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Indore city deserves to be in the news for better reasons than the ugly bat wielding by the spoilt son of BJP general secretary Kailas Vijayavargiya last week.

I was in Indore last week for a workshop on sustainable transport. The city is astonishingly clean and deserves the first ranking in cleanliness in the country. Mumbai, which is in such a shambles currently, and other cities need to learn from this. It also has a fairly successful BRT bus rapid transit system running along the wide Agra Bombay Road. It is patronised by a large number of college students on this education corridor.

Indore also has a strong working class and progressive political history in contrast to the loutish behaviour of some in the present BJP. Homi Daji, a Parsi hailing from Mumbai, was its member of Parliament in the 1960s and two times MLA. He was a member of the Communist party of India and textile workers’s leader. Indore was a major textile centre till the eighties. The mills are now closed, several workers have not got their dues and unlike Mumbai the mill land has not yet fallen into the hands of the vile elements in the construction industry.

Homi Daji passed away ten years ago and his activist wife of 60 years, passed away in Indore, earlier this year. He was brought in the communist movement by Anant Lagoo who was a founder of the party in central India and he was a cousin of Dr Shreeram Lagoo, the famous actor.

Anant Lagoo was an unusual figure who was in the RSS in his early days and was close to Kushabhau Thakre who later became a major BJP leader and organiser. But Lagoo broke from the RSS when he realised it offered no explanation to his question – why there is inequality and why there is so much exploitation.

Like some of the comrades of old, Lagoo was well versed in the scriptures including the Upanishads and so they could take on Hindu fundamentalists. He could quote freely from the poetry of Kusumagraj, Lok Shahir Amar Shaikh and Annabhau Sathe and Urdu shayars. Once when he met Noor Zaheer, daughter of the famed Urdu writer and founder of the progressive writers association Sajjad Zaheer, he recited a poem of Sajjad. She was delighted as she was not getting access to this particular poem and was surprised that Lagoo could remember it after some fifty years.. Sajjad was known in literary and party circles as Banne Bhai.

Lagoo’s son, Anand, trade union leader, gave me a little booklet written on his father by Vineet Tiwari in Hindi which gives a lot of information of the old days of the working class movement in central India. Lagoo was really a comrade in spirit, made his son address him as comrade.

Prabhakar Urdhwareshe, who won the Sahitya Akademi award for his book on the old days in the Communist movement, also hailed from Indore.

Lagoo’s colleagues including Ashok Dubey continue to run a very useful library and reference centre in Indore . Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, scholar and Bohra community reformer, used to visit the centre when he was in Indore.

Coming back to Homi Daji. He was obviously a colourful figure in his younger days in Mumbai. He wrote an article in Kaiser e Hind newspaper about how Fardunji Dotivala, a prominent Parsi solicitor, used to sleep with his maid servant. This created quite a storm. When a defamation case was filed Daji not only refused to apologise he came up with another case of sexual exploitation by the well connected solicitor. Fali Nariman, prominent legal expert, has recounted the case in his autobiography.

As for Akash Vijayavargiya’s hitting a municipal employee with a bat . It would make Indore’s famous batsman of old Mushtaq Ali turn in his grave. C.K. Nayudu was another batting stalwart Indore produced.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on public transport


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