M A I N   N E W S

From Mumbai to Patna
Speaking Hindi is their crime

Patna, February 14
As soon as the train from Mumbai stopped, hundreds tumbled out, in tears, recounting tales of horror from India's financial capital and other Maharashtra towns from which they had been forced to flee by activists of a political party.

"We were targeted, attacked, beaten and threatened to leave Maharashtra. Our only crime was that we are from Bihar and speak Hindi," said Pankaj Singh, who worked as a skilled labourer in Mumbai suburb Bandra.

"There was no option but to flee Bandra and save my life." Pankaj's 15-minute story gripped reporters at the railway station here and even moved policemen to offer him tea and snacks after they heard he hadn't eaten for over 24 hours.

"I was going to withdraw money from the bank but people suggested that I catch the first train home. I boarded the first available train with hardly Rs.20 in my pocket," said Pankaj, who hails from a village in Bihar's Samastipur district.

The scene is the same at railway stations around the state where trainloads of Bihari migrants are returning home after a spate of attacks on them in Mumbai and other towns of Maharashtra by the activists of Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Surendra Yadav, 30, a graduate who used to work in a pipe factory in Nashik, recalls how he was singled out and virtually hounded out of his job.

"I was singled out for being a Bihari. My life was under threat there and I opted to get out from under the shadow of fear and threats," he said.

Every face had its own story of robbed livelihood, forced eviction. Every storyteller had a circle of mute spectators around.

Mahendra Paswan, a labourer from Aurangabad, recalled: "When we were attacked, beaten and abused, neither local people nor police come to our rescue. We were helpless after the police also remained a silent spectator." "I can go without food but cannot risk my life in Maharashtra," he said.

Like Mahendra, hundreds of migrants have fled Maharashtra towns with whatever personal effects they could gather.

On Wednesday, Nagma Bano, fleeing from Nashik, gave birth to a child in a train toilet.

"We were forced to flee despite the fact that my wife was having labour pains. She gave birth to a child in the dirty toilet of the train during our journey," Mohammed Nazir, Bano's husband and a labourer in Nashik, told reporters.

"We had no option after some Marathis, supporters of a political party, threatened us and made us return to Bihar," said Bano, sitting in the toilet with her newborn child in her lap.

"Even a poor woman like me would never imagine giving birth in a dirty toilet of a running train but it happened to me. I was forced to leave Nashik," Bano told IANS with tears in her eyes.

The story is repeated with every train that brings more people back home.

"First poverty forced us to leave our village in Bihar and migrate to Maharashtra. And now fear of violence and threats to life have forced us to return. This is our story, what else," Nazir said. — IANS




Mumbai calm, victim of MNS violence cremated
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 14
No untoward incidents have been reported in Maharashtra today, according to the police control room. Security forces continue to remain deployed in different parts of the state, sources said.

A day after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was arrested and released on bail for inciting riots earlier this month, party workers who hit the streets yesterday, were back home.

So far nearly 150 people have been arrested in different parts of the state for indulging in violence yesterday.

Meanwhile, the police today arrested Sandeep Bhavar, chief of the MNS students’ wing, in Nashik on charges of murder following the death of a Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd employee yesterday.

The victim, Ambadas Haribhau Dharrao (55), was travelling in a company bus on his way home when the vehicle was stoned by MNS activists. Dharrao died on the spot after a stone hit him on the head, the police said.

Dharrao, who is survived by his wife and two daughters, was cremated today at his home town, the police said.

The Shiv Sena and its mouthpiece Saamna went to town over the death of Dharrao. "After all the drama, it was a Marathi ‘manoos’ (person) whose blood was shed," the paper said in its edition today.

Uddhav Thackeray, the party's executive president and estranged cousin of the MNS chief, immediately extended all assistance to the family of Dharrao.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, whose own political initiation 40 years ago, was similar to his nephew Raj's, hit out at the MNS for forsaking national interest. "Maharashtra has always put the country's interests first and abided by the Rashtra dharma," Thackeray wrote in today's edition.

Quoting from the life of Shivaji Maharaj, Thackeray said the legendary ruler of Maharashtra had taken the help of the Pathans to fight the Mughal invaders. “We also want to carry out the same work. Those who will come with us are our friends, our brethren. We will not think about their caste, region and religion,” the Sena chief said.



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