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Mumbai vs Bombay

Is it a crime to refer to one of India’s finest cities as Bombay instead of Mumbai? Certainly not. But it is certainly a crime to threaten people with violence if they refer to the city as Bombay....

Written by Soli J. Sorabjee |
October 11, 2009 5:01:48 am

Is it a crime to refer to one of India’s finest cities as Bombay instead of Mumbai? Certainly not. But it is certainly a crime to threaten people with violence if they refer to the city as Bombay. I was born,brought up and educated in Bombay and apart from English the other national language,which I speak is Marathi. I have a hill station home in Mahabaleshwar,have visited Pratapgarh more than once because Shivaji is my hero. If one calls the city Bombay,my pride as a Maharashtrian is not hurt because my pride in the city stems from its preeminence and cosmopolitan character and not from use of the name,Bombay or Mumbai. Significantly there has been no threat of violence against persons who continue to mention Bangalore or Calcutta. Karan Johar’s yielding to Raj Thackeray’s threats has disturbing implications. It gives undeserved recognition and prominence to an extra-constitutional authority. It is an abject surrender to bigotry and blackmail,and is a lamentable instance of commercial expediency. A film producer is most interested in the success of his movie rather than upholding freedom of expression and the rule of law. To be fair to Johar,one compelling reason for his behaviour could be lack of confidence in law enforcement authorities to give him necessary protection against violence by goondas masquerading as Maharashtrian patriotic. That is the real tragedy. It is also a sorry reflection on the rule of law in some parts of our country. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra’s grievance that Johar should have approached him is specious. It is extremely unlikely that in view of the oncoming elections,the Chief Minister would have posted adequate police force at the theatre and given him effective security.

To many like myself,Mumbai aamchi is more appealing than Bombay aamchi. For a Sunday breakfast to some,Bombay duck sounds better than Mumbai duck. It is ultimately a matter of choice and not of compulsion. Let us concentrate on making our beloved city greater rather than squabbling over names and issuing threats smacking of fascism.

Just ruling in Zimbabwe

Jestina Mukoko,a human rights activist,was abducted,detained,and tortured by persons admitted by Minister Mutasa and Attorney General Tomana of Zimbabwe to be ‘State agents’. Ms Mukoko was charged earlier this year with the standard charge of conspiring to overthrow the Mugabe regime. An application was made on her behalf for a permanent stay of prosecution. One of the applicants was Jeremy Gauntlet,a distinguished South African lawyer. In an order delivered recently,Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe,sitting as a Constitutional Court,held that Zimbabwe’s security agents had infringed Ms Mukoko’s constitutional rights to liberty,protection from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and granted stay of prosecution. This is a heartening instance of judicial vindication of human rights in a country whose regime is notoriously repressive. This commendable ruling has the potential of providing protection to other human rights activists and opposition politicians facing similar criminal prosecutions.

The first cut

At long last,the film Nehru-Edwina has been okayed by the government. It is reported that the ministry had called for a copy of the film’s script and asked the producers to tone down some intimate scenes featuring Nehru and Edwina. If true,this is deplorable pre-censorship. And pray what are intimate scenes? Holding hands or lying in each other’s arms or kissing and embracing? Such scenes depict deep mutual affection and do not necessarily have sexual implications. If Nehru,a warm-blooded Kashmiri,were passionately fond of Edwina,does that diminish his stature as a great national leader? No mature,balanced person would think so except those who are obsessed with sex and discern it in every physical act or gesture. In the past,publication of letters by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to his close friend Emille evoked vociferous protests. Are we living in the puritanical reign of Oliver Cornwell? For God’s sake grow up.

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