Two weeks ago we were celebrating Mira's birthday at Cafe Zoe, a trendy cafe set amidst chaotic former mill compounds in Lower Parel, an upcoming part of Bombay. New Yorkers would call it Mid Town. The day before on Saturday there had been riots, close to home, South Bombay, in and around the main railway station and Azad Maidan. As it happens, these riots look like they were instigated and not as spontaneous as they were made to appear. Riots by disaffected Muslims protesting the mistreatment of Muslims in India's North East, the Muslims there being primarily of Bangladeshi descent. Still there?
47 buses burnt, two people dead, women constables molested, the head of police caught on video giving a subordinate a piece of his mind.
A week later, an offshoot of the Shiv Sena, Mumbai's right wing Hindu party, organized its demonstration at Azad Maidan, as a show of force. 'We too can get people on the street'. They got more than 50,000 people mobilized and a friend and I saw them descending on Bombay as we were heading out to Pune.
The head of this party bayed for the head of the Head of Police, calling his handling of the riots gross mismanagement. During the riots the police actually acted with huge restraint, but it could be argued that they could and should have intercepted the rioters as they headed into South Bombay by train.
Three days later the Head of Police was gone, promoted to a position he had no desire for. In India incompetence at the highest levels is rewarded by promotions. Our President is the former Finance Minister, a position he was not suited for but held for three expensive years.
Fearful that they would be targeted in cities across India, Muslims from the North East have been heading back to their homes by train loads. "5 Lakh", or 500,000, as the article clipping shows, headed across India from cities such as Bangalore, Bombay and Pune.
Two weeks later, and they are slowly returning, with assurances in place from local ministers and mayors that they will be safe.
All this is taking place against the background of 'Coalgate', a report by the Auditor General that the government caused the country billions of dollars in losses by auctioning off coal fields against ridiculously low prices. And so Parliament is in mayhem, the opposition is asking for the Prime Minister to resign. If only he could be promoted, to the post of President...
Let's end on a positive note. Residents of Wodehouse Road, Colaba, are taking things into their own hands, aided by a commissioner, to redevelop Wodehouse Road into a pedestrian and shopper friendly street. Less bus stops, better parking, better footpaths, improved drainage for the monsoon rains. Mumbai Boss has a great article on it.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.