What did the books do to you?

This is what is written on a makeshift banner which is stuck on a railing near Churchgate Railway Station:

“What did the books do to you?”

So the “Shanghaisation” of Bombay, or what we call Mumbai, is underway. Suddenly, after decades, the state government has finally woken up to the fact that having the worlds biggest slum colony in a city is not a matter of pride but a dubious distinction. The reactions that follow, the steps taken just after hitting the panic button are predictable and chaotic as well. First it was the bulldozing of slums and now it is the clearing of the booksellers pavement from Fountain to Churchgate.

Cybernoon.com quotes a stall owner who wished anonymity, “We have been told to pull up the awnings because they say it makes the surroundings look ugly”. These bookstalls have been in place for 25 years now, in fact some of them for over 50 years. Are you telling me it took more than 2 decades for the BMC to realize that the bookstalls could be causing difficulties while walking, to the pedestrians? And this clearing of bookstalls is because they want the pedestrians to have a “better” walking experience? Sorry, but I am not buying that.

Are there only inhuman ways of dealing with situations like these? Did the police have to walk on these books? Tear them? I guess Bombay police can be expected to do things like these, after all, it was hardly a month back when one of their own raped a girl inside Marine Drive’s police station. On the pavements were, after all, books.

But why books? Even Fashion street is on a pavement, why not that? Or why not the uncountable pirated CD shops? Selling of books does not hurt the economics in any way. In fact, books play a part in maturing the society. They carry words that can change opinions, change people. And they removed 9000 kg of book for a better, less-congested pavement to walk on? Heck, the politicians could not even come up with a proper excuse, because it’s almost ridiculous and rubbish to be told that this is for a better walking experience. It makes me want to hate the civic authorities. I despise this fact that people who take decisions like these do not even have something known as basic rational thinking on these issues. I do not blame the policemen for being violent and abusive, old habits die hard. But come to think of it, is this a way to deal with a problem which has its nucleus in something as simple as book selling?

This is a city where, in the words of Lindsay Pereira, dance bars were okay till two months back, but people selling books on the pavement are not accepted anymore. I have spent a good amount of time in Bombay walking on this road, from Fountain to Churchgate, browsing books for hours. Sadly now, one big reason to visit Bombay has gone missing.

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