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Home > India > News > Report

MNS backtracks on Raj Thackeray's comments

A correspondent in Mumbai | February 04, 2008 16:46 IST

A day after violence broke out between workers of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Samajwadi Party, the MNS on Monday said that it was not against north Indians and people from other states, who came to Mumbai to earn a living.

"Our party president Raj Thackeray only meant to say that some people from outside states were trying to provoke the locals and we must be vigilant and alert against such elements. We are not against north Indians at all," party spokesperson Shirish Parkar said on Monday.

MNS workers and SP workers clashed in Mumbai on Sunday just before a political rally, where United National Progressive Alliance leaders including SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Jammu and Kashmir [Images] chief minister Farooq Abdullah and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu [Images] addressed a gathering of over  25,000 people.

Raj Thackeray had earlier taken a swipe at film star Amitabh Bachchan [Images], after the actor announced the opening of a college in Uttar Pradesh. Jaya Bachchan had retaliated, saying if Thackeray was willing to give land in one of the city's prime localities that he allegedly owns, the Bachchan family was willing to build a school there too.

Days earlier, Raj Thackeray's alleged comments comparing the Chhat pooja to a naatak had also caused a stir.

"What our party president said has to be seen in context. He was talking at a function of the Koli community (fishermen) and he was saying there is nothing to be ashamed of in selling fish. He said the locals should not fear that people from outside the state come and take their jobs but at the same time asked them to be vigilant and alert about some elements trying to provoke the locals. He said, like those people take pride in the states from which they hail from, the locals also should feel proud about their roots. It is in this light that he mentioned the Chhat pooja being conducted in a large scale in Juhu beach and the Girgaum beach. Two or three years ago, these celebrations were not big or widespread. Now they are," Parkar said.

Parkar was quick to blame politicians from Uttar Pradesh for the perceived divide.

"Be it Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2002 or Mayawati in 2007, they keep taunting us, saying things on the lines of 'UP hamari hain, Maharashtra ki bhari hain. Why are they constantly casting an eye on Maharashtra to further their political fortunes?" he quried.

"Though we are not against outsiders, Maharashtra is primarily for Maharashtrians. Our party will always work for the welfare of the Maharashtrians," he said.

Asked if his party was sorry for the violence on Sunday, he said, "We, as citizens of Mumbai, are very sorry this happened. But you can't place the entire blame on our party."

Asked about television footage showing MNS workers targeting those who were returning from the rally, Parkar said, "It could have been a retaliation. How do you know our party workers started it? There is also photo evidence showing one person, who claimed he was beaten up, actually attacking our workers. Isn't that also wrong?" he asked.