Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) may badmouth Biharis but a group of pilgrims from Maharashtra, stranded in Patna following agitations against the MNS attacks on north Indians, can’t praise them enough.
The group of 63, which included 55 women, were on a tour of sacred Buddhist sites. Among them were Heera (63), wife of famous Marathi novelist Daya Pawar, novelist Archana Hathekar and writer and social worker Kumud Pawde (70).
Bodh Gaya in Bihar was their last stop, after which they were to return home.
On Tuesday, they found themselves stranded on the outskirts of Patna as riots broke out. “At Bodh Gaya temple, we were told there was unrest in the city and we should avoid travelling,” said Heera.
The group was scheduled to board a train to Nagpur from Patna that night.
“We were nine km from the station and we could see men carrying Thackeray’s posters, shouting slogans, burning his effigies. The police told us that we couldn’t proceed. They also told us to speak in Hindi and avoid Marathi,” said Pawde.
As a precaution, they shut the windows of the bus and the car they were travelling in, covering the windows with their sarees. “We also covered our heads,” said Heera.
Apart from contacting the police, said Heera, “my son also called up Jharkhand Rajya Sabha MP Digvijay Singh, who immediately spoke to the superintendent of police. We were escorted by 25 policemen till the station.” She added: “Our train was three hours late and we were kept in stationmaster Vijay Mishra’s office. The police accompanied us for four stations to ensure our safety. We reached Nagpur safely on Thursday.”
Heera recalled what one of the constables told her: “He asked me to tell the people here not to beat their children. He asked whether they were harming anybody and whether it was their fault they were north Indian.”