Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Mumbai Police gag order against Raj Thackeray

Maharashtra Chief Minister must be hoping and hoping that the problem posed by Raj Thackeray goes away in some way. He is stuck in a major problem, with the Mumbai for Marathis campaign a force that he does not want to try and put down in order to avoid making Raj seem like a martyr; at the same time, he is a Congress Chief Minister who cannot be seen to be pandering to regional forces and putting the Congress in a position where political parties from all over the country can beat upon it.
And this need for a balancing act is causing the compromise that he has effected; the police talks tough, but files an FIR and does a major drama in terms of arresting him in a way that he can be bailed out very quickly. Further, they try to stop him by issuing a gag order:

A sessions court on Thursday stayed the extension of the gag order imposed on Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray by the city police. Thackeray had filed a revision application before the sessions court on Wednesday, challenging the extension of the February 11 police order prohibiting him from holding rallies, public meetings and addressing the media.
The order was passed by the police in the wake of the MNS chief's provocative statements against members of the north-Indian community which resulted in incidents of violence across the state.

This is a very strange situation. The Government is shying away from using the normal legal and police process against Raj Thackeray (who is after all the leader of a political party); he can be prosecuted for incitement to violence, for preaching a form of sedition (the country's constitution guarantees the right to not be discriminated against based on sex or race or origin). The Maharashtra Government is equally guilty of not acting to protect the people of North Indian origin whose property has been destroyed or damaged, or to stop the outflux of people from the concerned cities.
And since the Congress is hyper-sensitive about political matters and election issues, one wonders whether it has thought about the impact of this issue on the remaining North Indian voters in Mumbai who form sizeable proportions, as well as in other states where this can be taken up as an issue.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:45 PM