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Sena trashes Mumbai, again

The desecration of a bust of Meenatai, the late wife of Bal Thackeray, sparked violent protests by party activists.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 04:40 IST

The Sunday morning calm outside Shivaji Park was shattered when Shiv Sena activist Ashok Kelkar, who had come there for a morning walk, discovered that a bust of the late Meenatai, wife of Sena chief Bal Thackeray, placed at the entrance of the park, had been desecrated by some miscreants.

By 8.00 a.m., a huge mob had gathered outside Sena Bhavan and Shivaji Park. Most of those gathered were incensed by the fact that within a few feet of the bust, there was a police chowkey. Workers and Sena leaders started questioning the police on how the miscreants had “dared to do such an act when their men were posted some distance away?” Senior Sena leader Manohar Joshi immediately performed a purification ritual, cleaning the bust with milk and water.

The mob then went on to vandalise the police chowkey and later, set a tourist bus parked opposite Sena Bhavan on fire to express their outrage. The terrified driver and the bus cleaner fled as soon as the mob attacked. The police, sensing that the scene could get hysterical, issued several warnings asking the crowd to disperse. But the mob failed to listen, forcing the police to burst three tear gas shells to disperse them.

News then spread like wildfire throughout the city and by noon almost every suburb and traditional Shiv Sena stronghold in Maharashtra reported similar attacks by the Sainiks. Workers claimed two small idols of Lord Ganesh and Hanuman located in an open-air gymnasium had been displaced from their pedestal and a framed Sai Baba photo was also damaged. The gymnasium is barely 20 feet from the bust of Meenatai. M. Shinde of Shivaji Park Police station said he suspected that some unknown miscreants who had desecrated the bust might have attempted to defile the idols.

Altogether, 46 people were arrested in connection with different incidents of violence, including stone-pelting.

Shiv Sena legislator Diwakar Raote later told reporters he would carry the photograph to the assembly on Monday seeking justice from the government on the desecration. Shopkeepers in Dadar, Prabhadevi and Worli observed a spontaneous 'bandh' in protest against the desecration. Said local MLA Sada Sarwankar, “Some miscreants may have entered the gymnasium at midnight and uprooted the idols.” Slogans of ‘Maasaheb Amar Rahe’ and ‘Balasaheb Thackeray Zindabad’ rent the air.

Senior officials including joint commissioner Arup Patnaik and DCP Dhaneshwar Phadtare rushed to the spot with reinforcements. Senior leaders including party executive president Uddhav Thackeray, RS MP Manohar Joshi and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ramdas Kadam also visited the spot.