It could go either way, depending upon whose writ rules, the Mumbai police or Raj Thackeray’s
Joint commissioner (law and order) Rajnish Seth, held a press conference late yesterday evening, asserting that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has been only given permission to hold a “meeting” at Azad Maidan. He refrained from stating how many people would be allowed to attend.
The MNS is in no mood to relent and has decided to make a full show of strength, with a protest march today, demanding the resignation of Home Minister R R Patil and Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik “for their failure to control the violent mob at Azad Maidan on August 11”.
Asked about this, Seth said that the Mumbai police were completely prepared and would be ready for trouble from early in the morning. Besides the Mumbai police, armed with their lathis, there would be other armed police as well. They would be supported by State Reserve Police, and particular attention was to be paid to the route from Chowpatty to Azad Maidan.
Meanwhile, confrontation seems to be inevitable as the police have claimed that the party has not sought any permission for the morcha. The former has issued a notice to the latter under section 149 of CRPC, saying that if any law and order problem occurs, the party leaders will be held responsible. The cops have also warned of initiating legal action if inflammatory speeches with provocative content are made.
The MNS chief has categorically stated that the party has sought the permission for the morcha. He did not say that the permission was given.
Speaking to reporters, Thackeray said, “I will take out a morcha from Chowpatty to Azad Maidan as per our announcement. Whether police grant the permission or not is immaterial for me. The MNS had sought the permission from police. So we will take out a morcha at any cost and it will be a peaceful protest. There may be people who try to take advantage to create as law and order situation, but we are ready to tackle this as well”.
“Everybody has a right to protest. The question of law and order doesn’t arise. On what grounds did the police grant permission to the rally on August 11, in spite of being aware of many things? The government is creating hurdles for our morcha. Many of our workers have been stopped from entering Mumbai. I am warning the government they should stop using such tactics. I will talk at length on this issue tomorrow”, he added.
The violence on August 11 claimed the lives of two, and injured several others, mostly police officials. “Both Patil and Patnaik have miserably failed to do their duty and should resign immediately,” Raj has already announced. On instructions from their leader, the party’s local leadership is well prepared for the protest march, for which they have virtually gone door-to-door urging people to join, distributing pamphlets and announcing the event through megaphones. The MNS has also been advertising the march on local cable channels. Many party activists from Thane, Kalyan, Dombivali, Pune Nashik are also joining today’s march to make it a big event.
Meanwhile, according to Seth, the local police have already swung into action, taking precautionary measures, carrying out detentions of trouble-makers and making notings of the same.
Traffic will be mobilised
Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Vivek Phansalkar, has warned that traffic towards south Mumbai will be slow today, given plans for the morcha announced by the MNS from noon onwards. The morcha, for which the police has not given permission, might start from Chowpatty and end at Azad Maidan.“We will mobilise traffic, depending upon the situation on the ground, and are completely prepared for any eventuality,” he said.