“We are striving to reestablish Mumbai’s identity as a fortress of working class movement”

[Comrade Uday Bhatt, senior leader of Lal Nishan Party (Leninist) visited Patna to participate in CPI(ML) rally. Comrade Pradip Jha interviewed him to discuss the issue of recent attacks against north Indians in Bombay and other parts of Maharashtra.]

PJ: Recently there were attacks on north Indians specially workers from Bihar and UP. Many were forced to leave Maharashtra. What are the reasons behind it?
UB: We must understand the background of this phenomenon. After independence, when movements started in south India for reorganization of states on a linguistic basis, then a popular movement erupted in Maharashtra also based on the ‘Maharashtra for Marathis’ sentiment. The 2.5 lakh-strong textile workers of Mumbai were the backbone of this movement. Almost all political parties including our party supported this movement.
Subsequently when states were reorganized on this basis and Maharashtra was born in its present form, naturally the Marathi masses had aspirations for development, in which they were betrayed. By the mid 60s, the hopes of most of the Mumbaiite Marathis were shattered. It was in this background that the Bal Thackeray phenomenon was born. The Congress used Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena to crush communist forces and weaken the working class movement. In mainland Mumbai, the Marathis were dominant, but this was swept away in the tide of capitalist development, resulting in mass discontent among Marathis which was manipulated by Bal Thackeray to serve his political ends.
After the retirement of Bal Thackeray, fierce rivalry broke out among his successors - Uddhav and Raj Thackeray. Earlier Raj did not indulge in such acts and advocated crass capitalist development, but he changed tack after the emergence of Uddhav. When Uddhav Thackeray was due to organize ‘Uttar Bhartiya Manomilan Samaroh’, Raj Thackeray started fanning Marathi chauvinism. Actually, Raj Thackeray has no force of his own; he can gain strength only by splitting one section of the Shiv Sena. Following Raj Thackeray’s move, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray followed up with some provocative speeches and with a similar piece in Saamna.
PJ: What is the impact of this phenomenon in Maharashtra?
UB: It has had little impact on common Marathis of Maharashtra. Of course, it has some impact on the middle classes of urban centres like Mumbai, Pune, Nasik etc. There may be involvement at a sentimental level but very few people participate in the actions. The people from UP and Bihar who fled from Mumbai, Pune, and Nasik were mainly casual workers, but migration of permanent employed workers was almost nil.
PJ: What was the role of Congress and Left parties like yours?
UB: Congress tacitly approves of the chauvinistic frenzy. Laloo Yadav and Mulayam Singh are also happy. They are actually using the fear-psychosis of the Hindi-speaking workers and projecting themselves as their saviour. The so-called arrest of Raj Thackeray and his immediate release were all part of a well orchestrated drama.
CPI and CPI (M) issued statements but were unable to do anything more. Our Party offered a determined resistance. We came on the streets in thousands by organizing Biharis, UP iites and Marathis all together, and exposed people like Raj Thackeray. The private security guard organization in Mumbai, comprising 40-50, 000 employees, is with us. Earlier most of the guards were from UP and Bihar and they played quite a militant role in the organization. However later after the closure of textile mills, many Marathis also joined this job. We ask the Marathi guards, who was responsible for the closure of textile mills and thus for making them unemployed? Not the workers of UP and Bihar, but the capitalists of all hues together have made you jobless and you are cursed to live the life of humiliation as a security guard.
Raj Thackeray’s men organized attacks on these north Indian guards and asked people not to employ them on the job. We resisted it with the help of Marathi guards. We reminded them as to who was responsible for breaking the strike of textile workers comprising 95% Marathi workers? Who was responsible for breaking the 52-day-old strike of state employees in 1974? In all these incidents, Shiv Sena was hand-in-glove with the capitalists like Wadia, Birla and Goenka. And in return, Shiv Sena leaders amassed huge wealth in billions. A simple employee Manohar Joshi has today become owner of five- star hotels. Raj Thackeray, the self-proclaimed messiah of Marathis, bought land worth Rs. 421 crore and ensured eviction of Marathis dwelling there.
Recently, at the marriage party of industrialist Ruia’s daughter, one of the 100 richest persons in Mumbai, leaders of all hues including Advani, Modi, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Shinde and Amar Singh enjoyed a feast together. We say that all these ruling class people are one and same; they seek to divide the toilers by spreading the poison of hatred on the basis of language, religion, caste and region.
In Pune we have a big organization of household maid-servants. Most of them are Marathis. When some of the youth from their families talked about beating poor Biharis, their mothers strongly condemned them and stopped them from taking any such step.
There is BJP-Shiv Sena domination in the Mumbai Corporation. Local BEST buses are run under this Corporation and 99% employees in BEST are Marathis. When they went on strike, it was forcibly broken by Corporation administration. Contract workers are being recruited in place of permanent employees. BEST depots are being closed and its valuable land is being handed over to Reliance at throwaway prices. We ask Marathi workers, who is responsible for all this - Bihari workers or these so called pro-Marathi leaders?

With all our might we are trying to develop class consciousness among workers, employees and agrarian labour and trying to reestablish the original identity of Mumbai - as a working class citadel.