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Marathi vs Gujarati debate heats up as people take to streets in Girgaum bandh

Gawde accused the MMRC of parcelling off Girgaum to the “vegetarian lobby” of Gujaratis.

Written by Dipti Singh | Mumbai | Published: March 19, 2015 1:20 am
All of Girgaum and the adjoining areas of Kalbadevi, Chira Bazar, Princess Street and nearby localities observed a bandh with stores downing their shutters in the otherwise busy area.

If the Maharashtrian vs Gujarati debate in Mumbai that gained prominence in the run-up to the state Assembly elections in October last year appeared to have softened following the Shiv Sena’s decision to join the BJP-led government in the state, the gloves are now off again.

On Wednesday, the Shiv Sena called for a bandh in Girgaum to demand that the Mumbai Metro Rail Route 3 be realigned to ensure that no resident was displaced, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena too supported the agitation.

Local MNS leader Arvind Gawde accused the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRC) of parcelling off Girgaum to the “vegetarian lobby” of Gujaratis.

All of Girgaum and the adjoining areas of Kalbadevi, Chira Bazar, Princess Street and nearby localities observed a bandh with stores downing their shutters in the otherwise busy area.

The Shiv Sena, demanding that the Marathi manoos of Girgaum not be displaced, has been protesting the Metro Rail route’s alignment despite its own government promising to fast-track the project. On Wednesday morning, around 2,500 people participated in a rally from Princess Street to Girgaum’s main junction, the rest of the bustling lanes bearing a deserted look.

What’s more, the Sena’s protest received support from residents, as well as from the Congress. Gawde, who participated in the protest, said, “The commercial structures here include authentic Maharashtrian non-vegetarian restaurants and it also houses the Chira Bazar fish market.

This area will slowly go to the vegetarian lobby which will never want any outlet serving non-vegetarian food or a fish or meat market to come up in the area again. This has been happening across the city. Non-vegetarian restaurants and markets have been done away with in areas dominated by Gujaratis, Marwaris and Jains.”

Sena leaders agreed. While Girgaum, one of Mumbai’s oldest residential quarters, has been home to Maharashtrians, as well as Gujaratis, for decades, the Shiv Sena has been harping on its demand for the Marathi manoos to be protected from displacement.

“Today, we have more Gujaratis, Jains and Marwaris here,” said former Sena MLA Arvind Nerkar. Maharashtrian families from the area have begun to move northward and to the western suburbs, swapping crumbling buildings with cheaper flats in the suburbs, claim political activists from the Shiv Sena and MNS. Around 60-70 per cent of the population in Girgaum is Marathi-speaking. This move will push out the Marathi population from south Mumbai. I am not against the project, but it should be done while taking people along.”

Nearly 650 families will have to be rehabilitated from this area, including a handful of local Shiv Sena leaders’ families. Despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assuring that these residents would be rehabilitated in the same area once the construction was complete, and also that they would get larger homes during the rehabilitation, the Sena has remained firm in its opposition.

Pandurang Sapkal, a Sena leader and resident of the area, said, “I was born and brought up in this area and had never thought of moving out. There are hundreds of people like me who think and feel the same. Today, for the first time I saw thousands participate in a rally and observe a bandh in the area. The CM should come out with an alternative as we won’t give up our homes and the area where we grew up.”

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  1. C
    Cause Finder
    Mar 19, 2015 at 11:54 am
    Amicable & WIN-WIN Solution to Girguam tenants affected by Metro 3 project in Mumbai I totally support the stand taken by the residents of Girgaum over the metro 3 project. The government must ensure their rehabilitation first, before doing ANY sort of planning on the metro project else what is the difference between the builders who cheats tenants in rehabilitation projects and the current government? Taking forward the point suggested by residents of the effected chawls, I would strongly recommend the government take over properties of builders in neighboring areas such as Gamdevi where there are a number of plots owned by various builder but are not at all interested in redeveloping the properties siting various illogical reasons since the past decade or so. The fact of the matter is these builders want to cheat the tenants of the properties by driving them out without giving any alternate rehabilitation even after taking consent of more than 70% of the tenants of such plots & they’ve already gone ahead with construction of external free tower without providing rehabilitation to existing tenants staying in adjacent plots, whose FSI is used in such development. They donot repair these properties so that they become diliaplited & then driving tenants out is an easy job which the government authorities do thanklessly for the builder by serving them evacuation notices under various sections of law! So in both cases tenants are at great loss. Hence why not convert this situation into an opportunity for the benefit of ALL 3 parties where tenants, landlord & government are able to carry out their plans without conflict of interest of anyone. Taking over such plots is similar to taking over nonfunctional mills lands in Mumbai which will surely avail a lot of land to the government which will be sufficient enough to rehabilitate all such tenants affected in various parts of the city by the Metro 3 project. All parties will gains from such a move. This way the tenants of properties in Gamdevi & other areas will also get the benefit of redevelopment, tenants of chawls affected by metro project get new homes in a nearby area which I'm sure they should be happy to move into considering Gamdevi is just 2 -2.5 kms away from Kranti Nagar! Believe this is a much simpler situation to work with for all parties involved.