Thanking Shabana

I am glad to hear about Shabana Azmi getting the International Gandhi Peace Prize for her social activism. Those of us who live in the Colaba area of Bombay are specially thankful for her role in the 1980′s for supporting the local fisherfolk who were being threatened with eviction from the seafront at Cuffe Parade. As you can see in the picture which I captured last week, the activities of these fisherfolk are the only spot of genuine colour in a landscape filled with dreary skyscrapers.

At that time, government officials made the case that these fisherfolk were illegally squatting on public land;Shabana and other activists said that you cannot deprive fisherfolk of using an area that they have using for centuries in the name of property rights. The activists, lead by Shabana, physically prevented the police from eviciting the fisherfolk. I was in the fringes of the crowd that day watching all this happen not sure what the right stand on this ought to be.

Time has proven Shabana and other activists right- not only have the fisherfolk’s presence made this corner of Colaba picturesque, it turns out ,the very bureaucrats who tried to evict them have goneand allotted themelves public landat very nominal prices to buildapartments for themselves! These apartments are to the right and just out of the picture. The buildings in the far corner are offices at Nariman Point, the main office area of downtown Bombay, so you can imagine what these flats are worth now.

Shabana richly deserves the award.

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