The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai flames spread to Delhi

Mumbai, Nov. 24: The war raging between the Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena after the attack on former chief minister Narayan Rane’s Kankavli residence spilled over to Raj Bhavan today with both the ruling and Opposition parties demanding “immediate action” from Governor Mohammad Fazal.

As Rane, an Opposition leader in the Assembly, sat on dharna to protest against yesterday’s attack by a mob of around 800 NCP workers, the NCP demanded his immediate arrest, claiming that the violence was “of his making”.

The tremors were felt in New Delhi today with Sena activists torching the NCP office, hardly a km away from Parliament.

Timely intervention of NCP office-bearers helped prevent the fire from spreading. Only a room and a white Tata Sumo (MHO-4AS-0076) were damaged.

Police said the Shiv Sainiks arrived at the Bishambhar Das Marg office at 7.25 this morning. Armed with daggers and sticks, they started raising slogans in favour of Sena chief Bal Thackeray and decrying the NCP.

When NCP leaders objected, they poured petrol on the Tata Sumo and the furniture outside the chamber of NCP general secretary Jagannath Mishra and set them ablaze.

The Sena activists fled in a Maruti van (DL-3C-M-9741), which police later tracked to Jai Bhagwan Goel, president of the Sena’s Delhi unit. Goel, however, denied he was involved in the attack, saying there was no orders from the top brass to take revenge for the Kankavli violence.

In Mumbai, Rane and Sena leaders petitioned the Governor to dismiss the Vilasrao Deshmukh-led Democratic Front government for its role in Saturday’s attack which, they alleged, had been “sponsored and directed by the state administration”.

The situation worsened after deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s statement: “This (the attack on Rane’s house) is expected when senior leaders belonging to the NCP are killed.”

Violence erupted in Kankavli in Sindhudurg district when NCP leader Vijay Bhishe was found dead, his eyes reportedly gouged out. Three associates of Bhishe, who had just won the gram panchayat elections, are in hospital battling stab wounds. Sena activists have been blamed for the NCP leader’s murder.

When news of the killing broke out, NCP activists gathered at Rane’s bungalow and set fire to it along with two cars and a petrol pump owned by him.

Rane claimed that Bhishe was killed by villagers. “This man (Bhishe) has molested four women in the past and the villagers were angry with him. The Shiv Sena has nothing to do with his death.”

The Opposition parties, planning a statewide protest, also accused the police of standing mutely as NCP activists went around burning and damaging Rane’s property and the houses of other Sena leaders.

“There is nothing called law and order in this state anymore,” Rane rued. “How can anyone be safe here if a former chief minister is attacked blatantly. I have given the names of all those who were involved in the incident but they are roaming freely.”

The police, however, are hotly contesting the former chief minister’s claim. Sindhudurg superintendent of police K. Khalid said: “The police party which reached the spot did its best, but the mob was too strong and pushed us back. Moreover, we have already arrested more than 50 persons believed to be involved in the violence.”

Police are keeping a strict vigil in the district, a Sena stronghold and Rane’s homeborough, amid reports of a possible Sena backlash.

Senior police officials here are taking no chances with both the parties taking a belligerent stand. “We have to be very careful,” Khalid said, adding that additional security forces from Mumbai, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Kolhapur have been despatched to Kankavli where the situation is believed to be tense but under control.

Police have arrested Sena leaders Rajan Teli and S. Dalvi for plotting Bhishe’s murder, while 17 NCP activists have been charged with arson and rioting.

The Parliament Street police station has registered a case of arson and forcible entry to cause damage to property against the Sena. Police have also detained 16 NCP members, including their Delhi unit president Sukhbir Panwar, who were on their way to set fire to a Sena MP’s house.

NCP leaders said they were not surprised at Sena’s “act of cowardice, hooliganism and goondaism”.

“We will give a befitting reply to Shiv Sena if they were to repeat this act again”, the party said in a press release.

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