M'rashtra tense over MNS chief's possible arrest
Buses were attacked in several parts of Maharashtra on Tuesday and the police were on alert across the state as tension brewed over the probable arrest of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray.
There were reports that migrant workers were leaving the state, particularly Nashik, fearing violence from the MNS, which has intensified its campaign for "Maharashtra for Maharashtrians" only.
"Anything is possible and police all over Maharashtra are prepared for the eventuality," said a state home ministry official.
In Pune, followers of MNS led by Raj Thackeray, nephew of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, damaged six government buses on Tuesday afternoon.
In Nashik, which houses the famous Shirdi Sai Baba shrine, 10 state-run buses were reportedly attacked and mobs vandalised shops owned by migrants. About 800 police officials have been deployed across the city.
Similar incidents were reported from Aurangabad and Raigad as well. In Latur, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's home district, migrants' shops were damaged.
There were also signs of trouble in and around Mumbai, the financial heart of India, with MNS activists forcibly shutting down shops in parts of Kalyan as well as Dombivilli, in the neighbouring district of Thane.
In the city as well, neighbourhoods like Shivaji Park saw shutters being downed in shops.
Although the police were on the alert throughout the state, rumours flew thick and fast, leading to jams on the Pune-Mumbai and the Mumbai-Nashik highways.
Traffic snarls were witnessed in this city as well with barricades and tight security deployed around Raj Thackeray's Shivaji Park residence in central Mumbai and Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi's Colaba home in south Mumbai.
Azmi, who could also be arrested following the days of clashes between MNS and Samajwadi Party activists, met city police chief DN Jadhav offering himself up for arrest.
But whether or not they will be arrested is still to be seen.
With both Chief Minister Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil away from Mumbai, it was unclear when the arrests were likely to be executed.
On Monday, Mumbai Police filed suo motu complaints invoking non-bailable sections of the law against the two leaders.
Raj Thackeray Tuesday refused to accept a notice connected to the complaint against him lodged by the Shivaji Park police.
The MNS tirade against outsiders, specifically north Indians settled in the city, has vitiated the political atmosphere in Maharashtra. MNS and Samajwadi Party activists have clashed in several parts of the state. Sporadic acts of violence targeting north Indians have continued unabated for 10 days.
Deshmukh's stern statement on Monday night warning of action against those making statements against outsiders gave an inkling of the toughening stance of the government.