Special Correspondent

Remark on Biharis sparked off a furore

MUMBAI: Under fire for his statements on Biharis, president of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Raj Thackeray on Friday asserted that he had said nothing objectionable and there was no intention to hurt anyone.

On the first anniversary of his party on March 9, Mr. Thackeray had allegedly asked the Bihari migrants in the city to "behave properly," otherwise they would be "slapped on the face." His reported speech provoked strong reactions in north India, especially in Bihar.

At a press conference on Friday, he clarified that all he had said was that people coming from other States should respect Maharashtrians. A section of the media had quoted him out of context.

"What is wrong if I make a statement demanding respect for people who are natives of this State," he asked.

The issue had to be seen in the proper perspective, he said, adding that he had always kept the need to preserve the culture, language and pride of the State high on his agenda.

Mr. Thackeray said the reason why people were flocking to Mumbai must also be examined.

Why were people not questioning the lack of development in other States, he asked. It was time the Corporation and the State put limits on how much the city could take. Every city had a capacity and Mumbai's was stretched beyond that.

Asked whether he was moving away from secularism, he said there was no question of such a thing.