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Pix: At Mumbai rally, Raj asks RR Patil, top cop to quit

Last updated on: August 21, 2012 19:45 IST

Pix: At Mumbai rally, Raj asks R R Patil, top cop to quit

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PTI

Thumbing his nose at Mumbai police, a defiant Raj Thackeray on Tuesday led thousands of MNS supporters in a march before holding a public meeting where he pitched for immediate ouster of the state home minister and city police chief for the August 11 violence at Azad Maidan.

Video: Raj Thackeray leads protest march to Azad Maidan

Denied permission to hold a road march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan, Thackeray flexed his political muscles and mustered thousands of supporters on the beach at Marine Drive amid heavy police bandobust to protest last fortnight's violence that claimed two lives but insisted it was not aimed at grabbing pro-Hindutva space.

Thackeray blamed outsiders for the August 11 violence and said Maharashtrians were not responsible for it.

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Image: MSN chief Raj Thackeray addresses crowds at a rally at Azad Maidan
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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"Attackers came from Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. I fear we will continue to suffer due to people from outside," he told the public meeting at Azad Maidan, harping on his pet pro-Marathi theme.

"I am standing here to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the police force and the media and to demand immediate resignation of Home Minister R R Patil and police commissioner Arup Patnaik," he said, launching a blistering attack on the two for failing to control the situation after violence erupted during a demonstration to protest alleged persecution of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar.

Though Mumbai police had granted MNS permission for the meeting at Azad Maidan, he was not given a go ahead for the road march apprehending breach of peace.

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Image: MNS supporters head to Azad Maidan to hear Thackeray's speech
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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"They (Patil and Patnaik) have played with the morale of the police. Our policemen kept waiting for instructions to control violence. When a DCP got hold of a rioter, an abusive Patnaik told him to let off the offender," Thackeray said.

"I am on the streets for my Marathi brothers and sisters who suffered in the attack. Tuesday's morcha is for the policemen, for the media and others who suffered," he said, adding, "If they (home minister and police chief) have little shame, they should quit now."

Though Thackeray's show of strength is being seen by many as an attempt to claim a slice of the Hindutva political pie hitherto controlled by the Shiv Sena and the BJP, the  MNS chief said, "I am not veering towards Hindutva. Maharashtra dharma is my only dharma."

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Image: Thackeray leads the protest from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan
Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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Referring to illegal migrants in the city, he waved a purportedly Bangladeshi passport at the crowd saying, "This is a single entry passport. It means once you come in, you need not go back."

He then dramatically flung the travel document into the crowd.

Attacking the state government, Thackeray demanded to know why it had not paid any compensation to the policemen injured in the August 11 attack in which two protesters were killed and 52 others injured, including 44 policemen besides those from the media.

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Image: MNS claims that 1 lakh supporters gathered at Azad Maidan
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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"How do we expect them (policemen) to stand up and fight when such a thing happens next time," he said. He also targeted Samajwadi Party Member of Legislative Assembly Abu Azmi for allegedly giving an assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh to the families of protesters killed during the incident.

"Abu Azmi is giving compensation to the rioters. Has he ever cared to inquire about the policemen injured in the brutal attacks," he said.

Thackeray also wondered why there is trouble in Maharashtra when there are riots elsewhere and vice versa. "When Babri Masjid was demolished, there were communal   riots in Maharashtra. Days after the riots at Azad Maidan, there was trouble in Lucknow. What is the link?" he said.

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Image: A jeep carrying placards condemning the violence in Mumbai
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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Slamming the police authorities for denying him permission for the march, he said Raza Academy, the organizers of the August 11 protest, was allowed to hold the protest at Azad Maidan despite their 'poor track record'.

"In 2006, during a protest by Raza Academy in Bhiwandi, two policemen were killed and their bodies thrown into burning buses. Still they get permission for a public protest."

Thackeray also criticised Dalit leaders from the state for their 'obsession' with Indu Mill land for an Ambedkar Memorial and wanted to know why they were silent when policemen and members of the public were brutally attacked during the protest against ethnic violence in Assam and alleged persecution of Muslims.

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Image: Security in south Mumbai was beefed up in wake of the protest
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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Earlier, cocking a snook at the Mumbai police, thousands of MNS supporters converged at Girgaum Chowpatty. The police, despite denying them permission for the march, made no attempts to detain MNS leaders or supporters.

Carrying the party's blue, saffron and green flags with its election symbol locomotive embossed in the middle, MNS supporters gathered at Girgaum Chowpatty before Thackeray joined them in a 'symbolic' march after a brief stopover at the Siddhivinayak temple.

Thackeray stepped out of his Toyota Land Cruiser and walked some distance with supporters at the Chowpatty before quickly making his way out of the crowd in his vehicle.

Thousands of policemen were deployed to maintain law and order and traffic was diverted at several places in south Mumbai for allowing unhindered passage to the marchers.


Image: MNS supporters gather in large numbers at Chowpatty
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

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