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Shiv Sena on edge on long night

Mumbai, Nov. 15: Shiv Sainiks had a long night yesterday.

As news of Bal Thackeray’s failing health spread, thousands began gathering outside his residence, Matoshree, from 9pm. Soon, many lost control as violence broke out in sporadic bursts, with media people and shopkeepers bearing the brunt.

Second rung Shiv Sena leaders sent out word that the city must switch off Diwali lights and lamps in respect of their leader’s failing health. Motorists were instructed to drive with their headlights turned off.

Shiv Sena cadre closed down one of the city’s arterial roads — the Western Express Highway. But police and party leaders quickly reined in the emotional outbursts of the Sena cadre whose fury has often browbeaten the city in the past.

In an emergency decision, the Maharashtra police decided to cancel all leave and instructed all policemen to immediately report to work.

When Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan tried to visit Matoshree around 11pm, the emotionally charged mob pushed and shoved the actor, injuring him and tearing his kurta.

“Balasaheb Thackeray: a fighter all his life, fights his life! Prayers needed now! Yes both Abhishek and me were injured with cuts, but are fine and back home... the doctors at Matoshree attended on us,” Amitabh tweeted.

The 70-year-old actor recalled how Thackeray had come to see him when he was recovering in hospital after a life-threatening accident on the sets of his 1983 film Coolie.

Amitabh said Thackeray always treated him like family and had supported him during the Bofors scandal.

“When the Bofors Scandal accusations on us were at its peak, he called me home and asked ‘tell me the truth, are you involved?’ When I said ‘No!’, he said, ‘Then do not worry about anything. I am with you. You are an actor, go do what you are best at’,” he tweeted.

At Matoshree, cars were not allowed till its doorstep — everyone had to walk nearly 100 metres to reach the bungalow situated at the end of an alley in Kalanagar in Bandra East. Amitabh today tweeted that when he and Jaya Bachchan got married, his wife was accorded a daughter-in-law’s welcome in the Thackeray household.

After the Bachchans, Sanjay Dutt and his wife, too, visited Matoshree, as did numerous former and current Sena leaders.

Devoid of access to any information about their beloved leader even as celebrities made their way to visit him, Shiv Sena supporters became restless.