Mumbai (then beautiful Bombay) burned because a small section of its policemen were busy exploring the M word.
It was August 18, in fact, and we remember it so clearly. First the rumours that some of Mumbai’s finest had begun to take the law into their own hands. The news took time to filter out because there was no satellite television and even Hum Log was still two years in the future.
Into our office (then at Tardeo), there rushed two men, wearing uniform trousers but no shorts, just vests, incoherent with rage, bellicose and belligerent, still clearly recognizable as policemen. Behind them almost immediately came two officers who dragged them out, and we were stunned with horror. Remember, the perception of the policeman then was very different from what it is now, and there were few who did not feel fortunate to live in a city where the man in uniform was not an a figure to inspire jeers and fear!
It was not exactly a mutiny, just an uprising of some very discontented sections of the constabulary, and quickly brought under control. But that night, with the Army out on the streets and machine gun nests set up at major junctions, was a very long one indeed.
Police commissioner Arup Patnaik needs to deal with the constable kowtowing to Raj Thackeray with a yellow rose very carefully indeed. There were quite a few of his brethren looking on with approval!