Sena ransacks rail office, vows more

Read more below

  • Published 18.11.03

Mumbai, Nov. 18: The Shiv Sena’s campaign for more local representation in jobs today exploded on the Railway Recruitment Board office here as around 1,000 Sainiks ran amok and political parties kept mum.

Windowpanes of the office at Mumbai Central were smashed, flowerpots broken, and doors and windows battered down. Even ceiling fans were sought to be yanked out. Board chairman Anil Mittal was manhandled.

Raj Thackeray, who is a leader of both the Sena and its youth and students’ wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena – perpetrators of the violence – said: “There will be more serious protests. Just see what happens in future.”

In the eye of the storm were 2,200 railway posts, mostly Group D, for which 700,000 people had applied, according to railway sources. The Sena wants at least 2,000 to go to Maharashtrians.

The Sainiks descended on the board office to get the examination, scheduled for Sunday, postponed so that they could sift through applications and throw out those of “outsiders” “as it will allow more Maharashtrians to sit for the tests”. It has been estimated that around 40-45 per cent of the candidates are from outside the state.

Trouble erupted when the board officials pleaded helplessness. Raj said the test would be disrupted if the Central Railway failed to “satisfy” the Sena’s demands.

“We will throw out those who have come from outside,” he said, referring to Biharis and people from Uttar Pradesh. It is time to speak up and take matters into one’s own hands, he added.

Political parties let the violence go uncondemned as Maharashtrians, egged on by the Sena’s regional demagoguery, felt they were getting the short shrift with the “outsiders” apparently landing more jobs and leading better lives in the state. The most the parties did was blame the Sena for “engineering the trouble”.

Raj, sensing the discomfiture of major parties such as the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and the BJP, threatened more action and dared others to stop him.

Officers with the railway department dubbed the Sena’s demand for a fixed number of seats “grossly unfair and highly unrealistic’’.

Assistant divisional railway manager R.D. Sharma said it was not within the department’s brief to cancel applications from candidates outside the state. “The rioters told us we should not have accepted their (the outsiders’) applications. But what can we possibly do about it? The exams are a national prerogative.’’

The Sena’s violence comes close on the heels of a railway recruitment fracas in Assam, where local candidates were said to have prevented Bihari applicants from taking a recruitment test, triggering retaliatory attacks in Bihar on trains from the Northeast.

But today’s violence was aimed at a goal wider and more far-reaching in its implications. As a Sena leader said: “Everywhere you see north Indians. They are there in government offices, in private firms, in slums and even in south Mumbai (a posh area). This has to stop. Locals (Maharashtrians) have been marginalised and it is getting out of control. Can’t you see we are frustrated.’’

Around 70 people were arrested and security stepped up at Mumbai Central, with guards posted outside the board office.

The fate of the examination remains unclear.