Shiv Sena on Thursday defended its MPs involved in alleged force-feeding of a fasting Muslim employee and said a "protest" against mismanagement was given "communal colour" for "political mileage" even as the Opposition in Parliament pressed government for a statement.
Under fire over a party MP Rajan Vichare being caught on video footage forcing a catering supervisor fasting for Ramzan to eat a chapati at the new Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi last week, the Sena invoked the Maratha pride and turned the spotlight on the quality of food there. It said the incident was blown out of proportion.
"Shiv Sena respects all religions but will not tolerate if anyone tries to flaunt his religious affiliation for intimidation. One should keep his religion in his heart and in his house. But if someone wears it on sleeve and tries to malign Shiv Sena by playing politics over it, we will not tolerate it," an editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana' said.
The editorial launched a scathing attack on the "poor quality of service being rendered at Maharashtra Sadan by the management".
Without naming Vichare, the editorial asked, "Was it wrong to question the injustice? Was it wrong to question the catering contractor on quality of food served there?
"What is wrong if the chapati is taken to the mouth of the contractor and he was asked to eat it? It was not written on his face that he was a Muslim. It was just a coincidence. The contractor serves such chapatis that are difficult to break. How is one supposed to eat such food?" it said.
The editorial said that basic facilities like clean drinking water, cleanliness and proper canteen management are lacking at Sadan.
"Maharashtra Sadan has become a personal fiefdom... This is an insult to the Marathi manoos. Instead of taking note of the voice raised by the Marathi MPs, the chief minister and the state chief secretary are trying to give communal colour to the incident," it charged.
A PIL was filed in the Delhi High Court seeking direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha to disqualify 11 Shiv Sena lawmakers for allegedly force-feeding a Ramadan-observing employee of IRCTC at new 'Maharashtra Sadan'.
The plea, which is likely to come up for hearing on July 30, seeks de-recognition of Shiv Sena and also initiation of criminal case against the MPs including Sanjay Rout and Rajan Vichare.
The petition, filed by NGO Garib Nawaz Foundation through lawyer N K Jha, has also sought immediate arrest of the MPs for "provoking religious sentiments against the minority community".
"The action of the Shiv Sena MPs with the fasting Muslim supervisor was uncalled for and needed to be dealt with a strict action by party chief Udhav Thackeray," the PIL said.
"Forcefully shoving a 'chapati' by MPs was a cowardly act as they are representatives of the people and are elected by the people for their service and not for provoking religious sentiments," it said.
It also sought a direction to the Centre to order a high level probe into the incident by a special investigation team headed by a sitting High Court judge.
In the Rajya Sabha, the government said it will respond on the issue after ascertaining full facts by Friday.
Congress, Samajwadi Party and Left members raised the issue when the House met for the day, saying 24 hours have passed since the issue was first raised but the government is yet to come back.
"We are ascertaining facts. We will be finding out full details and then only respond." Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said.
"By tomorrow, we will come back (on the issue)," he said.
Scores of NSUI activists staged a protest outside the Rail Bhawan in Delhi demanding Vichare's suspension from the Lok Sabha.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah dubbed the incident as "goondaism".