'We are prepared'
Preliminary assessments made by state intelligence agencies estimate approximately 25 to 30 lakh people to throng Shivaji Park on Sunday to pay their last respects to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who breathed his last around 3.30 pm yesterday.
The state police machinery, which has been on its toes for the past few days, is prepared to handle the situation. The fact that the funeral is on Sunday comes as a relief to the police as it is a holiday for corporates and businesses are usually kept shut.
“We are prepared to handle the situation with the police force deployment and the State Reserve Police Force personnel to help maintain order and to assist people,” Satej, alias Bunty Patil, Minister of State for Home, told Sunday Mid Day.
The police, as well as the civic administration, began making preparations on November 14 by erecting barricades, ensuring arrangements for drinking water, setting up temporary toilets, and arranging traffic diversions at Shivaji Park, sources said.
“Two lakh policemen attached to the Maharashtra police have been asked to report to work across the state. Any leaves sanctioned to the policemen have been cancelled,” said Deven Bharti, inspector general of police, Law and order, Maharashtra. “Sixty SRPF companies will be deployed in the state and two lakh strong police force along with four RAF companies have been asked to monitor the law and order situation on the road,” said Bharti.
In Mumbai, around 20,000 Mumbai policemen have been asked to stay on the road and monitor law and order situation. “Fifteen SRPF and three RAF companies have also been deployed at various spots. Shiv Sainiks are expected to come to Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar where the body of the Sena chief is expected to be kept,” said Dr Satypal Singh, commissioner of police, Mumbai.
Paying their last respects
Sources have revealed that Thackeray’s body will be kept at the Sena Bhavan in Dadar west around till 9 am. Huge numbers of Sainiks are expected to pay their last respects to him. Between 9 am and 5 pm, Thackeray’s body will be kept at Shivaji Park where a big crowd is expected.
Thackeray will be cremated at Shivaji Park at 7 pm.
A lot of VVIPs, including top politicians like the agricultural minister Sharad Pawar, the Prime Minister, the President, and Bollywood stars might visit the spot to pay their last respects to the Sena chief. The police has blocked most of the road for security purposes.
“Step out of your house only if you have urgent work, or else avoid leaving home. Please avoid the Western Express Highway especially from Bandra to Dadar as lots of people are expected from Matoshree towards Dadar,” said a senior police officer from Mumbai police.
Certain restrictions have been laid on traffic movements in the city, especially from Bandra to Dadar.
The cops have appealed to people to maintain calm and peace.
There will be heavy police bandobast at Shivaji Park, Matoshree and Shiv Sena Bhuvan said a police officer, as most people will be visiting these places and we want everything to be peaceful.
“Policemen have been asked to stop at every naka so that emergency vehicles like ambulances are allowed to pass freely and no public or private property is damaged by anybody,” said the police officer.
“We will take strict action against anybody found shutting shops by force,” said a police officer. The police are also keeping a strict lookout for anything suspicious, as some anti-social elements might be active.