ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mumbai Two Decades After

Landscapes of Exclusion, Mindscapes of Denial

Twenty years after the communal riots of 1992 and the serial bomb blasts of 1993, Mumbai finds itself demographically changed. Muslim families are being forced to move to distant suburbs. The "outside" becomes peripheral to the lives of the men and women inside the new enclaves, especially the young males brought up in the restrictive practices of the ghetto, who use it for unrestrained risk-taking.

In December 2012, several families staying in a relatively poor neighbourhood of Nalasopara, one of Mumbai’s western suburbs, got a rude shock when they saw that the electricity bills listed their address as “Chhota Pakistan”. While a section of the media expressed outrage, the usage of this term is not unusual (except for its appearance on an official document generated by an agency of the state). Despite the fact that this neighbourhood did not have any significant communal history, the appellation, odious as it was, generalised the presence of a significant group of Muslims living close to each other. The name then can be comprehended as a common, rather than a proper noun.

When it comes to Muslims the city works with labels. Exclusionary descriptions like “Chhota Pakistan”, “Chhota Bangladesh” or “Laden Nagar” have sunk deep into the consciousness of Mumbai’s citizens to the point that these can be used to direct autorickshaw drivers when you want to go there. It is likely therefore that the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) used this term unselfconsciously and therein lies the insidiousness. After the blood-shedding of 1992, which turned gorier in 1993, Mumbai has seen shifts in its demography. However more than the physical ghettoisation of Muslims into certain areas of the city, it is in the mental maps created as a result of this that the city has been reorganised. There are areas where “they” live. There are places where “we” do not go.

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