M A I N   N E W S

End of Raj days; held, bailed out
1 killed in Nashik violence
200 cadres held
10,000 migrants flee Mumbai
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 13
Chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Raj Thackeray was arrested today nearly two weeks after his supporters ran riot on the streets of Mumbai attacking North Indian migrants. After picking up Raj from his residence in Dadar in Central Mumbai, the police produced him before a magistrateís court at Vikhroli. Shortly after 6.30 pm he was granted bail on a surety of Rs 15,000

Police sources said Raj had been charged with promoting enmity among different communities and questioning the national integrity of India.

At the court, the prosecutionís lawyer prayed that Raj be remanded in 14 daysí police custody since he had a past history of creating disharmony in society. The prosecutor also submitted that Raj, during his past stint with the Shiv Sena, was instrumental in instigating attacks on migrants.

There was high drama across Maharashtra in the morning after news leaked out from Mantralaya, the state government secretariat, that Raj and Abu Azmi, Rajya Sabha MP and president of the Samajwadi Partyís Mumbai unit, would be arrested later in the day. Soon contingents of Rapid Action Force and Riot Control troops were sealing sensitive areas of the city.

Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who was out of town, rushed to Mumbai after senior police officials like DGP P.S. Pasricha sought the final nod to arrest Raj. Sources in the Maharashtra Home Department told this reporter that top police officials and bureaucrats were fine-tuning the process for Rajís arrest for most of last night.

Early this morning, Rajís father-in-law and well-known Marathi drama director Mohan Wagh arrived to extend support to the MNS leader. Wagh later told reporters that he had extended his support to his son-in-law for his campaign advocating the rights of the Marathi manoos. ďThe response that Raj is getting shows who is the true representative of the Marathi manoos,Ē Wagh said apparently referring to Uddhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena.

Incidentally, Wagh is a confidant of Uddhavís father Bal Thackeray and had had an association which went back four decades.

Finally at a little past noon this afternoon, a team of 16 senior police officials and some 200 constables arrived at the Dadar residence of Raj to record his statement. However, high drama preceded the entry of police officials into the building where the MNS chief lives with his family. The offices of the MNS are also located in the same building. The police said members of Rajís family and his supporters prevented it from entering into the house for some time.

It was allowed to enter the building after senior police officials intervened. For the next one hour, the police team questioned Raj on his statements at public rallies earlier this month which sparked off violence by members of his MNS. The media was generally kept out of bounds while this process was on.

Even as Raj was being arrested, office-bearers of his party said he would not seek bail. Political observers say the party would be able to consolidate its vote bank substantially as a result of his arrest. After playing second fiddle to the Shiv Sena, activists of the MNS are coming out on their own.

Meanwhile, across Maharashtra there has been tension following Rajís arrest. A spontaneous bandh was observed in central Mumbai for the second day today as traders anticipated violence. Activists of the MNS burnt buses and trucks and stoned vehicles in different parts of Maharashtra.

In Nashik, at least one person was killed after a state transport bus was stoned by the MNS activists. The police said one more person was seriously injured in the incident. At least 10,000 migrants from UP and Bihar left the city in the morning in anticipation of violence.

Incidents of violence have also been reported from Pune, Jalna, Beed, Aurangabad and Latur in the state. Suspected activists of the MNS targeted public property, including state transport buses.

Though contingents of the Rapid Action Force and the CISF were deployed in many parts of the state, the police could not control violence by MNS activists who adopted hit-and-run methods of attacks.

More than 200 activists of the MNS were arrested across the city. However, the sources said many of the activists had gone underground and were coordinating with party activists from undisclosed locations.

Meanwhile the police also arrested Samajwadi Member of Parliament Abu Azmi under the same charges as Raj. Azmi was arrested from his house in Colaba and taken to the Bhoiwada court in South Central Mumbai. However, he was released on surety of Rs 10,000.

Meanwhile, in Aurangabad, senior MNS leader and elder brother of late Pramod Mahajan, Prakash Mahajan was arrested along with eight MNS workers as they resorted to ďrasta rokoĒ in the Kranti Chowk area in the heart of the city.



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