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Congratulations Mumbai, for the ‘voluntary’ shutdown

We live in extraordinary times. We now celebrate the most bizarre of achievements, patting ourselves on the back and basking in glory.

This morning, in Mumbai, we congratulate ourselves that the funeral procession and cremation of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray went off peacefully, with no violence, no injury and no damage to property.

This is a major achievement, and one to be congratulated on, if the rule was that all funeral processions and cremations result in violence, deaths and damage to property.

In ensuring that only supporters of the Shiv Sena were on the streets, the rest of the city was placed under virtual house arrest. Sachin Gokhale/ Firstpost

They do not. They are sombre, quiet, peaceful. They are occasions when a family is in grief, and near and dear ones are present to show solidarity and support in the time of grief.

The Mumbai police issued advice to Mumbai’s citizens to stay at home. Commercial establishments across the city were closed ‘voluntarily’, a pitiful euphemism for ‘stay open at your own risk.’ Taxis and auto-rickshaws stayed off the roads ‘voluntarily’ as well.

Basically, there was no one on the streets of Mumbai except for those in the funeral procession. And, let us remind ourselves, it was a funeral procession; all involved, one presumes, must have been grieving. Why should there be any violence? If there was an incident of violence, it would have been perpetrated by the very people in mourning – and we congratulate ourselves on the fact that there was none?

In ensuring that only supporters of the Shiv Sena were on the streets, the rest of the city was placed under virtual house arrest – for almost 36 hours. It was a curfew-like situation, with public transport shackled, offices, shops, eateries, bars, malls and multiplexes closed. And this morning, the newspapers are full of praise for the Mumbai Police. How difficult can it be to police a city that is shut down?

Today, it is apparent that taxi and auto-rickshaw services are still tentative; many are still ‘voluntarily’ in mourning. It is still unclear if commercial establishments in Sena strongholds will open. They, too, might ‘voluntarily’ stay closed for another day. Schools are closed, as the school buses are staying off the roads ‘voluntarily’.

It’s a story of fear of violence. It was the fear of violence that prompted the police to issue the stay-at-home advisory, it was fear that kept the taxis and auto-rickshaws off the roads, it was fear that forced closure of commercial establishments; it was fear that made private citizens stay at home.

That’s what we should congratulate ourselves on. We’re more frightened than anyone else. We’re so frightened that peace is forced on us.

Well done, Mumbai. Let’s pat ourselves on our backs.

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