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FIR against Raj Thackeray for May 1 speech, police out in strength in Maharashtra

Security beefed up outside Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray’s residence in Mumbai on May 3, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Aurangabad Police on Tuesday lodged a first information report (FIR) against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, charging him with the intent to cause rioting.

An FIR under Sections 116 and 117 (abetment to an offence), Section 153 (provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections of the Maharashtra Police Act was lodged by the Aurangabad City Chowk Police against Mr. Thackeray and organisers of the MNS rally in Aurangabad on May 1.

Undeterred by registration of a case against him, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray urged people to play the Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers on Wednesday wherever they hear loudspeakers “blaring azaan (Islamic prayer call)”.

In an open letter, he asked people to lodge complaint with the police by dialling 100 if they are distributed by the sound of ‘azaan’.

“One must complain daily,” the MNS leader said.

“I appeal to all Hindus that tomorrow, the 4th of May, if you hear the loudspeaker blaring with azaan; in those places, play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers. That’s when they will realise the hindrance of these loudspeakers,” Raj Thackeray said in the letter.

All local mandals and vigilant citizens should start a signature campaign over the issue of loudspeakers atop mosques and submit it to the police station in their locality, he said.

In his speech on May 1, Mr. Thackeray had exhorted party workers to play the Hanuman Chalisa over loudspeakers “in twice the volume” in front of mosques if their speakers were not removed by the end of May 3.

The police had granted permission to Mr. Thackeray’s event with more than 15 caveats, chief among them being he would not make provocative speeches nor attempt to stoke communal tensions. Sources said that the report by the Aurangabad Police chief to Maharashtra’s Director-General of Police pointed out no less than 12 violations of the pre-address conditions.

Sources said a flurry of meetings took place in Mumbai with State Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil discussing the issue with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Senior leaders of the Congress too held talks with the Chief Minister and Mr. Walse-Patil, demanding appropriate action to prevent communal clashes in the State.

The police also issued notices to MNS workers across the State. Preventive action was taken against more than 15,000 people under various sections of the CrPC and the Maharashtra Police Act.

In Mumbai, notices were issued under the CrPC Section 149 to at least 100 people, including MNS leaders Nitin Sardesai and Bala Nandgaokar.

Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Rajnish Seth told reporters in Mumbai that the police were prepared to deal with any law and order situation. He said that all leaves of police personnel had been cancelled.

Mr. Seth informed that 87 companies of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) had been mobilised and more than 30,000 home guards were currently deployed across the State.

Several MNS office-bearers, who were planning to play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers on May 4, were taken into preventive custody in a number of places, including Mumbai city. In Pune, police pressure on the MNS was palpable, with security personnel cracking down on the planned ‘ maha aarati’ on Wednesday.

Defiant MNS activists warned that if Mr. Thackeray was arrested, then serious disorder would erupt across the State.

Take action: Congress

Reacting to the day’s developments, State Congress president Nana Patole said, “Maharashtra is a State of law and nobody will be considered above it. If someone is trying to disturb peace and harmony then the administration will take necessary action as per the law.”

“If anyone thinks of himself as above the law, it will not work in Maharashtra and this is not limited only to the MNS chief,” Mr. Patole added.

“The administration will follow the directions given by the Supreme Court regarding the use of loudspeakers,” he said.

Non-bailable warrant

Meanwhile, a local court in Sangli in western Maharashtra, has issued a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Mr. Raj Thackeray in connection with a case which is nearly 14 years old. As per the High Court’s direction, cases pending for over five-10 years must be cleared at the earliest and a Special Constable has been appointed to “execute the warrant and submit a report to court”.

The case pertains to 2008 when youths from north India, appearing for a railway recruitment examination, were assaulted in Kalyan (among other places in Maharashtra) by MNS activists who wanted that the jobs be given to local Maharashtrians. A court in Kalyan had at that time issued orders for his arrest.

Issuing the NBW, the Judicial Magistrate in Sangli district asked the police to execute the warrant before June 8.

Raj’s ‘appeal’

Striking a defiant note, Mr. Raj Thackeray in a statement released on Tuesday night, said: "I appeal to all Hindus that tomorrow, the 4th of May, if you hear the loudspeakers blaring with azan; in those very places, play the Hanuman Chalisa on the loudspeakers! That’s when they will realise, the hindrance of these loudspeakers!"

He claimed that Hindu festivals were restricted by silent zones under the guise of schools and hospitals being around but masjids (mosques) are exempt from such restrictions.

"That’s why, I appeal to all Hindus that, make them hear our Hanuman Chalisa," he said. Mr. Thackeray added that all local mandals and vigilant citizens should start a signature drive against loudspeakers and submit the appeal letter with signatures daily to the local police station.

"If one hears the masjids playing the loudspeakers, the citizens should dial 100 and lodge a complaint. One must complain everyday," he said.


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Printable version | May 4, 2022 8:57:51 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/fir-filed-against-raj-thackeray-for-may-1-speech/article65379477.ece