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Lok Sabha elections 2024: Uddhav Thackeray tells Muslim delegation secularism at stake

Updated on: 20 April,2024 07:23 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jyoti Punwani |

Sena (UBT) chief recounted time when his father permitted Sunni ijtema to be held behind their house in 1997

Lok Sabha elections 2024: Uddhav Thackeray tells Muslim delegation secularism at stake

Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray with the delegation of Muslims residents at Matoshree on Thursday

This time, it wasn’t a sea of saffron, but white kurtas and beards that descended on Matoshree.

About 60 Muslims from Jogeshwari and Versova met Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday. The meeting, an initiative of Jogeshwari corporator Raju Pednekar, saw an interesting exchange of views.

Thackeray made it clear that he was a Hindu, but his Hindutva wasn’t that of the BJP, related RTI activist Mansoor Darvesh. “We believe in insaniyat [humanity]; in taking everyone along,” the former CM said.

This election was to save the Constitution and secularism, he told the delegation.

He reminded the Muslims that his father Sena chief Bal Thackeray had permitted a Sunni ijtema to be held just behind his house when the Sena was in power in 1997. The Intelligence Bureau had cautioned Thackeray then, saying it could be dangerous, given the historical animosity between him and Muslims. However, the Sena founder had dismissed their fears. On their part, the Muslims told him that they appreciated his work during COVID, and also his refusal to compromise with the BJP. “Sanjay Raut even went to jail, but you didn’t bend,” businessman Iqbal Chunawala told him.

Riyaz Bhamla, businessman and social worker, thanked Thackeray for sanctioning funds for the upgradation of the Oshiwara municipal maternity home, a project taken up by Pednekar. As CM, Thackeray had inaugurated the project.

“The new hospital will be a boon to us,” Bhamla told him.

There were some issues that the delegation raised with him: the lack of Muslim candidates this time (“You should have come earlier,” was the reply); the fear that Sena candidates for whom the Muslims would campaign would later defect to the BJP (“I’ll make them take a vow in public that they won’t”); the absence of Sena programmes in Muslim areas (“I’ll set up a committee for this”).

Thackeray turned down their request to hold a rally in Jogeshwari for his candidate Amol Kirtikar, saying he was to tour the state, but assured them that his son Aaditya would come to the area.

He asked the delegation to attend the last rally of the MVA which would be held in Mumbai on May 17.

Incidentally, Amol Kirtikar is the son of Gajanan Kirtikar, whose name featured in the Srikrishna Commission report on the 92-93 riots. Kirtikar had led a rally to the police station which later turned violent, according to the Commission’s report, which described this as the first major violent incident of the 1993 phase of the riots in Jogeshwari.

In 2008, Kirtikar was acquitted by a special court handling riots cases.

But none of this featured in Thursday’s meeting.

The delegation was charmed by the former CM’s “humility”. “He listened to us carefully,” said Bhamla. Darvesh told him, “Election or no election, we must keep meeting.”

Chunawala recalled the time when a Sena mayor was elected with the help of the Muslim League in 1973. “It seems those days are back,” he told Thackeray. The latter responded by saying that wherever he travels, he finds Muslims supporting him wholeheartedly. 

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