Mumbai, Oct. 17: The tiger has roared and this time the government says it’s just too loud to be ignored.
The Shiv Sena and the ruling Congress headed for a showdown after the Maharashtra government registered a non-bailable case against Bal Thackeray for “promoting communal hatred”. If convicted under the relevant section — 153 A — of the IPC, the Sena chief could face up to three years in prison.
The action comes two days after Thackeray’s Dussehra speech at the Shivaji Park stadium where he called for forming “Hindu suicide squads” to combat Pakistan-sponsored militancy.
In his annual address to the Sena cadre, Thackeray had said Hindus must protect themselves as the Centre has consistently failed to do so. “For this, we must do something on our own,” he declared. “… Yes, we must have our own Hindu suicide squads to tackle terrorism directed against us.” Thackeray also said the four crore Bangladeshi Muslims should be thrown out of India just as “Begum Zia is doing to Hindus in her country”.
Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, a former Sena leader, said police maintain that Thackeray’s speech attracts Section 153 A. “It’s a non-bailable offence and the chargesheet will be filed as soon as possible.”
Bhujbal, however, distanced himself from the action, which can pit Sena cadre against Congress workers. “It is the police force which has suo motu registered a case against Balasaheb for his inflammatory speech. The Maharashtra government has no role in this,” he said. “I am not vindictive. The case has been registered by the Shivaji Park police station on their own.”
As the state government prepares to send the recorded tapes of Thackeray’s speech to the Centre, furious Sena leaders challenged the administration to arrest their chief. “Do you think this government has the spine to arrest Balasaheb. We are not in the least worried about anything,” thundered senior leader Narayan Rane. “The government, especially Bhujbal and (chief minister) Vilasrao Deshmukh, have been provoking and harassing Balasaheb for years now. They don’t have a case against the Sena chief.”
While Thackeray will come out with his reaction tomorrow, Sena leaders today discussed steps they could take to give a “befitting reply”. The party threatened to launch a massive protest.
The state BJP also rushed to Thackeray’s defence. “How can Thackeray’s speech be termed provocative'” spokesman Prakash Jawdekar asked. “He was only exhorting Hindus to defend themselves against terrorism.”