Last fortnight has not been very kind of Maharashtra State and in particular the capital city of Mumbai. Life for the average citizen, which was anyway, nothing to write home about, is slowly moving from bad to worse. Bandhs have become the order of the day. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the caste riots that claimed twelve lives in the city on July 12 is a shape of events to come in the bustling metropolis that once basked in the glory of being cosmopolitan.
How else can one explain that an underworld don like Arun Gawli who just the other day was a “goonda” can hold a 50,000 people rally. Sneer at the State Government and project himself as an upcoming political leader and a future chief minister? Surely, the signs of degeneration of a great city are there for all to see.
The Unnerving part is the rapid rise of mafia that is spreading roots across the State under the guise of politics and politicians. Undoubtedly, the mafia was always a part of the city in an indirect way. The mafia always operated cloak and dagger via the help of unscrupulous politicians. The links were indirect. Politicians received slush money from builders. The builders in turn laundered their money with the help of underworld elements. But now the situation is different. The mafias have decided to jump into the fray directly and there is little that the government can do and is doing. Motivated persons engineer caste riots like that of Ramabai Nagar. The residences of opposition leaders are ransacked. Underworld dons who pose a threat to the ruling party especially someone like Arun Gawli manage a crowd of more than 50,000 people. The government in turn, waiting for any pretext of striking back, promptly arrests the don based on an assault case filed by a scribe of the Asian Age. It is another matter that a more serious case of a severe assault on a senior scribe of Maharashtra Times languishes for months as the main protagonist in the attack is a senior Sena leader, Anand Dighe who is the undisputed lord of Thane area, on the outskirts of Mumbai.
The intense war between the ruling Sena sand Chhagan Bhujbal, an ex-sainik who defected to the Congress in 1991 is spilling over into the day-to-day life of the common man. As if that was not enough, Sena supreme, Bal Thackeray has insinuated that Bhujbal is hand-in-glove with underworld don Arun Gawli and is out to undermine the State Government. The latest drama unfolding in the State is an affidavit filed with the city police commissioner by a Dhulia based youth that Bhujbal had masterminded the Ramabai Nagar incident which left 12 Dalits dead.
On the other hand, the Dalits in the State, despite having the capacity to influence the results of many Assembly seats have never been a force to reckon with due to the personal ambitions of various factional leaders in the Republican Party of India (RPI). There are groups and groups within the RPI and the prime occupation of the factional leaders are to trade charges. The situation in the RPI is so messy that the wife of Dr Ambedkar popularly known as Mai has publicly called Prakash Ambedkar a headache. Naturally, parties like Congress use and abuse the RPI leaders for selfish electoral gains.
What is going on? Will the State of Maharashtra, once the top-most industrial State in the country and the envy of other States be the same again? Will the degeneration of Mumbai city stop? With the mafia playing an active role who will protect the common man as the politicians, slug it out? The main protagonists in the simmering situation in the State express their views.
You are upset with Mumbai being called another Chicagoâ€¦
I am not upset. This wretched editor of Maharshtra Times has captioned an editorial, which says so. He has said it, not I. My answer to that is simple. As long as they are alive, it shows that Mumbai has not turned in to Chicago.
Parliament is in turmoil, the Congress walked outâ€¦.
How can I comment when someone is trying to see that it is discussed on the floor of the House? My or BJP Mps have not refused any discussion. But their contention is that Bihar should be taken up first, as Bihar is more serious. Maharashtra is a recent development. We have not murdered anybody here in Maharashtra as they have done in Bihar through Ranvir Sena. There is no chaos here. Why shouldn’t you (referring to Congress walkout) stay out permanently? You can shout from outside.
Are you sorry that people are now talking of Maharashra and Bihar in the same breath?
No. I am not. Let them talk. Does it become a fact? It is gobbles type of propaganda. Lie hundred times and it becomes the truth. There are so many Gobbles in the Parliament and outside.
Can you elaborate?
No. I will not. I am not an MP. It is for the MPs to decide. They dissolved the government. I can talk about Article 307 (of IPC). 356 if their headache and funeral, not mine. Ask them to read the conditions and find out it is applicable. If it is applicable here, then apply it. Who cares? I told Mr. Inderjit Gupta that neither you nor me are born for power, the power is born for us. I do not care for power. It is the people who give you that. It is the right of the people in your democracy, wretched democracy to keep us there.
The demand for implementation of Article 356 is being made on the basis of chaos in the stateâ€¦
Where did you come from Chembur? (a north-eastern suburb of Mumbai)? Did you see any chaos anywhere on the road?
We are talking about the Ramabai Nagar incident and the caste riotsâ€¦.
What do you expect during riots? Peace? There is no chaos. Routine life has started. Everything is peaceful. Yesterday, your great Mahatma Gawli declared a bandh. To your misfortune, it flopped. When I say you, I mean the present journalists.
What do you think is happening in the State? 12 Dalits shotâ€¦
The position is clear. The man who ordered firing had made it clear. If he had not ordered (firing), there would have been real chaos.
The police officer who ordered the firing has been accused of being anti-Dalit.
