Succumbing to political pressure from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST) began removing posters of the Gujarati newspaper Sandesh from its buses Friday.
The MNS had demanded authorities remove the posters which claim that the Gujarati community has “solely” contributed to the financial and intellectual development of Mumbai.
The advertising line, “Mumbaini Arthik pragatima, baudhik vikasma kon? Aapne Gujrati (Who has contributed to Mumbai’s economic progress and intellectual development? We Gujaratis),” was splashed on 200 bus display panels and bus stops.
“The poster’s claims are objectionable. There are other communities that have equally contributed to the city’s development. How can one paper claim that only the Gujarati community has contributed to the intellectual index of Mumbai?” MNS committee member Kedar Hombalkar said.
Hombalkar also demanded BEST audit the content displayed on its bus panels.
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“Tomorrow anyone can use a public BEST bus panel to write anything they feel. Earlier, some obscene film posters were put on buses. How can the administration allow this?” Hombalkar questioned at the BEST committee meeting.
Five hours after the MNS raised the matter, BEST decided to remove the posters.
“Since the remark that the Gujarati community has contributed to the development of Mumbai has hurt the sentiments of another community, especially the Marathis, it will be removed. In the committee meeting today, we jointly decided that the posters should be removed,” BEST committee chairman Arvind Devji Dudhvadkar said.
Reacting to the attack on its publicity campaign in Mumbai, Parthiv Patel, managing director of The Sandesh Limited, said in a statement:
“The advertising campaign is only talking about the achievement of Gujaratis residing in Mumbai. We mean no disrespect nor have anything against any community living in Mumbai, Moreover, India is the largest democracy in the world and the stand taken by the political parties is not only against Sandesh and Gujaratis, but it’s against the entire media fraternity.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Patel said “the campaign does not say that only Gujaratis have contributed to the growth of Mumbai”.
He said the campaign was independent and not in response to a controversial editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna which had attacked Gujaratis living in Mumbai.
“Our publication was started in April and our campaign has been going on for the last month-and-a-half. We have not written anything in retaliation to any editorial. Through our campaigns, we are not trying to say that other communities have not contributed to the development of Mumbai. As of now, we have not been officially informed about the removal of posters. However, depending on the action taken, we will decide on the course of action,” Patel added.