Live: Thackeray blames 'outsiders' for Mumbai violence
The MNS is to hold a protest rally and march through south Mumbai today to protest against the riot in Mumbai on 11 August. They are seeking the resignation of state Home Minister RR Patil and Mumbai police commissioner.
4:45 pm : Raj Thackeray's party has a taste for the dramatic and they get a man who identifies himself as constable Pramod Tawde to present a flower to the MNS leader.
Tawde claimed he had defied orders to be at the rally and express support for the cause of the MNS.
He also criticised (not surprisingly) Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik for his style of working and said he will be resigning. Perhaps he needn't bother about putting in his papers.
4:20 pm : Thackeray promises not to incite any violence at his rally today but it isn't one he's making for the future.
"We have always said we will not raise our hand against policemen. I have taken to streets in support and motivate our Marathi policemen," he said.
The MNS leader was also quick not to alienate any Muslim supporters he may have by saying that he had not embraced the Hindutva ideology as claimed by some sections of the press.
Just because my protest rally is about a rally held earlier by Muslims, I am accused of following the Hindutva ideology, he said.
"I understand only the Maharashtra 'dharma' and am not propagating Hindutva or any other ideology," he added.
He sounded suspiciously like his uncle Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and while he may claim not to be following the Hindutva right wing, he's beginning to sound like them.
All in all, this is perhaps a big political victory for the him. He's managed to thumb his nose at the government, criticise the middle class' bugbear ACP Dhoble and put forth his regional ideology on a communal plank. He's perhaps earned himself more followers today.
4.16pm: No one is safe from the wrath of Thackeray, it would seem. After blaming UP migrants and Bangladeshi immigrants for the violence on 11 August at Azad Maidan, he criticised the Dalit leaders for their lack of response to the violence.
He also lashed out at police official ACP Dhoble, SP leader Abu Asim Azmi and Commissioner Arup Patnaik for abusing a Marathi police officer during the riot. "If they have any respect, RR Patil and Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik should resign", he says.
Thackeray seems to be playing to all galleries today.
4.11pm: It hasn't taken long at all. A few minutes into his speech, MNS leader Raj Thackeray rakes up the Marathi issue again. He says Marathi policemen were targetted in the 11 August riot. He goes on to blame the days violence on outsiders: Namely Bangladeshi immigrants migrants from Uttar Pradesh. This does not portend well. His speech is far more communal than anything before. In a sense, he seems to be throwing the gauntlet to his cousin.
4.10pm In what must surely come as a relief to the thousands of policemen at the venue, Raj Thackeray vows that his party will never lay a hand on policemen. "We will never cross a boundary and never plan to. We will never lay a hand on policemen", he says.
4.03pm: Raj Thackeray has finally begun addressing his thousands of supporters at Azad Maidan. He begins by lashing out at the authorities for not giving him permission to hold his protest march. " I told the Chief Minister it doesn't matter about the details. Can't people protest or condemn things? Why are we stopped at all points?", he says to a cheering crowd who are hanging on to his every word.
"You can't give us permission but could give it to the Raza Academy", he said. Incidentally there are around 15,000 police personnel at the venue.
3:50 pm: Like they waited at Girgaon for the arrival of Raj Thackeray, the thousands of supporters wait patiently for Raj Thackeray to speak.
For a party credited more with violence in Mumbai than patience, the MNS has kept things calm so far. Barring the traffic jams of course.
He's now on the stage and should start speaking shortly.
3:20 pm: Thousands have already gathered at the Azad Maidan to listen to MNS party chief Raj Thackeray to speak.
And it turns out he's reached the ground already. Raj has taken a break for now as he awaits the arrival of the thousands who are marching to the ground from Marine Drive. Or maybe it was the long drive that tired him?
MNS is typically immodest about the number of people that is attending the rally.
The MNS chief could make an appearance soon and not known for being a dull speaker, he's certain to reserve the choicest of criticisms for the Home Minister RR Patil and Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik. He's seeking their resignations incidentally.
3:05 pm: CNN IBN says around 40,000 activists are marching to the Azad Maidan ground.
Raj Thackeray's expected to visited the soldier's memorial near the ground and then make the speech at Azad Maidan. Ironically enough his cousin Uddhav Thackeray led a silent march to the same venue yesterday, but it was a silent march. Perhaps Uddhav's wishing he made a lot more noise about it now.
Raj has promised the police not to make any inflammatory speeches during the rally but knowing him its unlikely it will be either bland or preaching peace.
2:55 pm: Marine Drive's begun to empty out at the thousands of MNS activists began making their way to the venue of Raj Thackeray's speech.
Firstpost's Parag Shinde was at hand to capture the moments. Here's what the rally looked like:
And what Marine Drive looked like as it gradually was emptied of the sea of humanity.
2:45 pm: Marine Drive's still teeming with MNS supporters who are slowly making their way to the Azad Maidan. It's going to take a couple of hours for the thousands of MNS supporters slowly make their way to the public ground which is a few kilometres away.
2:30 pm: The MNS chief has finally reached the venue of the protest rally organised by his own party. Let this be an indication to anyone who's planning to travel to south Mumbai today.
And here's a photo of the man himself at Girgaon:
Surprisingly, he's not walking and is staying in his vehicle the whole route. His followers, which are estimated to be close to 50,000 in number will have to walk. Times Now reports that he took the vehicle to the venue since he was asked by the police not to walk the entire route.
