An on-duty police constable on Tuesday climbed on to the podium and thanked the MNS chief by giving him a yellow rose in front of an applauding crowd, after Raj Thackeray spoke about how policemen, especially the constabulary, had faced the brunt of the mob on August 11 at Azad Maidan.
Constable Pramod Tawde, who saluted Thackeray before leaving the dais, is likely to get into trouble for his action.
Police commissioner Arup Patnaik said the special branch is investigating the matter to find out whether the incident was stage-managed. As per rules, a policeman on duty is not allowed to get involved in political activity.
"It is against the service rules. We are checking his antecedents," Patnaik said, hinting that disciplinary action could be taken against Tawde, if he is found guilty.
Police constable Pramod Tawde gives Raj Thackeray a rose after he addressed the rally at Azad Maidan in Mumbai. HT photo/Santosh Harhare
Tawde, who is attached to the Byculla wireless division, said he was not worried about departmental action. "I am not scared. I have brought along my resignation," he said.
Tawde believes Thackeray can get justice for him and three colleagues, who were allegedly beaten up by 10 Central Industrial Security Force personnel in August 2010 after they asked the driver of the truck carrying the personnel to show his driving licence.
"I have approached several top officials, including the commissioner, and have written to the home minister. But the guilty have not been brought to book," Tawde said.
The Raj Thackeray show
In a show-of-strength rally organised to protest the violence at Azad Maidan on August 11, Maharashtra Navnir-man Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Tuesday played his Marathi manoos card and trained his guns on "outsider Bangladeshi Muslims" migrating into the city.
Responding to Thackeray’s call, thousands of party workers defied the police, which had refused permission for the rally, and walked from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan, throwing traffic in south Mumbai out of gear.
Raj Thackeray addressing his supporters during their march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan in Mumbai. PTI Photo
While MNS legislator Nitin Sardesai claimed that one lakh people turned up, more conservative estimates pegged it at 50,000 to 60,000; the police refused to disclose any figure.
Though the state had warned Thackeray of action if he held an unauthorised rally, the police registered a case only against MNS office-bearer Shirish Sawant; Thackeray was not made a respondent in the case.
"It is the outsiders, the migrant Muslims from Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar, who caused the riots and battered the Maharashtrian policemen mercilessly. Even women constables were not spared. This cannot be tolerated," he raged, hijacking the Shiv Sena's line.
Theatrically, he pulled out a passport and waved it to the crowd, claiming that it was from Bangladesh and found at the venue after the violence.
Political experts said Thackeray’s move was aimed at sending out the message that he was capable of occupying the Shiv Sena’s space. The show of strength was organised in the backdrop of his emotional reunion with uncle Bal Thackeray and cousin Uddhav, both of whom were hospitalised recently.
Mumbai police chief vs Raj Thackeray
Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik on Tuesday said MNS chief Raj Thackeray's demand seeking his resignation on the issue of the Azad Maidan violence was "on expected lines" and stated that law would take its own course on the party's protest march without permission.
"It was on expected lines," he replied to a question on Thackeray demanding his resignation in the wake of the August 11 violence at Azad Maidan, in which two men were killed and 42 policemen injured while female cops were molested.
"I have never taken anything personally. I am the police commissioner and I did my duty of maintaining law and order and communal harmony on Tuesday. It was a very difficult day and it went off fairly well," Patnaik said.
Indicating action against Raj's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for carrying out march from Girgaum till Azad Maidan without police permission, Patnaik said, "Law would take its own course."
Special branch of the city police was checking if any unparliamentary language was used during the speech, he said.
"Raj Thackeray is a politician. They have their own agenda and objectives. There is a division of labour in any work. Here, my job is to maintain law and order and I confined myself to it," he reiterated.
The Mumbai police chief stated that men in the uniform had been targeted many a times in the past and policemen should not lose their cool for such things.