The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Thackeray throws down arrest gauntlet

Mumbai, Oct. 18: Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today virtually dared the government to arrest him in a hatred case, but clarified that his Dussehra speech was not targeted at minorities.

The country will witness the consequences “if anyone lays a finger on me”, he said, refusing to seek anticipatory bail.

“Why should I regret what I said' I fully stand by what I said on Dussehra. If I have said something, then I must surely mean it,” Thackeray said.

The Congress-led state government had slapped a case on Thackeray for fomenting communal hatred after he called for the formation of Hindu suicide squads to fight Islamic terrorism, at an annual gathering of Shiv Sainiks at Shivaji Park.

If he were to be given charge of the army, he would flush out the “unwanted elements within the Muslim community in one day”, Thackeray had added.

“The government will have to show if it can arrest me,” he said today. But the Sena chief added that he had not made any objectionable statements against Indian Muslims.

“I didn’t once use the word ‘minority’ in my speech. I accept Muslims as citizens of this country, though I strongly feel that they, too, have to see themselves as citizens of India. I was only talking about pro-Pakistan Muslims,” he said.

“What I said was that those Muslims who have objections when Pakistani flags are burnt in this country should not remain here. And after Partition, we have every right to call ourselves a Hindu nation.”

Amid confusion over whether charges under Section 153A (causing communal hatred by making provocative speeches) have been filed at the Shivaji Park police station, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal clarified that the case against Thackeray has already been registered.

But there is little to indicate that the government will pursue the case to its end. Since Independence, there has been no conviction under Section 153A, which calls for three years’ imprisonment.

Sources in the home ministry said the government is “not ready” to take on Thackeray at the moment. “The mood in our country, especially after the attack on Akshardham, will go against us,” said a leader from the ruling Congress.

Moreover, implication under Section 153A is a long and tortuous process. The file will have to go through the investigating officer, the deputy commissioner, the additional commissioner, the joint commissioner, the commissioner, the additional chief secretary (home), the under secretary (home), the deputy secretary, the principal secretary and the law and judiciary department before it reaches Bhujbal, who will pass it on to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. Deshmukh will finally turn it over to the police commissioner.

Thackeray today accused the NDA government at the Centre of going soft on terrorism. The government has been helpless and it was because of its inaction that terrorism had seen such a spurt, he said.

Violence is the only way to solve the problem of cross-border terrorism, he said. “If I am wrong, let the government show me another way.”

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