SANE GURUJI Road in Chinchpokli, surrounded by highrises, lies just off the former hub of mills in central Mumbai. Previously called Arthur Road, from which the central prison located along this road got its name, Sane Guruji Marg is named after Pandurang Sadashiv Sane, a teacher, social activist and freedom fighter who was also closely associated with the working class movement. Also a prolific Marathi author, he is best remembered for the Marathi classic Shyamchi Aai. Stretching from Jacob Circle or the Saat Rasta junction, the road goes past the Chinchpokli railway station and reaches the Lalbaug flyover. Prominent landmarks along the road include the Arthur Road Jail, Kasturba Hospital, the under-construction Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk monorail station and the St Ignatius Church.
According to locals, legend Sane Guruji had visited a garden near Jacob Circle during the freedom movement to attend a meeting to strategise their next move, and that’s how the road came to be associated with him. But the road was renamed only in the 1970s, around which time a local BMC Marathi School was also named after the freedom fighter. Today, the school no longer exists. The street used to house mill workers’ colonies during the 1980s as there were three mills in the vicinity. “It was an active place for labour unions who would meet here to discuss their labour problems,” says city historian Deepak Rao.
Locals say the road has changed visibly, and more rapidly in recent years. “There has been a drastic change in these past decades, as after the mills closed down, most workers migrated from here. The street no longer buzzes with workers,” says Manhohar Narayan Kamble (85), a local resident who has lived along the road for 65 years. He adds, “I remember I used to walk to school on this street and see a lot of horse riders passing by, but now everything has been replaced with cars and bikes.” Because of the monorail construction, the road now sees traffic congestion. The presence of the Mumbai central prison here has also had an impact, with high-profile inmates in the jail attracting television crews and vans. “From gangster Abu Salem and Sanjay Dutt to Ajmal Kasab, all have been brought to this jail. Hence there is tight security in the area perpetually which makes this place relatively safer to live,” says Santosh Jadhav (53), a social worker and local resident.
Sane Guruji, who was born in Ratnagiri in 1899, taught in rural schools and gave up his job later to join the Independence movement after Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March in 1930. He was arrested for participating in agitations for a free India and also played an important role in working class agitations and in raising awareness about the problem of untouchability. He passed away in 1950. Apart from social work, his legacy includes the well-known book Shyamchi Aai (Shyam’s mother), a Marathi classic about a mother’s love that has been translated into several languages and also adapted for theatre.
Jay Raut (17), a commerce student, says, “I had studied in school about his contribution to the Indian freedom movement and also in eradicating untouchability. It is such an honour to be living near a street named after him.”