Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray on Wednesday sprang to the defence of Amitabh Bachchan, numbing the campaign by his nephew and splinter Sena leader Raj Thackeray against the star and north Indians as Mumbai limped back to normalcy after three days of violence.
With the Centre pressing the Maharashtra government to take immediate steps against those indulging in violence, the Mumbai police appealed to Raj to restrain the cadre of his party -- Maharashtra Navnirman Sena -- from further fuelling the campaign against north Indians.
"The allegations are nothing but stupidity," Bal Thackeray said in a statement taking on Raj for his personal attack against Bachchan that the star always gave priority to Uttar Pradesh over Maharashtra triggering a war of words between the youth leader and Samajwadi Party that led to violence since Sunday.
"Amitabh is Amitabh. He should ignore such allegations," said Bal Thackeray, who turned 82 last month.
"Amitabh is a family friend. The friendship goes back 40 years during which it has not diminished. Bachchan is a global superstar and is respected all over the world. He has always expressed his gratitude to Mumbai and the people for giving him fame," Bal Thackeray said in comments exposing the divide in the Thackeray family.
There were no major incidents barring two autorickshaws being torched in Oshiwara and an attack on a textile shop in Matunga.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone V) D M Phadtare said he met Raj to also inquire whether security cover around his residence was enough.
As a fallout of the violence, two inspectors were suspended while an inquiry instituted against an assistant commissioner of police for not taking any action against MNS workers indulging in violence in Dadar on Sunday.
Inspector Motiram Kadam and Sub-Inspector Deepak Pawar, were suspended for dereliction of duty while an inquiry was also instituted against the ACP of the Dadar division Balkrishna Bhange, official sources said.
Elaborating on his meeting with MNS chief, Phadtare said, "I met Raj Thackeray during a routine round to talk about the security cover in the area around his residence and also appealed for restraint to be observed by everybody for maintaining peace."
Phadtare, however, parried questions on Raj's response to his appeal.
Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh reviewed the law and order situation."Nobody will be allowed to disturb communal harmony and attacks on non-Maharashtrians will not be tolerated," he said.
In Pune, the MNS workers forcibly stopped screening of a Bhojpuri film. The afternoon show of film Bhojpuri Bhayya was stopped and audience were forced to leave the theatre.
Meanwhile, in a setback to Raj Thackeray, around 200 MNS members on Wednesday joined Shiv Sena in presence of Shiv Sena executive president Udhav Thackeray.
The MNS members, who are fed up with the anti-north Indian stance adopted by Raj, joined the Sena at a function at Bal Thackeray's residence 'Matoshree' in suburban Bandra, Sena secretary Vinayak Raut said.
Deshmukh said a total of 223 people were arrested in connection with the violence including 143 MNS activists and 90 Samajwadi Party activists.
Taxi drivers, food vendors and rail passengers hailing from north were targeted by MNS activists.
Home Minister Shivraj Patil meanwhile asked the Maharashtra government to take immediately steps against those indulging in violence against non-Maharashtrians and provide protection to the citizens.
Secular fabric of the state should be ensured and prevented from being damaged by anti-social elements, he added.