Come rain, hail, shine or the Mumbai police, the Maharashtra Nirman Seva (MNS) will have its way and conduct its planned protest march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan today.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray yesterday confirmed that the march would be carried out today in protest of the recent mob violence at CST. He also issued a stern warning to miscreants, saying they would have to face the consequences if they tried to create chaos or trigger panic during the march.
Addressing the media at his Dadar residence, Thackeray said, “Our workers from across the state are arriving in large numbers to make the protest march successful. We have appealed to our party workers to maintain peace during the protest.
We have also been informed that the administration is trying to stop our party workers from entering Mumbai. If they do so, we will be compelled to launch a protest in our style, which may create a law and order problem. We should not be held responsible for this,” he said.
He clarified that he had already spoken to Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan on Sunday evening apprising him of the protest, and said that Chavan had maintained that every one reserves the right to protest in a democracy.
“Prior to our announcement of the protest march, we applied for permission for the same. However, the police department at Azad Maidan police station informed us today that we had not applied for permission, which is utterly wrong. We are going ahead with the protest,” Thackeray reiterated.
Thackeray also claimed that many family members of police officials wanted to participate in the protest march, but were being intimidated by the local police stations. “Many police families staying at different police colonies across the city want to participate in the rally to register their protest against the violence in CST on August 11, but we have been informed that senior police officials in the area have been telling them not to participate,” Thackeray alleged.
However, the Mumbai police had a different take on the matter. Addressing the press late last evening, Rajnish Sheth, Joint CP, Law and Order, Mumbai police, said, “We have given permission to MNS to hold a rally at Azad Maidan.” No permission has been given for the proposed march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan.
— Inputs by Ranjeet Jadhav, Kranti Vibhute, Shashank Rao and Naveen Nair
What to expect in SoBo today
As the city holds its breath, MiD DAY tells you how South Mumbai has prepared to deal with possible chaos on its streets and public spaces today.
Schools and colleges
Schools and colleges located in South Mumbai will operate as usual today. While some colleges said that they weren’t anticipating any trouble as such, principals of some school said they would be exempting students who lived in areas near the protest spots if they failed to make it. M P Sharma, director of GD Somani School in Cuffe Parade, said, “The area in which we are located is peaceful. We will be working as usual. But in case of students who live in places where the protest is scheduled, we will exempt them if they remain absent. Why take risks with small children?” Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of St Xavier’s College in Fort, said, “We expect the political party to act responsibly. Many protests take place in Azad Maidan, and we don’t keep our college closed for each and every one of them. The college will be working normally.”
Transport expert Ashok Dattar said, “It is not unusual to experience traffic problems during morchas. I don’t know how many people will actually join the morcha, but it is sure to create problems.” Divisional Security Commissioner (Mumbai) for Western Railways, R Rupanwar said, “Over 500 RPF staff will be posted at stations in the Churchgate-Charni Road stretch throughout the day. Additionally, 50 more RPF personnel will be deployed at Churchgate station. We will also cover stations like Dadar, Andheri and Bandra terminus.”
Dr Rajkumar Chaudhari, medical superintendent, Bombay Hospital said, “We have not received any formal communication regarding the morcha from the police. As a hospital, we are always prepared to handle any situation.” Dr J Bhavani, medical superintendent, St George hospital, said, “We have received formal communication regarding the morcha. We have a separate disaster management ward and the doctors and medical staff at the ward have been asked to be prepared, in case things get out of control at the morcha.” Dr Jeetendra Sankpal, medical superintendent, GT hospital, said, “It was a holiday for Eid, so I’m not sure if any formal intimation has arrived at the office. But being a government hospital, we are always prepared to handle any situation.”
SMSes fuelling paranoia again?
In spite of the cap of five SMSes per day, this was found circulating from phone to phone yesterday: “Inform all our brothers, family members, relatives and friends not to go out unless it’s urgent tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21, as Raj Thackeray, supported by Uddhav Thackeray, has organised a rally against rioters at Azad Maidan and Girgaum Chowpatty. So stay alert and spread this to all.”