In riots, such accusations are bound to be there.
Arun Gawli held a massive rally of 50,000.
Why don’t you inflate and make it 1, 00,000? Who were the people (in the rally)? They were the neo Buddhists, who are different from the Dalits. People who were angry over the firing at Ramabai Nagar. They joined the rally. Then there was Sachin Aher (nephew of Arun Gawli and the president of Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh) who bought RMMS people. Bhai Jagtap, a trade unionist, closed his factories and brought the workers. I mean how many people did Arun Gawli your popular Mafia bring?
Why your Popular Mafia?
It is a general statement to the journalists for siding with him often. I do not think that he is getting popular. It is just a phase. How many people will love Gawli if he has no money? The Congress party is supporting him.
There have been many instances of statues being desecrated in the past? Why did the did the situation become violent this time?
This shows the Mafia hand in it. According to the evidence I have, Bhujbal has used Mafia (that is Gawli) in this. You do not need a lot of people (for creating such a situation). Two or three are enough to pour kerosene.
The Mafia operated indirectly in the past now they are out in openâ€¦
Newspapers, Congress are supporting it. What do they say in Englishâ€¦ any stone will do? Since they want to topple our government, they have got stones to hurl at us. But it is not that easy for them to topple my government. Mafia’s entry has not worsened the situation. The backing given to them by this political scoundrel is what matters. This did not Congress was the ruling party. At that time, even though we could have used this weapon (of Mafia) we did not.
Bhujbal says Mafia sits at Matoshree (Bal Thackeray’s residence)
Go around and see how Mafia people you find here.
You have accused Bhujbal of colluding with Mafia, he denies it.
Bhujbal is an escapist and a crook. He has denied knowing Rajendra Gupta, a dhulia based Congress activist who has accused Bhujbal in an affidavit (waves it). See the photographs (shows news reports), they are sharing the dais. Write that Thackeray has given proof that Bhujbal received Ragendra Guptas at a function at Shahas.
The underworld is now coming out in the open.
The underworld will never be the over world. It is not serious situation at all. Otherwise, the bandh called by Gawli would have been success.
The situation is out of controlâ€¦.
No. As long as we are there, I want peace because I have a government and we have certain responsibility, I am telling my boys to keep quiet and maintain peace. Otherwise, I will be giving them an opportunity to destroy my government. Why should I give them an opportunity? This does not mean that we are impotent.
Bhujbal said one of the reasons people respond to Gawli is because he solves their problems in his own way and gives them justice.
Fine. Then dissolve the government, dissolve the courts, dissolve everything and let Lakhoba (Marathi slang abusing Bhujbal) become Gawli’s personal assistant. He will get a sumptuous salary as compared to his MLC salary. Instead of moving in a Contessa or Ambassador, he will move in Mercedes.
Do you feel Sharad Pawar is masterminding the situation?
Of course. He has kept Bhujbal for that. Pawar brought this barking dog, Bhujbal back even though he lost the Assembly elections to my youngest boy. Bala Nandgoankar. Pawar made him the Opposition leader in Upper House (Council). Their aim is to topple the government by hook or crook.
Bhujbal made a statement recently that you both belong to the same ‘talaab’ (pond) and he understands you and your games better than anybody else.
I will say the same thing.
Are you unhappy over Section 307 of IPC (attempt of murder) being applied to Shiv Sainik who ransacked Bhujbal’s residence?
It is easy to mention the Article without having any knowledge about it. When Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister of the country, he dismissed five State Governments after the Babri Masjid was demolished. Do you mean to say that he read Article 356? It is a case of misusing power. Coming to Article 307, which is related to attempt to murder, there, are stages. First, is intention, then preparation, third is assault, and then comes your 307. In Bhujbal’s case, there was no intention, no preparation and no assault because Bhujbal was not there. Not even a scratch (was made on hi body).
But that was because Bhujbal escaped.
Ok. But as long as there is no injury, you cannot charge anybody with assault. Sainiks went to protest. Bhujbal had his own ‘tapori’ (street hoolingans) and mawalis. They abused my boys, so they entered inside. All the rest was Bhujbal’s work. Maybe, my boys ransacked the bedroom. But the rest of it was Bhujbal’s work. He is a ‘nautanki aadmi’ (theatrical man). I know him.
Even the State Home Minister, Mr. Gopinath Munde has called it (vandalizing Bhujbal’s residence) a stupid move.
He (Munde) is a responsible man. You see when you are in the Opposition, you are a carefree man. When you are on the other side, you have to behave like a gentleman. That is a kind of suffocation.
The Details feels that Sena is anti-Dalit.
That is not true. We have a lot of dalits in the party. Details are those who have not converted into Buddhism. The neo-Buddhists have them because they have not converted. We have cabinet rank Dalit ministers. They are all happy. Let us not get into that.
Is the mafia slowly taking over Mumbai? How is it possible for an underworld don like Arun Gawli to attract 50,000 people? Are we heading for mafia raj in the State?
