Sena threat stalls exam

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  • Published 21.11.03

Mumbai, Nov. 21: The Shiv Sena today openly threatened to disrupt the railway recruitment tests scheduled for Sunday but the board moved fast to avert a showdown by putting them off.

“We will disrupt the examinations, come what may,” Sena chief Bal Thackeray declared in a stinging editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna.

“Outsiders” had no business snatching job opportunities from Maharashtrians and the dangers such a situation posed could be “unimaginable”, he said.

Although the railway board has cited damage to computers during the Sena attack at Mumbai Central on Tuesday as the reason for the postponement, sources said Thackeray’s threat had forced it to backtrack.

The Sena outburst comes days after activists of its student wing ransacked the office of board chairman Anil Mittal for turning down their demand for cancellation of “outsiders’ applications”. They manhandled Mittal because he said rail appointments were a central prerogative.

Examinations are to be held for 2,200 posts, mostly in the Group D category. There are 6.5 lakh applicants, of which an estimated 40-45 per cent are non-Maharashtrians. The Sena insists that a majority of the seats should be reserved for Maharashtrians.

Before today’s turnaround, officials had maintained that the exams would be held as scheduled as the government has promised adequate protection to candidates. Students will now be informed of the new dates and venues through newspapers.

“Why is it that north Indians are getting a better deal and local Maharashtrians are victimised in their own land? The rules have to change and the Maharashtrian youth is willing to shed his blood for that,” Thackeray said.

The Sena threat has caught the ruling Congress-NCP coalition off guard. Its reaction has been muted as it is aware that any wrong move could backfire during next year’s state elections. Deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal has gone to the extent of saying that “local interests should be safeguarded”.

The state’s discomfort is suiting the Sena fine and has encouraged it to step up its “Maharashtrians only’’ campaign. Party leader Raj Thackeray said students from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh should not try to sit for the exams as they will be sent back.

Laloo sting

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad Yadav chose the occasion of iftar today to drive home the message of brotherhood by criticising the Sena’s demand of reserving most seats for Maharashtrians, reports our correspondent from Patna.

Referring to Bal Thackeray’s comments on his “Maharashtrians only” campaign, he said “vo desh ko ulta pulta kar dega (he will turn the country upside down) if we let him have his way”.

Sources said some north Indian students have already been roughed up and bundled into return trains. Two incidents were reported from Kalyan but the railway police have refused to confirm.

“People of all origins living in Mumbai are Mumbaikars and all those who have settled here are Maharashtrians. We have no fight with them,” Raj said.

A senior police officer said all trains from northern India were being provided extra security and that waiting rooms were being better guarded.