Members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) gathered outside the Haj House on Wednesday. Not to protest against Muslims but to take up for them.
The Raj Thackeray-led party protested outside the Haj House in south Mumbai demanding an increase in the quota for Maharashtra’s Muslims going for Haj.
The MNS alleged that Muslims from North India were given a higher quota of 35,000 pilgrims as against the quota of 7,000 given to Maharashtrian Muslims.
“Muslims of our state have always been given a raw deal,” said Haji Arafat Shaikh, vice president of the MNS.
Shaikh demanded that a domicile certificate proving that the pilgrim has been residing in the state for more than 15 years be made compulsory for those applying under the state quota.
Mumbai’s Muslims include those from Konkan and Marathwada and those from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The MNS is trying to woo the ‘Maharashtrian Muslims’
Shaikh, whose uncle Sabir Shaikh was described as the Muslim face of the Shiv Sena, said Maharashtrian Muslims were MNS supporters.
“Maharashtrain Muslims face the same problems as the Hindus here and hence they see Thackeray as their leader who has been fighting for them,” said Shaikh.
“We always experience riots and trouble in parts of Mankhurd and Malegaon which has a large part of North Indian Muslims.”
The MNS, when launched, was pitched as a party that would be the voice of Dalits and Muslims apart from the Marathi manoos.
The blue and green colours in the party’s flag were meant to symbolise that.
It now seems like Thackeray wants to implement his initial idea because he knows Muslims are a substantial vote bank.
Political analysts described it as a clever move. “Raj wants to create an identity distinct from that of the Shiv Sena,” said political analyst Nilu Damle. “He also wants to emerge as an alternative for the Muslims.”
B. Venkatesh Kumar, professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said that Thackeray was expanding his focus.
“He is now creating a pan-Maharashtra identity,” said Kumar.
The MNS, the in recent Assembly polls, scored in areas like Mahim, Sewri, Vikhroli and Kalyan (rural), which have a substantial Muslim population.