Culture war brews in Mumbai city
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A battle for the cultural soul of Mumbai is brewing between Hindu radicals and the cosmopolitan urbanites who are the global face of this Indian city. The radicals appear to be winning, at least for now.
In the last few weeks, the Shiv Sena group has blocked the broadcast of a hit reality show - after its mob tried to storm the filming set - and convinced the prestigious University of Mumbai to ban from its curriculum an acclaimed novel, saying it offends the local Marathi-speaking people.
The conflicts are a reminder of the power of divisive politics in the world's largest democracy and the fragile balance of diversity in India's most globalized city.
Shiv Sena emerged during the 1960s and bills itself as the defender of the Marathi speakers in Mumbai - the capital of India's financial and entertainment industries, which has attracted generations of migrants, resulting in an ethnically and culturally diverse population of some 18 million.
It's a city where it is possible to find Brioni suits, Scottish beef - anathema to Hindu traditionalists who revere cows as holy - and migrants from different states with different languages mixing and marrying.
Such cosmopolitanism has sparked a backlash, led by the Shiv Sena, which does not hesitate to use violence to enforce its vision of primacy for natives of Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the main city, and secondly for majority Hindus within India.
This month, the group targeted the TV show "Bigg Boss" – an Indian version of "Big Brother" - demanding the removal of two stars from India's historic archrival, predominantly Muslim Pakistan. A mob tried to storm the gates of the bungalow where the show is filmed in Lonavala, a hill station outside Mumbai, and staged a strike that shut down the town for a day.