People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2008



CPI(M) Stages "Social Harmony Dharna" In Mumbai

Mahendra Singh

FRUSTRATED at Mumbai Municipal Corporation and local self-government bodies elections in various parts of Maharashtra and desperate to create political space for his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and in the process thwart his bete-noire and Shiva Sena executive president Udhav Thackeray’s bid to win the votes of Mumbai North Indians to come to power in the Maharashtra assembly elections due in 2009, Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena president Raj Thackeray has taken recourse to vituperative campaign against North Indians in Mumbai. While still in Shiva Sena, a few years ago, Raj Thackeray had instigated assault on North Indian youths when they had come to Mumbai to appear for written test for employment in railways, looking for a pretext to enflame social disharmony. He got it when in January this year some organisations of Uttar Pradeshis organized celebration functions to observe the Uttar Pradesh foundation day, inviting Congress, NCP leaders and Udhav Thackeray. Objecting to celebration of Uttar Pradesh Day. Accusing Uttarpradeshis of celebrating the above day to make a show of their strength, Raj Thackeray threatened of dire consequences if it was celebrated again, dictating that no other day, except Maharashtra Day could be celebrated. He accused North Indians of not mixing with Marathis, not respecting the Mararthi culture and sentiments, forming curtails to deprive Marathi locals of opportunities. He objected to celebration of Chaat Puja on large and grand scale to awe local population. He did not spare event he Hindi film superstar Amitabh Bachhan. In between Mumbai Samajwadi Party Abu Hashmi leader, reacted to Raj Thackeray’s by threatening to distribute lathis among North Indians to retaliate Raj Thackeray responded by threatening to distribute swords.

All this created an inflammatory situation. On February 3, North Indians going towards Shivaji Park in vehicles or on foot to participate in UNPA rally there, were attacked by MNS hooligans in Dadar. Hooligans attacked not only them but also the North Indian taxi drivers and their taxis, hawkers etc. A cinema hall in Mumbai and other ones in Thane and Nasik exhibiting Bhojpuri films and spectators were also attacked. This all happened as per pre-mediated plan on the same day. The police was completely inactive, though they were deployed in large numbers at Shivaji Park and surroundings. The rally was conducted undisturbed. At the rally Abu Ashim Azmi threatened to get 20 thousand persons from Uttar Pradesh if the Uttar Pradhehis were attacked. Sporadic incidents of violence against North Indian continued thereafter. After public out cry police arrested MNS and SP activists, but did not arrest Raj Thackeray. Now on state government orders, after consulting state attorney general, police has registered FIRs against Raj Thackeray as well as Abu Ashim Azmi. However the arrest has not been made yet. Party state committee and Mumbai committee strongly condemned the above incidents and the inaction on the part of police and state government, demanding deterrent action against those who incited the violence.

To combat the attempts of Raj Thakeray to stoke regional chauvinism, disturb social harmony and to condemn inaction on the part of police and state government, to demand deterrent action against those inciting social hatred, to appeal to people to maintain and strengthen social harmony and nation integration, Mumbai committee of CPI(M) staged "Social Harmony Dharna" on February 12, 2008 on Azad Maidan, in down town Mumbai. Substantial number of party members and supporters participated in the dharna, despite the rumors continuing throughout the day that disturbance in various parts of Mumbai and elsewhere in state were taking place on account of arrest of Raj Thackeray. Participants included party state secretary Ashok Dhawale, Mumbai secretary Mahendra Singh, Mumbai secretariat members Hemkant Samant, Shailendra Kamble, Sayeed Ahmed, Sonia Gill, K K Thekedath, R S Pandey, S K Rege, Ashok Banerjee and a large number of party’s Mumbai unit members. The dharna continued for about 2 hours with loud slogans condemning attacks on North Indian, inaction on the part of police and state government, demanding immediate deterrent action against those inciting social disharmony and appealing to maintain and strengthen the social harmony and national integration. A memorandum on behalf of the dharna was submitted to chief minister, who was not in Mumbai on the day, through senior police inspector of Azad Maidan police station. The dharna was addressed by Ashok Dhawale, Mahindra Singh, Hemkant Samant, S K Regi, Vithal Ghag, K K Thekedath, Sonia Gill. Shailendra Kamble conducted the proceedings of the dharna. Ashok Dhawale lambasted Raj Thakeray for fanning regional chauvinism, hatred against North Indians and exposed his claim to be protector of interests of Maharashtrians. He came down heavily on state government and police for their inaction and appealed to the participants to combat the ideology of social hatred and take the message of social harmony to the masses. Mahendra Singh came down heavily on Raj Thackeray for objecting to observing Chaat Puja on grand scale and celebrating Uttar Pradesh Day. He emphasized that social disharmony was prejudicial to interests of Maharashtrains and as well as non-Maharashtrians and appealed to defeat the conspiracy of destroying the social harmony. Other speakers also severely condemned Raj Thackeray for inflaming regional chauvinism, exposed his designs to inflame social hatred to create political space for himself.