2:25 pm: Firstpost's Parag Shinde reports that while Raj Thackeray has not yet reached the protest venue in south Mumbai, hundreds of supporters have already begun to move towards Azad Maidan where he is expected to speak later.
Police officials still haven't said if the party has permission for a protest march but it doesn't look like they're doing anything to disperse them either.
MNS activists are still tweeting that their protest will be a peaceful one. Party activists say there have been no instances of violence reported yet and they are making sure it stays that way.
2:15 pm : Raj Thackeray might just join the protest march after all. The crowd's waiting for him though expectantly. At last check he was still at Worli which is a couple of kilometres from the site of the protest rally.
The crowd's restive now and seems to have completely choked off Marine Drive. The stage is set at Azad Maidan and it doesn't seem like the police is going to stop him from undertaking the march or the protest rally.
Coming a day after the Shiv Sena held a similar rally at Azad Maidan, Raj seems to have made a bigger impact with his protest. It doesn't hurt that he didn't choose a public holiday to hold his protest.
2:00 pm: Ok turns out we were right. Raj Thackeray's trapped in traffic jams caused by his party's rally at Marine Drive and it seems he's not going to make it on time for the march. Perhaps leaving a little earlier might have helped.
The MNS meanwhile has announced on Twitter that they will begin their rally from Marine Drive to Azad Maidan where Raj Thackeray is expected to speak.
Seems like Raj Thackeray might avoid an afternoon walk in the sweltering Mumbai Heat this afternoon.
However, some tourists have ended up getting caught in the protest rally and decided to join it since they couldn't beat it.
1:30 pm: Here's what the traffic's like at Marine Drive thanks to the protest rally by the MNS. Almost the entire road is completely blocked presently while the hundreds of MNS activists await the arrival of the party chief.
1:15 pm: Raj Thackeray leaves his residence in central Mumbai to go to Girgaon beach in south Mumbai. He's expected to lead the political march to Azad Maidan.
The crowd and the police continue to wait patiently at Girgaon beach. However, he could take some time to reach the venue given the traffic snarls his protest rally has caused in south Mumbai.
Seems like a long wait ahead for the MNS leader's supporters and the police.
1:00 pm: Still no sign of the rally starting and its still not clear if MNS party chief Raj Thackeray will be leading the protest march.
Here's what the beach looks like today after the MNS took it over for their rally today:
Times Now says he's still at his residence in Dadar and it's still not clear when he'll leave. Perhaps he wants to ensure that he won't get arrested at Girgaon itself, preventing him from making a speech at the Azad Maidan.
12:34 pm: Here's what the Girgaon beach looks like presently.
12:15 pm: The bulk of the crowd seems to be headed to Azad Maidan where party chief Raj Thackeray will be addressing them.
A resident said he saw about 50 buses filled with MNS activists headed for the venue of the rally.
So if you're a driving towards south Mumbai today be prepared to crawl through the area. There's still no idea on when Thackeray is expected to speak but there's no doubt it will announced soon enough. There's no sign of him at Girgaon beach either.
11:55 am: The MNS said that it has received a notice from the Mumbai police saying that it will be responsible for any incident that takes place as a result of the protest march or protest rally.
The MNS says on Twitter that they have taken adequate precautions to ensure that the rally is peaceful and that no one joins the rally from some other group in order to begin violence. They have promised to inform the police immediately if any incidents of violence are reported.
Police seem to be taking no chances with this rally and are present in large numbers along the beach front.
11:45 am: Here's what IBN Lokmat's editor Nikhil Wagle had to say about the MNS rally today.
Doesn't look like it will be police permissions, or the lack of it, that will deter the MNS from its march.
The party's Twitter handle is also very active today, reassuring supporters and others that the rally will be peaceful.
11:30 am: The MNS rally is expected to start at 12 pm from Girgaon Chowpatty to Azad Maidan in south Mumbai choking up the arterial Marine Drive in south Mumbai.
MNS activists have begun gathering at the beach in south Mumbai since this morning and party officials have promised complete co-operation with the police authorities.
"Today's rally will be a completely peaceful one," party chief Raj Thackeray has told party activists in a message. Hopefully it wasn't sent through SMS otherwise not many of them might have received it.
MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar was among those who visited the rally early this morning to check on the arrangements.
After getting clearance from the police for its rally at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has refused to back down from its plan to have a protest march as well, despite it not being authorised.
Strong security arrangements were put in place since early morning across Mumbai, including two major highways, all major roads leading to south Mumbai, major railway stations and other locations en route.
Road blocks at strategic locations, random checks of vehicles and traffic diversions are already in force in most parts of the city in an attempt to prevent any untoward incident.
Though MNS leaders have claimed that over one lakh people will participate in the procession, police expect around 40,000-50,000 people to march from Girgaum Chowpatty to Marine Drive flyover and proceed to Azad Maidan via Metro Cinema junction.
Joint Police Commissioner (Law & Order) Rajneesh Sheth declined to disclose the actual police presence for the MNS procession, but official sources said around 12,000 policemen supervised by three additional police commissioners would be deployed.
MNS leader Raj Thackeray had said he would not curb his plan to hold the protest march despite the traffic snarls it could cause in the business district of the city.
The MNS is seeking the resignation of state home minister RR Patil and the Mumbai police commissioner for the violence following a rally held by Islamic groups on 11 August. The rally comes a day after political rivals Shiv Sena held a rally at Azad Maidan.
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