In his remarks, Modi had said, ‘There are some people in our country who have been determined since 2014, spoken publicly and declared their resolve that they will tarnish Modi’s image. For this, they have given ‘supari’ to various people.’
‘Some people are sitting inside the country to support these people and some are doing their work sitting outside the country. These people have been continuously trying to spoil and dent Modi’s image,’ he had said.
Many on Twitter, including some spokespersons for the Congress, were critical of the PM’s language, which they though not befitting for someone of his stature.
‘Supari‘ which is Hindi for the ‘areca nut’ ‘betel nut’ which is chopped into pieces and put in the Indian sweet paan, or chewed on its own.
Paan-supari has been used in colloquial language in India to indicate confirmation of a deal or contract, for house repairs for example.
It is also however slang for a contract, both official and nefarious, as it could involve hit jobs for slander or for contract killings used by the underworld.
S Hussain Zaidi, author of ‘Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia’, traced the etymology of the word to an interesting ritual said to have been followed by Bhim, chief of the Mahemi tribe and the overlord of Mahim.
According to Zaidi’s book, Bhim would undertake meetings with his warriors at Mahim fort to discuss important matters and difficult jobs. The meeting was followed by a sumptuous feast, after which ‘paan-supari’ would be brought out on a plate and placed in the middle of the gathering.
The man who picked the leaf was entrusted with the difficult task.
Another origin story comes from rural Maharashtra, as workers moved to urban centres, as did the underworld in the 90s, so the phrase began to be used in large cities such as Mumbai, evolving to mean contract killings.
The underworld ruled Mumbai in the late 80s and early 90s, gangland killings and hit jobs became commonplace, the expression ‘uska supari isne diya’ (gave a contract for a hit) came to be understood as common parlance.
A day after the PM’s remarks, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal on Sunday urged him to name the people targeting him and suggested they be prosecuted.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius