With the development from a village to a town; a town to a completely urbanized city there is a succession of the notion that is seen to be manipulating the image of one over the other. It is often considered and portrayed that cities are much more developed and flourished along with the people in all aspects compared to the one’s living in towns or villages; who are often considered to be of a lower grade, a lower intellect, a lower mindset than the ‘urbanized’ city dwellers. Every negative aspect of the particular country is often made to be hidden under the names of small villages and towns giving reasons of unawareness and illiteracy; as the urbanized cities are often considered with the identities of that nation and thus assumed to be pure along with the people.
Security and Crime is another term that is investigated on a similar discriminative ground without critical analysis or in simple terms ignorance to blindly follow and live up to the pre-existing hierarchy of cities, superior to towns, superior to villages.
Through the lens of spatial organization and evolution of the urban, Mumbai and Mumbra have been studied to understand the topic more critically; thereby questioning the pre-existing notion that an urbanized city is much more safe and secure compared to an underdeveloped town and the difference in the interpretation of safety and security in both the cases.
Mumbra is a town of Thane district in Western India in the state of Maharashtra. It has a history of more than 400 years. Formed as a Mughal outpost in the early 17th century which guards the entry point towards Kalyan fort, converted into a bustling shipbuilding industry at Reti bunder in the 17th century, famous for its unique sand boats and fast sailboats. The Bombay riots of December 1992, which overwhelmingly killed Bombay Muslims, and the retaliatory bomb blasts in January 1993 by the Muslim underworld, reconfigured the social geography of the city. Bombay Muslims from riot-hit areas sought safety in numbers and found it in Mumbra, where Muslims from the Konkani coast had a long-standing presence. Through a combination of the desire for safety among Muslims, the relatively cheaper price of apartments, and continued rural-urban migration, Mumbra’s population grew 20 times— possibly one of the fastest expansions of an urban area in India.
Mumbai, on the other hand, being the financial and commercial capital of India is diverse in terms of language, religion, culture, and economic background. Mumbai has always acted as a magnet for all kinds of industries, from Bollywood to art to large firms providing employment thereby witnessing a diverse population around.
Taking an extract from the Mumbai Reader’09; it said: “old-fashioned racism based on looks, profiling is designed to fill us with dread”. One such example is how people tend to move away from anyone with even a hint of beard and a backpack, it reminds them of the images of Hassan from the 26/11 attack, every Muslim in the city is suspected and every Muslim dominated suburb looked upon suspiciously. Keeping this in mind, let us understand safety and security based on the socio-cultural, political, economical, and historical influences of both the places.
To understand safety and security, it is necessary to understand the socio-cultural, political, economical, and historical background of both the places:
- Geographical organization
One way of looking towards security and crime; Mumbai and Mumbra; would be the way the city’s geography is comfortably organized in safe areas and not-so-safe areas. If there is any threat to this imagined and accepted map, then ‘crime’ suddenly becomes a threat to life and human sanctity, until then the crime is accepted as a part of life, and accepted easily. In having geographies of crime and safety defined in the citizen’s imagination of space, home and neighborhood, there is clear management of crime. Those who can afford, politically and economically, a stamp of safety and security for their homes or neighborhoods, also hold it as a certificate to their holistic ‘nice human being’ projection. For this, they don’t need complete eradication of crime, because else how will one distinguish ‘safe’ from ‘unsafe’? Crime needs to exist, but elsewhere so that my ‘safe’ is a special one. This in turn gives rise to a new ground to discriminate and form opinions about the people depending on their geographic location. A direct impact of this implementation is seen in Mumbra, which is classified as the unsafe zone no one is bothered about; whether the allegations are true or a made-up situation because of the social and communal background. On the other hand the Mumbai city area, the safe zone, with the people living there seen as one from respectable and nice personality.
- Physical environment
A place where the main gates of all houses were open, no one was restricted from going anywhere, one walked every inch of the street without being suspected by the residents, there were women in burkhas, in saree, in jeans, in salwar walking in and out children playing on streets and the in-between spaces, the community created a sense of security. ‘THE EYES WERE ON THE STREET’. On the other hand, all bungalows had their doors shut, apartments had their main gates closed, with plenty of guards and surveillance cameras suspecting every outsider as well as inhabitants of the space, a gated community with none except the traffic and on goers passing by; that was security for the inhabitants there.
These are two different places, one the suburb of Mumbra and the other is the Mumbai city, the understanding of security for one is the community whereas for the other is a gated community of high surveillance and security, irrespective of the knowledge of who lives next door. Usually, one debate that communal living is a pull factor towards suburbs since it is safer, but that is what is suspected in Mumbra, against Mumbai which is a highly Urbanised city.
- Profiling based on religion
Another reason Mumbra a ‘Muslim ghetto’ is eyed suspiciously is, as the tag given to it suggests a Muslim-dominated area just like Jogeshwari, Mahim, Kurla, Bhandup, etc. Profiling and the tension between Hindu Muslims have led one to look at Mumbra as a place of criminals.
It doesn’t mean that all allegations are right or wrong but why is the first suspect not from anywhere else but from one of the targeted suburbs like Mumbra even when the crime has happened in the Mumbai city area approx. 40km away. Crime happens everywhere, the security of both places needs to be questioned but why is only a part of the society taken as targets to be the suspect?
What is security and what is the crime? Is it a feeling or is it a physical quantity that can be measured? Is the feeling or sense of discomfort considered as feeling security or is it a crime? Is a place still considered to be safe if one of the genders cannot speak nor do things freely? Is inappropriate behavior towards the low-class society people under the name of security, not a crime? Is a place still secure if it is partial towards one class or caste, Is giving a huge gate like a fortress enough for its security, was it enough to keep the Indian raja secure from their attacking opposition?
Based on these notions crime and security are defined with different understanding for different places, at places chain snatching might be regular and according to the people staying there the place might still be safe as they are free from religion clashes or riots whereas some of them might define a petty theft to be of a great crime. It depends on various factors discussed above by drawing a parallel relation between a well-developed main city to its underdeveloped and hidden suburb. Thus a place cannot be tagged merely on a notional understanding of its topography and culture; the topic is very sensitive and needs to be analyzed well enough before a conclusion is made to it. The topic is closely associated with the flux of Urbanscape.