Case filed against Raj Thackeray over his speech on loudspeakers
Mumbai: Police charged Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray withprovocation with intent to cause riot over his repeated threats to protest against loudspeakers in mosques and issued prohibitory orders to thousands of his followers, indicating that chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had decided to deal with his estranged cousin sternly.
Aurangabad police registered a first information report (FIR) against Raj Thackeray and the organisers of a rally in the city, where he threatened to launch an agitation from May 4 if the loudspeakers were not removed from mosques.
In the FIR, Raj Thackeray and party leaders were booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 116 (abetment of offence punishable with imprisonment, if offence be not committed), 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than 10 persons) and section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Maharashtra Police Act.
Separately, home department officials said preventive action under section 144 (2) of the CrPC was initiated against 15,000 workers of various political parties, while 13,000 were served with notices under section 149 of CrPC -- to prevent cognizable offences police officer may interpose for the purpose of preventing commission of any cognizable offence
“The police have been taking action as per the law. The people or the parties try to take law into their hands, they should be ready to face the consequences for it,” said food and civil supply minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Chhagan Bhujbal.
This marked the toughest steps taken by the state government since the row over loudspeakers broke out on April 2 during Raj Thackeray’s annual Gudi Padwa rally at Shivaji Park, Mumbai. Later, during a speech in Thane on April 12, Thackeray appealed to party workers to play the Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques if the loudspeakers were not removed till May 3.The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi has saidthat the attempt was a stunt to create communal tensionbut the MNS and Bharatiya Janata Party say they were just asking for the implementation of Supreme Court’s guidelines on the use of loudspeakers.
Raj Thackeray, then a top leader of Shiv Sena, was seen as successor to his uncle and Sena founder Bal Thackeray. However, Bal Thackeray chose Uddhav, his son, over Raj to lead the party. This resulted in Raj quitting party in 2005 to form the MNS, the next year.
The decision to book Raj Thackeray and deal strictly with the MNS agitation,which was due to start from Wednesday, was taken after due deliberation at the highest level of the ruling MVA, said a senior cabinet minister familiar with developments. On Monday and Tuesday, and discussions between Uddhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar with home minister Dilip Walse Patil and senior police officials, added the minister.
The FIR said permission for the May 1 rally was given with certain conditions -- limited the attendees to 15,000, maintaining noise level and not giving provocative speeches -- which were flouted.
Later in the day, the MNS chief posted an open letter calling on people to play the Hanuman Chalisa in front of mosques. “We had already conveyed to the government to remove the loudspeakers by May 4. However, the government stands very feeble on this issue. In our country, many are giving references of the Supreme Court order. Due to the loudspeakers being used under the name of religion, the elderly, the sick, children, students etc are definitely disturbed and keeping this issue in mind, the Supreme Court has taken a decision,” said Thackeray in an open letter.
“... Basically, this is not a religious issue but a social one. People of every religion of this country are exposed to noise pollution...If steps are taken to turn this social issue into a religious one, then we too can give a befitting reply,” he said.
“The leadership has no doubt that Raj Thackeray was playing the Hindutva card to grab political space with the support from BJP. The provocative language with the intention of creating communal tension was anticipated and the plan for the action was chalked out even before the rally. The issue was discussed in chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar last week and decided to handle the challenge stringently to stop Raj from playing religious politics,” said a senior NCP leader, requesting anonymity.
MNS spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande called the FIR a politically motivated action. “Why are restrictions like crowd limit only imposed on Rajsaheb while CM Uddhav Thackeray is given a free hand to get as many people as he wants for his rally. We don’t fear such actions,” said Deshpande.
He accused the Police department of acting under pressure. “Rajsaheb is only asking for implementing the orders of the Supreme Court with regards to the loudspeaker issue and instead of taking action, he is being targeted,” said Deshpande. “If they continue to harass us, then we will take to the streets,” he added.
During the meeting with senior ministers, top police officers told the home minister that there could be an attempt to create tension. “The police authorities have been directed to keep a close eye on such potential miscreants and take strict action against them without waiting for the orders from superiors. The bandobast at the entry points and areas with a history of communal tension has been increased,” said an official from the home department, requesting anonymity.
According to a home department official, government wants to build pressure on MNS to dissuade them from indulging in violence. “Maharashtra police is capable enough to handle such situations related to law and order. The potential miscreants have been identified and they have specific information related to the areas that can be troublesome,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
Minister of state for home Shambhuraj Desai said the government will not spare anybody who tried to create law and order problems. “The action taken against Raj Thackeray by the Aurangabad police is, I believe, after checking into video footage of the rally and after they were convinced over the violation of the terms and conditions set for the rally,” he added.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut called it a conspiracy against the government. “This is an attempt to destabilise the MVA government and people are brought from outside to create trouble in the state.”
BJP called the state government action a political vendetta.
“MNS will react to the action, but it was unfortunate that the leaders who announce to chant Hanuman Chalisa face the sedition charges or are externed or issued prohibitory notice…BJP’s workers are being booked under false charges just to suppress our voice,” said BJP leader Ashish Shelar.
Political analyst Prakash Akolkar said that the action by the MVA government was obvious. “Raj Thackeray has conspicuously targeted NCP chief Sharad Pawar by raising questions over his secular image and creating doubts over his faith in Hinduism. Secondly, the state government cannot afford any communal tension and or the communal riots in the state as it could destabilise the government. Had the MVA failed to take any action against Raj and his party, a wrong political message would have gone in the state. It would have also raised doubts over the ability to maintain law and order,” he said.