI, the Director of FTII is responsible for the students at IFFI. The ex-students and the Students Association appeals to the Director to immediately intervene and resolve and free students from all such discriminations. The students are participating with valid authorizations and are representing FTII. They need to be respected and treated with utmost dignity," says their statement.

Underworld comes above ground

That former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar spoke to the most wanted (in the most real terms) three times is now very well-known. His book, Dial D for Don, consisting of 11 chapters chronicling 11 major investigations and operations, has seven stories from Mumbai, the most famous as of now being trying to get Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar.

At the launch in Mumbai, the high point was attendance of several former police officers, most of whom have had a brush with the Mumbai underworld. Starting with Julio Ribeiro, the "galaxy of guests," as rightly referred to by Husain Zaidi, included Satish Sahney, D Sivanandhan, KP Raghuvanshi, Meeran Borwankar and XX. Then there was former civil servant and lawyer-activist Abha Singh, wife of former IPS officer YP Singh, who asked Neeraj Kumar why he won't reveal the name of the officer who stopped him from carrying on his conversations with the man himself.

Among other things about Neeraj Kumar and Dawood, the most interesting nugget, for me, was that Neeraj Kumar apart from writing Gangajal and Gangajal part-2 (which will be released with Priyanka Chopra in the lead role) he also wrote Mungerilal ke haseen Sapne, a famous comedy series enacted beautifully by Raghuvir Yadav. Now that's new no?


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