MNS men wreak havoc after Raj Thackeray’s arrest (Third Lead)October 21st, 2008 - 5:50 pm ICT by IANS
Mumbai, Oct 21 (IANS) Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists wreaked havoc here Tuesday, setting on fire 38 buses, damaging 350 taxis and injuring several people by pelting stones, to protest the arrest of party chief Raj Thackeray. Police were forced to fire tear gas shells and resorted to baton charge to control the mobs. Thackeray, whose MNS workers Sunday attacked non-Maharashtrians appearing for a railway board recruitment examination, was arrested from Ratnagiri, about 250 km from here, early Tuesday.
Transferred to Mumbai amidst tight security, Thackeray was immediately whisked off to the Bandra-Kurla Complex police station, where his wife Sharmila and other party office-bearers were present.
He was later taken to the Bandra court, where police were forced to baton charge his supporters since they refused to disperse.
Many MNS activists squatted on the busy Western Express Highway, which is barely a stone’ throw away from the Bandra court, causing traffic jams. They also pelted stones at passing vehicles, causing panic stricken commuters to flee.
Although suburban trains on the Western and Central Railways and Harbour Line functioned as usual, some buses, taxis and autorickshaws were set on fire. In a few areas public transport just stayed off the roads causing inconvenience to people. Police were forced to fire tear gas shells in many places to control the rampaging MNS activists.
The office of the state Congress spokesperson Sanjay Nirupam was also vandalised. Many shops and commercial establishments, especially those run or managed by non-Maharashtrians, chose not to open at all to avoid trouble.
All schools and colleges closed by 10 a.m. and by 2 p.m. most Mumbai streets were deserted as scared residents hid in their houses to avoid the wrath of MNS activists.
As news about Thackeray’s arrest spread, there was violence in other parts of Maharashtra too.
In Satara town, MNS workers set fire to a bus depot, while in Nagpur party leaders claimed Thackeray’s supporters had damaged several state transport buses.
Describing Thackeray’s arrest as a cowardly act, MNS Nagpur unit chief Hemant Gadkari told IANS that about 100 young party workers grouped in four motorcycle squads fanned out to different parts of the city to register their protest.
“The workers have stoned state transport buses at four city points, including Cotton Market square, Abhyankar Nagar, LIT (Laxminarayan Institute of Technology) gate and Pratap Nagar after stopping them and requesting the commuters to get down,” Gadkari said.
Meanwhile, youths who returned to Bihar Tuesday after being assaulted by MNS activists while appearing for the railway recruitment exam Sunday, vandalised the Patna railway station to protest the alleged killing of a candidate by Thackeray’s supporters in Mumbai.
Although the Mumbai police said Pawan Mahato was killed in stampede following the MNS attack on an exam centre, the youths claimed he was beaten up by MNS activists and succumbed to his injuries.
Some students also filed a complaint against Thackeray at the Government Railway Police (GRP) station in Patna.
Thackeray was arrested from a government guest house in Ratnagiri district at about 4 a.m. along with other party workers like Sanjay Ghadi and Pravin Darekar in connection with the beating up of some north Indian candidates at a railway recruitment examination centre in Chetana College, Bandra East, police said.
This is the second time in eight months that Thackeray has been arrested for his tirade against north Indians.