Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Mumbai was a city that was easily thrown into communal turmoil. The bustling city life, dizzying lights, mad traffic and share markets have frequently been brought to a standstill. The last decade has not seen any large-scale outbreaks of violence but every time there is a terrorist attack or a riot the walls that divide religious communities come up once again.
Community Correspondent Amol Lalzare has lived in Mumbai for all his 25 years and has seen the affect this has on human relations on a day-to-day basis. He says:
“Every time there is an incident like the 26/11 blasts, the environment in Mumbai becomes tense. In our chawls (tenements) the Hindus and Muslims who usually live without interfering in each other’s business, start viewing each other with suspicion. I thought it was time to make a video on the issue and understand what goes on in people’s minds when they behave like that.
Hindus have started to generalise and feel that all Muslims are bad. Very often we have seen that Muslim families are not given houses to rent. Why do we forget that they are just like everyone else in Mumbai? They get up early, slave all day at work, come home tired and sleep. They are not interested in causing any problems. When terrorist attacks happen, Muslims are killed as well. Just because some groups take it to an extreme, does not make the entire community bad.
All this does is make the community more insular. They become more and more insecure because they feel that the other people disrespect them. What’s worse, these insecurities become so easy for politicians to take advantage of when pitting one community against the other.
What strikes me the most and also gives me hope is the fact that people do forget these communal differences in the face of something bigger like natural calamities. During the floods in Mumbai in 2005 being Hindu, Muslim or Sikh or whatever didn’t make a difference. We were all out in the streets helping each other, taking care of each other. I just wish we’d remember that lack of differences more often.”