Communal harmony, Mumbai style

Drivers of all religions gather for an Iftar party organised by their union


Around 200 drivers, belonging to all faiths, from all corners of Mumbai attended an Iftar party organised by the Maharashtra App-based Transport Workers Union (MAT) yesterday in Mumbai. Many of them carpooled in cabs driven by their comrades to arrive at a parking lot near the domestic airport terminal in Mumbai which doubled up as a venue for the Iftar party.

Their trade is a lonely one, with busy cars plying on far flung Mumbai roads in peak hour traffic. It was hence not surprising that many of them seemed to be meeting each other after a long time and a joyous, festive spirit permeated the air with much back-clapping, embracing and loud raucous laughter. A simple spread of Samosas, jalebis, fruits and kababs had been laid out on long, communal tables for the drivers. Close to 7 PM when it was time for Maghrib, a confusion on how to sound the azaan occurred with people scrambling to connect their mobiles to the speakers. Ultimately it fell on one of the drivers to sound the evening call for prayer. A hushed silence descended all around us as the azaan rang out. Someone reached out for an Iftar jalebi in front. It was time to break the fast. The silence persisted. For those who were not observing the roza, the act of eating together had turned into a solemn moment.


A driver who identified himself as Brahmin spoke to SabrangIndia while relishing the vegetarian iftari served to him. As an app-based driver who has seen his income dramatically plummet in the last few years with narrow margins, high costs of fuel and high living costs, he said that the union gives them bargaining power. Referring to the inter-faith gathering around him, he said , “if our car develops a snag late at night , these are the very people who come to help us out. I am a Brahmin but that is inside my home, in my private life , outside I am just a human being like everyone else here. Politics divides us. It is a ***** (uses a common expletive) thing”. 

Posters and stickers, created by CJP in collaboration with digital artist Smishdesigns were distributed in the Iftar party as stickers. They proved to be a hit among the drivers.


Two Sikh drivers who had come all the way from Kharghar in Navi Mumbai appreciated the effort and said that while on ground there is widespread unity among citizens, some people want to create an artificial divide. One of them said, “Such posters are needed to remind people of this unity in the face of manufactured controversies and attempts to vitiate the atmosphere.”

Sikh Man

The iftar was hosted on the premises of the Mumbai chapter of Airport Aviation Employees Union (AAEU) and was attended by Nitin Jadhav, the All India joint general secretary of AAEU. Also present was Secretary, CJP, Ms Teesta Setalvad, Prashant Bhagesh Sawardekar, President, MAT and Uday Kumar Ambonkar, General Secretary, MAT.

Speaking eloquently, Mr Jadhav said, “Our space will be made available for this event every year. I am an insignificant person, this is holy work, I will always support this effort to bring people together”


Holding up the poster, Mr Ambonkar , who is also a member of the national committee of Hind Mazdoor Sabha, said , “ look at this tiranga coloured rose. It is in our hands now. It is up to us to uphold the unity of the nation “

Speaking to Sabrang India, Teesta Setalvad said, “It is CJP’s belief that counter-communities like kisan sabhas , feminist groups and labour unions among others can serve as a bulwark against divisive politics. We are taking our message of peace to members of these communities and helping them navigate disinformation and hate speech that is flooding the airwaves all around us”


For many people present the bonhomie was an everyday reality. For those of us invited to observe the celebration, the iftar meal was a welcome respite from the steadily rising drum roll of communal violence all around us.


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