Violence continues in Mumbai over 'north Indian' remarks
Indo Asian News Service
Last Updated: February 04, 2008 13:15:04
Mumbai/New Delhi, February 4: Sporadic incidents of violence continued in several parts of Mumbai for the second day Monday as activists of the Maharastra Navnirmam Sena smashed taxis owned by north Indians, hurled glass bottles at the house of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and clashed with Samajwadi Party supporters.

Bachchan, who was shooting for Sujit Sircar's latest film in Shimla, cut short his schedule and flew to Mumbai Monday after reports that his former house in Juhu, 'Prateeksha', was attacked by MNS activists early Monday. The men came on motorbikes and hurled empty glass bottles at the house, where Bachchans do not live.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh has lodged a police complaint against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray for disrupting his party's rally at Shivaji Park in Dadar and attacking workers. The area is considered to be the turf of the Shiv Sena.

The MNS chief's controversial remarks on people from north India led to clashes in several parts of Maharashtra Sunday.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deskhmukh condemned the violence against north Indians migrants in Mumbai and other parts of the state and described the incidents as part of a 'political conspiracy' due to which the common man was suffering.

Emphasising that that Maharashtra has always been a 'secular state', Deshmukh promised that security personnel would be deployed in all sensitive areas in the city and the state.

A Mumbai court Monday sent 23 activists of the MNS and the Samajwadi Party to 14 days' judicial custody for their involvement in the violent clashes Sunday. They were, however, released on bail soon after.

Meanwhile, the violence continued. Miscreants, alleged to be activists of MNS, attacked some north Indian taxi-drivers in Dadar. A couple of kilometres away, MNS supporters burnt photos of Amitabh Bachchan and shouted slogans against his family.

Around 6 p.m., a group of MNS activists barged inside the booking office of Grant Road station on the Western Railway (WR). They damaged the booking office windows and tore off posters of a newly released Bhojpuri film put up there.

In the afternoon, MNS workers resorted to stone-throwing in some parts of Kandivli east, a north-Mumbai suburb which has a sizeable north Indian lower middle-class population. In Bandra suburb, MNS activists tried to plant party flags before an open market dominated by north Indians. This was opposed by the north Indians, and a clash ensued.

The Samajwadi Party Youth Wing staged a demonstration outside Thackeray's office in Bandra and raised slogans against him. They also burnt his effigy. The Nirmal Nagar police arrested five SP activists in this connection. There were reports of similar clashes in Ghatkopar.

Anti-north Indian comments and verbal attacks on the Bachchan family by Raj Thackeray, the estranged nephew of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, over the last few days have resulted in tension between various ethnic groups settled in Mumbai.

Last week, Raj lashed out at the north Indians on different issues, including performing Chhat Puja, and demanded that they must only celebrate Maharashtrian festivals.

Meanwhile, political leaders have criticised Thackeray for his remarks and demanded action against him.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati flayed the Maharashtra government for the violence against migrants from her state in Mumbai.

'I strongly condemn the attacks on UP migrants engaged in different professions in Mumbai. What is happening in Maharashtra is against the spirit of the Indian constitution, and, therefore, it warrants deterrent action against the culprits,' she told mediapersons in Lucknow. She also called upon the central government to intervene.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded stern action against Thackeray for his remarks against north Indians and the Chhath festival observed by people from his state.

'Merely lodging a case against Raj Thackeray will not do, tough action should be initiated against him,' said a visibly agitated Kumar in Patna reacting to reports of violence against people of his state in Mumbai.

'It is a serious issue, Raj Thackeray-type elements have to be dealt with strictly; otherwise it may create more trouble,' he said as people across the state took to streets in protest. They burnt Thackeray's effigies in Patna and other cities and also demanded action against him.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit also criticised Thackeray's remarks.

'His utterances are highly irresponsible and he should refrain from making such remarks. Had he been in Delhi, he would have got a befitting reply,' Dikshit said in New Delhi.

Bharatiya Janata Party activists held demonstrations at several places in the national capital seeking against Thackeray. City BJP president Harshvardhan termed the remarks as an assault on people's right to settle anywhere in the country.

'The Indian constitution gives us the freedom to move and settle wherever we want. How can Thackeray decide the people's choices?' Harshvardhan told IANS.
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