Mumbai: MNS seeks removal of Gujarati signboards from shops in city

Aug 01, 2017, 08:35 IST | Hemal Ashar

First, it was North Indians; now, it's Gujaratis. Even as MNS forces removal of Gujarati signboards on shops in city pockets, it denies creating a wedge in society, harping on Marathi manoos agenda

Gadgil Jewellers' Gujarati signboard removed
Gadgil Jewellers' Gujarati signboard removed

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has a new agenda. Party workers have targeted shops in Dadar and Vile Parle, forcing shopkeepers to remove Gujarati signboards, in spite of these shops having Marathi signboards too, as mandated by law. Are these desperate times for Raj Thackeray's party and do they call for such desperate measures? In an interview with mid-day, MNS general secretary Shalini Thackeray, however, rubbished claims of goondaism, sowing seeds of division and engaging in attention-getting antics. Edited excerpts:

MNS general secretary Shalini Thackeray
MNS general secretary Shalini Thackeray

MNS has asked workers to remove Gujarati signboards from shops in Dadar and Vile Parle
Yes, we have because these (shopkeepers) are people living in Maharashtra. They enjoy all the rights and privileges of this state, where the official lingo is Marathi. Then, why should there be another language on the signboards?

Also read - Mumbai: MNS workers target shops over Gujarati signboards

Are Gujaratis MNS's new target?
That is not true. We are not against a caste or a religion or a community. We targeted Shobha restaurant in Mahim whose owner is a Shetty. We targeted Gadgil Jewellers too, whose owner is a Maharashtrian. This proves this is not about any caste or community.

What is it about then?
It is about being in Maharashtra and the Marathi language. The law says you must have the signboards in Marathi, and English, if you want. I had gone to Punjab five years ago, where all shop signboards were in Gurmukhi-Punjabi. I was stunned to see the pride they have in their lingo. I won't go to Gujarat and demand removal of Gujarati signboards; I am saying this in Maharashtra.

Is MNS driving a wedge between Gujaratis and Marathis?
We are always for the Marathi manoos. I know what is right and what is wrong for my state. But we are not casteist. MNS didn't support the Maratha morcha. We took a stand that if there were going to be reservations, they should be on the economic plank.

People are saying this new move is for the vote bank...
Not at all. Raj Thackeray has never indulged in vote bank politics; this has been our stand from Day 1.

Why is the party creating a Marathi vs Gujarati issue?
Why is the MNS always accused of being divisive? Why is it that when we take any kind of stand, we are dubbed divisive? All political parties' policies are divisional; why blame us? Is any party uniting India? MNS has always said it's a regional party and will talk about Maharashtra. And talking about unity, shops then should have signboards in all the languages, more than 20, of India.

Is this another attention-seeking tactic from a desperate MNS?
We have never had to ask for attention; our leader is charismatic. MNS was always there, is there and will be there. We will first give warnings to stores, and if they don't listen, then remove the signboards in our own way.

FRTWA president Viren ShahFRTWA president Viren Shah

'Boards can be in Marathi, alongside French'
Viren Shah, FRTWA president, said, "There is no denying that it is mandatory for outlets to have a Marathi signboard. We respect Marathi and Maharashtra, and we have to abide by the law. However, the law also says you can have a signboard in any other language. I may have it in French or German, besides Marathi; there is no stopping me. It's up to the individual shopkeeper. How can you target establishments following the law? They (MNS workers) cannot create 'shor' outside stores like this."

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