M A I N   N E W S

Future tense as north Indian migrants face MNS ire
Centre rushes more paramilitary forces to Maharashtra
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 12
The situation in Maharashtra, particularly in parts of Mumbai, continued to be tense following reports of attacks on North Indian migrants and their properties in different parts of the state by suspected activists of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

With reports of the police preparing to arrest MNS chief Raj Thackeray, activists of the party went on the rampage in many parts of the state.

The police said shops and homes belonging to migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had been damaged in Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Beed and other parts of Maharashtra. After shops belonging to migrants were burnt at Nashik and Pune, several major markets in these towns remained closed as small businessmen fled, fearing violence.

After several commercial complexes were damaged at Nashik, security was tightened. Reports from the town said at least one businessman had been admitted to hospital in a serious condition after he was attacked by MNS activists. So far, 25 activists of the MNS had been arrested for the attack, the police said.

Six municipal corporators in the Nashik Municipal Corporation belonging to the MNS have been put under preventive arrest.

In Pune, shopping complexes owned by members of the Marwari community were targeted, with several establishments being damaged by MNS activists. In parts of the town, members of the party were asking migrants to leave Pune, leaving the place exclusively for Maharashtrians, sources said.

Reports said migrants in towns like Aurangabad, Beed, Nashik and Pune were leaving for their home towns in anticipation of violence. The exodus started after MNS activists arrived at shanty towns and hutments housing the migrants and asked them to leave within 24 hours if they valued their lives, reports said.

In Mumbai, shops and business establishments in the Central Mumbai areas of Dadar, Worli, Prabhadevi and Shivaji Park areas were shut, as there were reports of Raj Thackeray being arrested and produced before a Vikhroli court today. However neither Thackeray nor Abu Azmi, president of the Mumbai unit of the Samajwadi Party who faces similar charges, have been arrested so far.

Azmi appeared before senior police officials today and demanded that he be arrested right away. However, the officials turned him away on the grounds that investigations were not complete.

Meanwhile the Maharashtra government has asked the central government for reinforcements before going ahead with the arrest of Thackeray and Azmi, sources said. While contingents of the State Reserve Police Force and the Rapid Action Force are camping in different parts of the state, central security forces are also likely to be deployed in the city over the next two days, said sources.

Outside Raj Thackeray’s residence today, the police cleared media persons camping outside the building and asked them to remain a short distance away.

Police officials said they did not want Raj Thackeray to give sound bytes to the media, as he has been prohibited from addressing public meetings or holding press conferences under the offences he has been charged with. Senior police officials also said that telecommunication facilities provided to Raj Thackeray might be cut off if he sought to speak to the media over the telephone.

However, MNS activists close to Raj Thackeray have been briefing reporters on their chief’s game plan. Raj Thackeray, his aides said, will not apply for anticipatory bail and will let himself be arrested.

Meanwhile, all top leaders of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have gone underground, anticipating police action against them. Over the past week, several of them were called to the nearest police station and had cases filed against them. Though only a few senior leaders were charged with rioting, office-bearers at the local level are not taking any chances and have gone into hiding.



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