February 10, 2008
H/l: Sena, not Raj, started the fire
Intro: Party workers attacked professor in Mumbai in January for reading a poem referring to Shivaji
Mumbai: What a to-do over something the Shiv Sena began with and the MNS picked up on just a day later!
When Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray stirred up a hornet's nest with his anti-North Indian statements this month, he became the focus of a national protest against his line of thinking, with even the erstwhile anti-'paraprantiya' Shiv Sena attacking Raj for his divisive line of thinking.
But now it turns out that the Sena, for all its new liberalist leanings, had actually resorted to its usual strong-arm methods just one day before Raj began his tirade on February 1, 2008. On January 31, workers associated with the Sena's Bharatiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) had beaten up professor Sanjay M G from VJTI, Mumbai, for reading a published poem with reference to Shivaji Maharaj.
About five BKS men beat up the professor, a senior academician and social activist with Medha Patkar's National Alliance for People's Movements (NAPM), while others shouted slogans against 'outsiders' commenting on Shivaji.
Speaking to The Herald, NAPM activist Simpreet Singh said, "Prof Sanjay was reciting a satirical poem during the college function, and the poem had an oblique reference to Shivaji. Some of the peons and other class IV staff affiliated with the BKS then attacked him."
After the attack, the assembled crowd was reportedly warned of "dire consequences" if they lived in Maharashtra and disrespected Shivaji and Marathi people. "Professor Sanjay has lived in Mumbai all his life and can hardly be termed as outsider. He has been working here as an educationist for the last 30 years," said NAPM activist Mukta Srivastava.
"We have written to the college authorities and got a petition signed by 23 artists and activists, who have all called for the state government to look into the matter," she added.
The very next day, Raj made the first of his comments against 'outsiders' in Mumbai who celebrated North Indian festivals, during the Konkan festival organised by the MNS in Mumbai. With the storm that his statements evoked, the BKS attack was quickly buried and two weeks later, the Sena took the moral high ground by terming Raj's actions as "foolish".
In an editorial published by Sena mouthpiece Saamna on February 8, Sena chief Bal Thackeray said, "When we demand that Marathi speaking people should be given priority in the metropolis, we do not consider caste, region and religion. Shiv Sena's simple theory about Marathi speaking person is a person who is true to Marathi soil, culture and tradition. But, how can you call people who have not gelled into the Marathi society even after living here as Maharashtrians?"