‘My brother is a victim of street politics; we don’t want it’

February 15th, 2008 - 6:20 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Raj Thackeray
By Shyam Pandharipande
Nashik, Feb 15 (IANS) “My brother’s death is a fallout of street politics with which he had nothing to do; I don’t understand the (politicians’) ways or language; don’t know what their objectives area; all I know is that he died in such an unimaginable manner; I am not in a frame of mind to talk much, nor is any one else in the family…” That is Madhukar Dharrao, brother of Ambadas Dharrao, a Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) engineer who was fatally hit by a stone hurled by a mob of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers here Wednesday after their leader Raj Thackeray’s arrest in Mumbai.

Two days after the benumbing tragedy, Madhukar, a cooperative sugar factory worker in Niphad, about 30 km from here, said that no one in the HAL bus returning from the company’s Ozar factory, just beyond the city outskirts, to his knowledge, had anything to do with politics of which his brother was a needless victim.

Asked if he knew that MNS was claiming to fight for the rights of Marathi people like him in Maharashtra, Madhukar told IANS: “Thanks to them for that, but can they not do it without throwing stones or burning buses?”

After a long pause, giving an impression that he didn’t want to talk any more, Madhukar continued in a choked voice: “We don’t want them to do it in the name of the common man if this is the way they want to do it.”

The industrial city and its grape and onion growing countryside, about 200 km from Mumbai, was the worst hit part of Maharashtra in the aftermath of Thackeray’s utterances against north Indians in Mumbai and the sporadic violence that ensued from it earlier this month.

Six buses, including the one belonging to HAL, were damaged in the violence blamed on MNS workers Wednesday after Thackeray’s arrest. Apart from that, a security guard at Jindal Poly Films in Igatpuri, on the Mumbai-Agra national highway nearby, was beaten to death by a group of armed men that attacked the industrial unit the next day.

Hundreds of north Indian workers employed in small-scale units in the district’s Ambad-Satpur industrial belt have fled in the last week following intimidation and bullying by alleged MNS activists.

Miscreants also burnt six tin sheds housed by north Indian labourers in Indiranagar on Wadala-Pathrdi road Thursday after an unsuccessful attempt the previous day. The incident reportedly ensued from a running dispute between Maharashtrians and north Indians over land encroachment in the area.

Revealing an interesting background to Wednesday’s MNS-triggered violence, Shetkari Sanghatana functionary Giridhar Patil told IANS that a group of Thackeray followers wanted to teach a lesson to Shiv Sena district unit chief Sunil Bagul. The latter is a labour contractor who has been supplying north Indian workers in hundreds to industrial units in the district for a long time.

“The common Marathi population here was neither involved in the hooliganism nor did it approve of it; it was a sheer political tug-of-war between Shiv Sena and its adversarial clone MNS,” Patil said.

Added Yashwant Vasagadekar, a Laghu Udyog Bharati (an organisation of small scale industrial workers) office-bearer: “The entry of north Indians in the industrial area is a response to the demand of situation; not a forced infiltration or encroachment of the locals’ livelihood rights.

“Half of the Ambad-Satpur industrial units have been closed down for want of labour; why didn’t unemployed sons of the soil go there to work? Why didn’t the political parties fighting for Maharashtrians’ rights fill the void?” asked Vasagadekar, himself a Maharashtrian.

The Laghu Udyog Bharati activist who was in the forefront of a peace march jointly taken out by the citizens, the administration and the police in the city Thursday said that north Indian labourers are by and large sturdier, used to long hours of hard toil and most importantly, willing to work - the reason why they find employment.

“Marathi farmers and vegetable growers are hard working too, but they are generally poor at marketing; that’s why one finds north Indian vegetable and fruit vendors swarming the road sides and weekly bazaars,” Vasagadekar said.

“The anti-north Indian hate campaign being competitively run by the two Senas is completely unconstitutional and majority of peace-loving Maharashtrians here strongly disapprove of it” he said, challenging “any political party” to conduct a referendum on the issue.

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