Special Correspondent

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s tirade against North Indians take new turn

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray’s continuing tirade against North Indians erupted in violence on Sunday. MNS workers tried to attack Samajwadi Party workers who were proceeding to attend a rally by the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), which was addressed, among others, by the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh, at Shivaji Park here.

There was a lot of tension at the rally and the MNS party members clashed with the SP workers; there were incidents of stone throwing at Dadar, and some vehicles were damaged, according to the police. However, the rally passed of peacefully.

The MNS said its members were provoked. “We were provoked to act the way we have,” party spokesperson Shishir Shinde told journalists here.

When a rally was being organised, the party must make sure there are no obstructions for the traffic and pedestrians, he said.

“When in Maharashtra, they must act like Maharashtrians. They [referring to SP] must adopt our way like saying Mumbai and not Bambai,” added Mr. Shinde.

The clash started after the MNS workers allegedly attacked a bus carrying the SP workers near Kherwadi in suburban Bandra. The police used batons to bring the situation under control and also detained seven MNS workers.

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Nirupam condemned “the MNS attack on SP workers” and said nobody instigating violence should be spared.

Since a week Mr. Thackeray has been making anti-North Indian statements, and on Friday he criticised film actor Amitabh Bachchan for paying more attention to his native State, contesting elections from there while Mumbai had given him all his fame and money. Mr. Thackeray has been criticising North Indians in Mumbai for celebrating festivals such as “chhat puja” and he has been telling the community to stick to local festivals.

Meanwhile, film actor Jaya Bachchan claimed she did not know who Raj Thackeray was.

She told reporters that she knew of no other Thackeray other than Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and his son Uddhav.

“I heard that Raj Thackeray owns huge property in Maharashtra ... in Mumbai ... Kohinoor Mills. If he is willing to donate land, we can start a school in the name of [daughter-in-law] Aishwarya here,” PTI quoted her as telling journalists here.

“Mr. Bal Thackeray [Shiv Sena chief] is like a father to me and Mr. Uddhav [Sena Executive President] is his son. I don’t know any other Thackeray,” she said.

Shiv Sena protest

PTI reports from New Delhi and Mumbai:

The Shiv Sena has demanded the immediate arrest of Mr. Raj Thackeray, saying his remarks on “Chatt Puja’ have “hurt the religious sentiments” of the people of Bihar.

Sena activists staged a demonstration in New Delhi to protest against Mr. Thackeray’s comments and said if the MNS chief was not arrested, it would not augur well for the future of the country.

“Mr. Raj Thackeray has hurt the religious sentiments of the people of Bihar, which is an unforgivable offence,” Shiv Sena north India chief Jai Bhagwan Goel said, addressing the demonstrators.

“The Shiv Sena does not differentiate between the people of Bihar, Punjab, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh,” he said and warned against “attempts to divide the countrymen.”

‘A novice in politics’

Describing Mr. Raj Thackeray as “just a child in politics,” Railway Minister Lalu Prasad on Sunday made light of the former’s advice to non-Maharashtrians saying it was better if people said, “Jai Bharat.” Talking to reporters after a function in Mumbai, Mr. Lalu Prasad said Mr. Raj was a political novice. “Staging protests is not going to solve any problem in these days of globalisation, he said, adding issues like unemployment and development should get priority.

Earlier in the day, the Railway Police arrested over 25 MNS activists who were demonstrating against the Railway Minister at Dombivili railway station by showing black flags.

The CPI has criticised the remarks of Mr. Raj Thackeray attacking north Indians and celebration of their festivals in that State.

Party secretary D. Raja said in a statement in New Delhi that Mr. Raj Thackeray’s views were parochial and divisive in nature and could not be tolerated in a multi-cultural country such as India.

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