Monday, June 20, 2011

The Ghats come to Bombay

After partition, the first problem that Bombay faced was that of migrants and settlers to the city. Ultra-low properly rates saw many businessman flock to Bombay. The city became a miniature version of the entire country and that diversity stood it well in times of crisis.

In 1950, after the Governor-General C Rajagopalchari handled a major refugee influx of Sindhis into Bombay, the city of Bombay and its suburbs were merged into a common Greater Bombay, which in 1956 became the capital of the new Bombay State. However, this arrangement did not last long and Bombay witnessed the first of many protests over linguistic division of Bombay State.

Although many were in favour of Bombay becoming a separate city-state, given its diversity, politics overruled the demand. In 1960, Bombay State was bifurcated in Maharashtra (retaining Bombay as its capital) and Gujarat (with Gandhinagar as its new capital). However, the linguistic riots had changed the city fundamentally. In 1966, cartoonist Bal Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena to battle perceived injustice suffered by Marathis at the hands of Gujaratis, Marwaris and South Indians. Staring with South Indians, the party took up vandalism and violence against several groups including Muslims. The party received a surprising degree of support in Bombay and the Sena has controlled the Municipal Corporation a few times.

Newly Established
A great deal of changes took place in the city at this time. The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay was established in Powai as an institute of technical higher education. The Bombay Metropolitan Regiona Development Authority was established by the Maharashtra Government to oversee the growth of the city. However, the Authority was unable to keep up with the city's rapid growth and in 1979, New Bombay was founded in the Thane and Raigad districts to disperse the crowd. That however, did not disperse the industries and most people there now live with the daily hassle of having to travel southwards daily to get to work!

1984 saw a Hindu-Muslim riot in the city, the first of several that would change the nature of Bombay fundamentally. At this time, there was strong influx into Bombay from the Western Ghat areas of Maharashtra along with Bihari migrants. Slums grew in size and density and Dharavi went on to become the largest slum in Asia - a city in itself. The 1992-93 riots against Muslims following the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the serial blasts after that finally sealed Bombay's fate. The old city of businessmen and traders was no more - the Ghats had come to Bombay.

A New City, a New name
But it wasn't just the city that had changed, the entire country was changing. In 1996, the BJP and Shiv Sena formed their first and to-date only Government in Maharashtra. Just three years later, the BJP led a coalition Government to form the Central Government. The new State Government changed the city's name to Mumbai after the Goddess of the local fisherfolk, Mumbadevi.

Next: Millennium City

No comments: