Around 6,000 workers and more than 200 top leaders of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) went into hiding yesterday, fearing preventive arrests by the police.
MNS workers have been pasting these stickers on cars crossing toll nakas across the city. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Today is the day of the state-wide rasta roko agitation against the toll collection regime, called by MNS party chief Raj Thackeray. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan met Thackeray yesterday to resolve the issue. But after the 40-minute conversation, Thackeray refused to call off his decision.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray said during a press conference at his Shivaji Park residence yesterday that there would be no violence in the protests, but highways would be closed. Pic/Bipin Kokate
MiD DAY had reported on the notices sent by the Mumbai Police to members of the MNS and its president under Section 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which allows cops to arrest people to prevent cognisable offences.
MiD DAY report on February 11
Fearing the arrests may reduce their strength in today’s agitation, the workers scurried to safe houses, hotels, friends’ homes and even under-construction buildings to spend the night.
Show of strength
Akhil Chitre, secretary of the MNS’s youth wing, revealed, “If we are arrested tonight (Tuesday), then our whole plan goes for a toss. Hence, we have decided to hide and come out in the morning for the protest.” Akhilesh Chaubey, vice-president of MNS’s legal cell, said, “We want to come out in full force tomorrow.
Our people shouldn’t be arrested in the night, or else the whole protest will be spoiled. Hence, the party decided that workers must be kept underground.” He further added that the party workers were going to act as asked by the party chief, and that the legal cell would work to protect them.
Meanwhile, in a press conference at his residence in Shivaji Park, the party president claimed that though the agitation would be peaceful, all highways would be blocked. “There won’t be any violence; no schools, colleges, examinations would be stalled.
Our protest is not against toll, but the method of its collection,” stated Thackeray. When asked about a recent jibe by Saamna, the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece, about him being arrested, the MNS president took a potshot at his cousin, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, saying, “What can I say about a person who hasn’t been arrested for killing even a mosquito?”
Reacting to PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s statement asking the MNS to file tenders and run tollbooths if they were not satisfied, Thackeray said it was not his job to do so. Thackeray further said that if the chief minister’s response to the rasta roko protest wasn’t satisfactory (to him), he would organise a protest rally from Girgaum Chowpatty to Mantralaya on February 21.