Will they keep their word? | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Will they keep their word?

In pockets across the city, tiny groups bound together by a common history and culture must wait for the elections in order to be heard.

mumbai Updated: Sep 28, 2009 02:08 IST

In pockets across the city, tiny groups bound together by a common history and culture must wait for the elections in order to be heard.

Every five years, they are promised more — more opportunity, more protection, more political mindspace.

They have their traditional callers: The Congress woos the Parsis; the saffron combine tries to entice the Kolis. But then the votes are cast and everything usually returns to normal, with smatterings of talk about “follow-ups” and “delivery”.

Now, ahead of the October 13 state election, the cycle is beginning again.

For the Parsis, it’s a never-ending wait for reservations in government jobs and institutes of higher learning.

“Industrialists like Tata and Godrej and representatives like Pherozeshah Mehta have contributed to the city’s fabric,” said Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) chairperson Dinshaw Mehta.

“The state government should understand that we are a micro-community that has given a lot to the city. Now it is our time to get something in return.”

Traditionally, Parsis have been Congress voters, but Mehta feels the party has let them down.

“Our population is dwindling,” added Mehta. “We should be given special reservations in education and jobs.”

The Sindhis feel similarly let down. Refugees who came to Mumbai as post-Partition migrants, they settled in camps scattered across the greater Mumbai region.

Now a wealthy community of traders, manufacturers and entrepreneurs, they resent the fact that they still cannot own land. “The overwhelming sentiment among Sindhis is that they haven’t received proper treatment,” said Baldev Matlani, head of the Sindhi Department at the University of Mumbai. “The few transit camps we were given are cited as a precedent for denying us anything more.”

Predominantly, the community votes for right-wing parties like the BJP and Shiv Sena.

“That is because of the involvement of Sindhis in the Jan Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha [the precursors of the Sangh Parivar],” said Indrani Malkani, member of the Sindhi Panchayat in Mumbai.

As for the original sons of soil — the East Indians (local converts to Christianity) and Kolis (fisherfolk) — their long-standing demand has been protection for their disappearing settlements.

Considering they were the first inhabitants of what is now some of the most expensive real estate in the world, they resent the fact that they have been pushed to a few strips of sand along the coast.

They are also growing increasingly concerned about how the city is polluting the ocean, their primary means of livelihood.

“The original 43 koliwadas have dwindled to a few scattered huts along the shore,” said Vijay Worlikar, President of National Association of Fishermen and a resident of the Worli Koliwada. “Illiterate and not commercial-minded, the Kolis never thought of getting their land secured and have since succumbed to unscrupulous builders and developers.”

Godfrey Pimenta of the Bombay East Indians Association agrees.

“We have been living in these villages for years and have growing families. If hotels and airports can be given extra space to build, why can’t we be given extra development rights,” asks the Andheri Gaothan resident.

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