Not willing to take any chances, the Maharashtra Police launched a state-wide crackdown on Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leaders and activists ahead of its May 4 deadline to remove loudspeakers from mosques and then other places of worship.
The move came after a high-level meeting was convened by Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil with Director-General of Police Rajnish Seth, Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pande and other top police and home department officials to discuss the issue.
“We have decided to take action against Raj Thackeray today (Tuesday) itself. The Aurangabad Police are studying his speech in Aurangabad (May 1) and will act accordingly,” Seth told mediapersons as the MNS chief was booked on various counts for his last Sunday rally.
The state police have arrested around 15,000 MNS activists and slapped prohibitory notices to another 14,000 workers to prevent them from creating law and order issues by blaring out Hanuman Chalisa from loudspeakers at double volume near mosques.
Besides Raj, the Aurangabad Police have booked several other MNS leaders like Rajeev Javlekar, under various charges in an attempt to ensure that the situation remains under control.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, Congress president Nana Patole, Nationalist Congress Party’s Walse-Patil and other leaders have made it clear that anybody who violates the law would have to face the consequences.
“The Maha Vikas Aghadi government works according to the laws and Constitution, not on the basis of any ultimatum served by some individual,” Raut said grimly.
Senior MNS leaders like Bala Nandgaonkar, Nitin Sardesai and others have said that the party is remaining within the legal parameters and was prepared to face any action from the police.
In some areas, the police have also seized public address systems kept ready by MNS workers to play Hanuman Chalisa on Wednesday, which the authorities apprehend could result in tensions.
At his Sunday rally, Raj said that all mosque loudspeakers must be removed by Wednesday (May 4) or his men would boom Hanuman Chalisa at double volumes and he would not be responsible for the fallout.
The MNS chief — who is the estranged cousin of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray — also claimed that the issue was not religious but a social one as loudspeakers cause nuisance to all.