Wht do you think people are patronizing mafia openly like they did Gawli’s rally? The police and the government do not react when the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the Janata dal, attacks the people. When they go to Arun Gawli with their grievances, he and his men take care of their problems in their way. Then the lion (referring to Thackeray) also mews like a cat. Fro the poor, since Gawli protects them, he is Bhagwan (god). Had the police protected the people from Shiva Sena, why would they use the Arun Gawli short cut?
What credibility do the police have now? They were idle spectators when the Sainik goons attacked me. It is the government mafia that I am worried about. And frankly, the mafia at Matoshree (Thackeray’s residence) is more dangerous then he ordinary mafia. The mafia at Matoshree works under government patronage and is protected by the state authority. The mafia that you are talking about has to fend foe itself.
Rambai Nagar riots left 12 dead. Underworld don, Arun Gawli holds a rally of 50,000 people. What next?
Mumbai city was in the forefront in the past. The law and order situation was excellent. But right from the murder of Ramesh Kini to the Shenanigans of Jaidev Thackeray to Michael Jackson, the administration including the police has been openly use by the government. The police have been subjugated and are being used for open exploitation. Be it the police commissioner or any other senior officer. Be it the Chief secretary, all of them have to do ‘salaam’ daily at Matoshree. Look at Ramabai Nagar incident which killed 12 Dalits. What happened? The police instead of apologizing is busy fabricating theories to defend themselves. People at Ramabai Nagar would have claimed down if the police had assured them of action. But their voices were stifled. When I tried to raise my voice, Sena goons tried to kill me with the police looking on. They ( the government) are playing with law and have made a joke out of it.
Thackeray has alleged that you in tandem with Arun Gawli were behind the Ramabai Nagar incident.
Hitler’s propaganda chief, gobbles would also feel ashamed at such blatant false-hood that Thackeray I peddling. He claims that I conspired with Gawli at some farmhouse. So, here I am, arrest me. But prove it first, I am surroundered by the police 24 hours a day. What were the police doing when I was allegedly conspiring? It was a Sena MP, Mohan Rwale who went on a fast when Arun Gawli was arrested initially. People alleged that a Congressman, Sachin Aher who is the president of the Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh (RMMS) and a relative of Arun Gawli participated in the rally held by Gawli. If he is guilty of anything, arrest him. After is Gawli’s relative. But has he committed any crime? They do not have anything to say so they are linking Bhujbal to Aher and in turn to Gawli.
It is not the first time that a statue of Dr Ambedkar has been desecrated. Yet, the death toll and the resultant violence is unparalleled. Is it a shape of things to come in the future?
It is true that the Rambai Nagar incident and the shooting of 12 Dalits have never happened in the history of the State. It is the intolerance of the government and the police, which aggravated the situation. The police went inside the Rambai Nagar Colony and shot innocent people. Didn’t the police have ‘akkal’ (common sense) not to fire at innocent people? They (the government) are cutting the tree that they are sitting on.
Recently, you warned Thackeray not to take chances with you as you and he belong to same ‘talaab’ (pond). Can you elaborate?
Yes. I said That. But that was just a casual reaction. What I meant was that I am aware of what Thackeray is up to. This is my way of saying that I know of your next move and so be careful.
Has the mafia taken over the city and the State? Do you feel the mafia had a hand in the case riots, which claimed 12 lives?
I think, the riots after the desecration of the statue were not caste riots but an emotional outburst. And there were many acts of desecration in the March-July period this year. As for the mafia taking over the city. Mumbai has always been under the grip of mafia. When Sudhakar Rao Naik was the Chief Minister of the State, he had openly stated that Mumbai and its surrounding areas were under the control of mafia and that they (the mafia) had deep relations with politicians. Even in his recent deposition before the Srikrishna Commission, Mr. Naik clearly stated that criminal elements or mafia had a big hand in the 1992-93 riots. Even the Ramabai Nagar riots were well planned and engineered. Maybe, the mafia had a role in it as well.
Are the perpetual differences between the various factions of RPI responsible for the sad situation of the Dalits in the State?
I agree that there are differences in RPI. But we will not allow the RPI to be used. Dalits have been used and abused for a long time. No longer. We have to come together.
Noble intentions. But for many years, all RPI leaders make statements of getting together, but they keep on quarrelling and are at loggerheads perpetually.
There has to be way out. The RPI has to come out of organizational clutches. I feel that some time is required to get over the differences of the past and evolve a new formula whereby we all can come together. It is high time.
Is some kind of legislation to protect statues from being desecrated necessary? Next time around, a similar situation like Ramabai Nagar can be easily engineered.
Yes, some kind of legislation is needed. This kind of legislation has to be discussed. What can you do about the thousands of statues of Dr Ambedkar all over the State? They have been legitimized under the eyes of law. The State Government will have to ensure some kind of education to people.
Where does the Dalit movement go from here?
The Dalit movement has to move forward. We are in the process of evolving a policy that should take the Dalits ahead in the next fifty years, because in the last fifty years, the Dalits have been in a state of confrontation and regression.
Mai Ambedkar (Dr Ambedkar’s wife has called you a headache for the RPI.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna