As the Punjabis and the Haryanis are fighting over Chandigrah now, many years ago the Maharashtrians and the Gujaratis fought over Bombay. Or rather, the Maharashtrians fought, the Gujaratis, not being the strong and rebelious type as they are now, kept quiet.
Bombay was the capital of the bilingual state of Bombay. Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister and had said that the state would be linguistically divided only over his dead body. That was a mistake. Mr. Moraji Desai was the chief minister. That was a tragedy. Mr. S. A. Dange headed the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti. Mr. Bal Thackeray was a cartoonist in the Frees Press Journal and if he had any desires of forming the Shiv Sena, he kept them to himself. Mayor Bhujabl was not mayor. In fact, nobody had heard of him and the chances then were that nobody ever would.
I was in the Free Press and the linguistic riots over Bombay were some of my first major assignments as a reporter. They were not really linguistic riots, because, as I said, the Gujaratis never fought. The Maharashtrians, a section of them, were fighting with the police and with Mr. Morarji Desai. Being Morarji Desai, he was not likely to give in.
Mr. Pupala was the mayor of Bombay. The poor man, he suffered the most, because he was made to resign on the issue of Bombay being made exclusively the capital of Maharashtra. For some odd reason, he sent his letter of resignation to S. K. Patill. Mr. Patil sent it back, saying he was not a post box.
Mr. Patil had an original idea. Instead of Bombay being the capital of Maharashtra or of Gujarat or of both, he wanted Bombay to be a city state. Only the Parsis supported him on that, but then they never counted, being so apolitical.
There were riots all over the city, BEST buses were burnt, a few young men lost their lives in the agitation, the monument at Flora Fountain, next to the fountain, is in their memory. The name of Flora Fountain was also changed to Hutatma Chowk, though very few citizens used it then or use it now.
Now the Shiv Sena, on January 26, is going to change the name of entire Bombay to Mumbai. As I have always said, give some people an inch and they will take a mile.