It’s something Mumbai had not seen in eight years — a near-total shutdown.
As news of Raj Thackeray’s arrest in Ratnagiri spread, taxis and rickshaws went off the roads, schools declared a holiday, and business establishments stayed shut. The last time Mumbai saw something like this was in July 2000, when Raj’s uncle, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, was held for instigating a communal divide.
<b1>There was an anti-Raj sentiment across the country with Parliament witnessing unruly scenes, chief ministers seeking action against him and protests against the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief turning violent in Bihar.
Raj was brought to Mumbai and got bail in a Bandra court, but he couldn’t be taken to a Kalyan court before it shut. He was facing charges for the attacks against North Indian railway recruitment candidates by the MNS on Sunday. He remained at Manpada police station for the night and will be produced in the Kalyan court by noon on Wednesday. Over 1,000 MNS workers have decided to camp outside the police station through the night.
Throughout the day, MNS workers clashed with police outside the Bandra court. Police had to resort to baton charges several times. MNS men also attacked North Indian taxi drivers. Stray incidents of violence were reported from across the city.
The attacks against North Indian have turned into a national issue with MPs forcing an adjournment of the Lok Sabha. Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Rajniti Prasad Singh said Raj should be booked for treason. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati too demanded action against Raj, while Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal demanded protection for Sikhs celebrating the Guru-ta-Gaddi Divas in Nanded.
Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil revealed that the Centre had cautioned the Maharashtra government to ensure order in the state at least thrice.
In Patna, hundreds of Bihari railway recruitment candidates returning from Mumbai after being assaulted by MNS activists laid a siege to the station, vandalised railway offices and disrupted services. The Railway Protection Force had to fire in the air to quell the mob. There were rail blockades in Darbhanga, Bhagalpur and Ara too.
In Nildih near Jamshedpur, over 70 members of the Bharatiya Bhojpuri Sangh attacked the home of Tata Motors’ plant head SB Borwankar, a Maharashtrian, at Nildih on Tuesday. The mob smashed windowpanes and vandalised the house, warning of more such attacks.
Earlier in the day, a police team arrested Raj in Ratnagiri at 2.45 am, charging him with instigating violence and damaging property.
MNS workers pelted stones, damaged taxis, buses and trucks at several places in Mumbai, Kalyan and other parts of the state.
A fearful city ground to a halt as the police cavalcade carrying Raj wound its way to Bandra.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Gautam Wankhede released Raj on bail of Rs 15,000, ordering him not to make provocative statements or threaten witnesses. The court also directed him to attend Kherwadi police station every day for a week.
“We made 3,000 preventive arrests of MNS workers since Sunday [when the railway recruitment candidates were attacked],” said Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil. “Raj had ordered his cadre to attack railway board centres and candidates.”
Raj can be accused in at least six other cases registered in Kanjurmarg, Thane, Bhandup, Solapur, Sion and Vashi. Patil hinted that there were other cases and that Raj may have to go from court to court for bail.
(With inputs from Ashok Mishra in Patna, Amit Tiwari in Jamshedpur, Anupam Trivedi in Dehradun, M Hasan in Lucknow & Kuldeep Mann in Amrtisar)