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Dussehra rally hurdle for Sena

Mumbai, Oct. 11: The Shiv Sena’s annual Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park has run into hurdles again with the party-ruled municipal corporation denying permission for the third consecutive year.

The party has moved Bombay High Court, taking the legal route as it did in both 2010 and 2011, for the go-ahead to hold the October 24 rally at the park, a notified silence zone.

Sena supporters consider the rally — held for over 40 years at the same venue at the party stronghold in central suburban Dadar — a “tradition”. Party members express pride over Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray’s annual address that has been unfailingly delivered from the ground.

Twice in the past, when Thackeray could not attend the rally because of ill health, a pre-recorded message was played for his supporters present on the ground.

In 2010, the same venue was chosen by Thackeray to launch his grandson Aditya as chief of the Yuva Sena, the party’s youth wing.

That was also the year the ground was notified a silence zone following a public interest petition filed before the high court by activists and residents of the area.

Since then the Sena has got conditional clearance from the court to hold the rally. Last year, the party had been directed by the court to abide by rules and not exceed the noise limit of 50 decibels. The party was also told to wrap up by 10pm and restore the ground within 24 hours.

The Sena had told the court it would take extra steps by putting up sound barriers around the ground. The sound levels, however, exceeded the limit, almost reaching 80 decibels. Police had later registered a case against the organisers.

Noise pollution activists are hoping the party will be denied permission this year. “The residents of the area have, through the PIL, got the zone notified as a silence zone since it has two hospitals and a school. Earlier the area would see some programme or the other, twice a week. The rally had flouted noise pollution norms both in 2010 and 2011. The residents will be opposing the rally this year too for the violations,” said noise pollution activist Sumaira Abdulali.

“The organisers show a disregard for laws by violating them. This should not be allowed,” said a resident.

The Sena’s plea will come up for hearing before the court next week.

One person expected to closely watch the developments is estranged family member and political rival Raj Thackeray. Raj had approached the court for permission to hold a political rally at the park before the municipal elections in February this year. His Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was, however, denied permission.

Raj had criticised the decision. “The Sena rally is called a cultural event. How is it not a political one where the speech targets other political parties? We wouldn’t have approached the court had the Sena not been given permission,” he had said.