Maharashtra government warned not to attempt to thwart morcha against Azad Maidan riots
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Monday threatened of dire consequences if the State machinery attempted to thwart his morcha protesting against the riots of August 11 at Azad Maidan.
Mr. Thackeray and his supporters are slated to take out a procession from Mumbai’s Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan on Tuesday. The police have, however, denied them permission citing concerns over the law and order situation and traffic jams.
Reading from a notice under section 149 of the India Penal Code pertaining to unlawful assembly sent to him, Mr. Thackeray lashed out at the police and the State Home Department for denying him permission.
‘A peaceful protest’
“Ours is a peaceful protest in which people from all over Maharashtra will participate. We have sent applications to the police seeking permissions. We have heard that the police have plans to stop vehicles coming from other districts. Why weren’t all these measures taken for the August 11 demonstration despite intelligence reports [warning of trouble]. Whether the police give us permission or not, we will stage a morcha. And if they try to thwart it, there will be consequences,” Mr. Thackeray warned.
He said he had raised the matter of denial of permission with State Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Mr. Chavan, he said, assured that the party had the democratic right to protest.
Mr. Thackeray said he had alerted his cadres to watch out for elements trying to sabotage the morcha or create trouble.
“They are going to police colonies to tell families of policemen not to participate in the morcha. Don’t police families have the freedom to decide or register protest? Can’t you express your condemnation? How can you deny permission?” he asked.
Citing the previous instance when the party was denied permission to hold a rally at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park, Mr. Thackeray asked if it was “Mughal Raj.”
He refuted the Congress’ criticism that he was trying to politicise the issue. “We have not used our party posters anywhere in our campaign,” he said.
To a question on whether he was moving towards the Hindutva ideology, Mr. Thackeray said it was the media who was making such conclusions. He said the protest march was not a Hindu-Muslim issue.
Heavy police deployment
The police have pressed around 12,000 to 15,000 police personnel into service in south Mumbai, from the point where the rally is to begin at Girgaum, a senior officer told reporters on Monday.
At the Azad Maidan alone, where the rally is slated to end, around 4,500 personnel, of which 2,000 are from the local police and the rest from the State Reserve Police Force, Riot Control Police and other special forces, would be stationed.
For the riots at Azad Maidan on August 11, the strength of the police at Azad Maidan was 850, the officer said.