‘No community jokes please, we are all Mumbaikars.’ The message is spreading on city campuses after the recent political drama about north Indians by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Several colleges — probably the city’s most multicultural hubs — have informally cautioned students to go easy on community remarks, which would otherwise mean nothing more than harmless jokes and jibes.
“The students are very young and have no malice. Since we have a huge mix of students, it is important to be careful,” said MB Madlani, principal of Raheja College, Santacruz. “Teachers have informally talked about the issue and our students have responded maturely.”
Sociologist Nandini Sardesai said the caution is demographically defined. “Colleges in areas like Parel, Shivaji Park and Dadar should be more cautious. India, including Mumbai, has a tendency to be communal at every level, be it religious or regional.”
College authorities reason that campuses are the most vulnerable. “We have asked students to think before making community remarks, even in jest, both on and off campus. Teachers have discussed the current situation with them. This will teach them to be responsible,” said Ashok Vajani, principal, MMK College, Bandra.
“Our faculty members have advised students to avoid unnecessary remarks,” said Dr KG Narayankhedkar, director, Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute.
Students, on their part, are trying to maintain peace. The Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) alerted student unions across colleges to look out for inappropriate behaviour. Atul Shinde, ABVP secretary from Chetana College, said that all their 49 city unions are trying to maintain calm on campuses and ensuring that there is no provocation.
For Nurpur Sharma (name changed), a first year BCom student, the first few days were frightening. “I am from Uttar Pradesh and have just joined college. I was afraid, but my friends and faculty made me feel very comfortable. The people here are very welcoming.”