As Mobs vandalized exam centers and thrashed candidates, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s campaign against north Indians — claiming they are doing it for for the Marathi manoos — caught the authorities off guard on Sunday.
While Director General of Police A.N. Roy said violence was reported from only two places in the state (see Q&A), in actuality, more than 13 exam centres were attacked in parts of Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Navi Mumbai and Solapur. However, both Roy and the railway authorities said exams were conducted at all centres.
Rishikesh Menna, a 27-year old candidate from Rajasthan, said a group of 20 MNS workers stopped him and others like him as they came out of their exam centre. Scared, they all ran back to the centre, only to be forced out by the police. “Instead of protecting us, the police threw us back into the clutches of these animals,” he said.
“The mob hit us with sticks and iron rods and even chased those who tried to run away. When some of us went to the police to complain, they asked us to leave instead,” he added. “I just want to go back home. I will never come to Mumbai,” said Rajendra Shukla, a candidate from UP.
“At Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Kanjur Marg, only 19 of the total 480 candidates turned up for the exam. It was a hugely successful agitation,” said a jubilant MNS leader Manoj Chavan.
In Solapur, mobs shouted slogans for 15 minutes before the exam. The police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.
MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar said: “It is natural to be angry. Why do you require candidates from other states to fill job vacancies here? We have 10 ministers in the central government from Maharashtra and 48 MPs. What are they doing sitting there?”
The Shiv Sena joined in the hooliganism as its activists stormed an exam centre in Navi Mumbai to protest what they called “the inadequate representation of locals in railway jobs”.
Though the MNS was said to have been targeting north Indian candidates, aspirants from other parts of the country were also not spared. The vandals tore the hall tickets of many in order to prevent them from appearing in the exams, said some victims as well as eyewitnesses.
The Railways said they had arranged for security but “fell short”. Railway officials said many candidates were now stuck in Mumbai as the hall tickets — snatched from them — had also served as their travel tickets.