Holding Mirror: Raj Thackeray on Raza Academy.

Raj Thackeray did well to remind everyone of the past protest in 2006 at Bhiwandi by Raza Academy when 2 policemen were lynched to death: ^^In 2006, during a protest by Raza Academy in Bhiwandi, two policemen were killed and their bodies thrown into burning buses. Still they get permission for a public protest^^. 
He was absolutely right on his facts. The dispute arose over the land on which police were constructing a station: ^^Two persons were killed in the police firing and several policemen were injured. But later at night, two policemen in plainclothes who met with a minor motorcycle accident in the area, were spotted by the crowd and beaten up and bludgeoned to death without any provocation. Their bodies were then tossed into a bus which was then set afire^^. The supporters of Raza Academy had acted in coldblooded fashion. Rabble Rousing comes naturally to Raza Academy: ^^Row Over Movie Title:Academy and Anjuman Barkaat-e-Raza members protested at Bhendi Bazaar. “Azaan is Islamic invitation to prayers. It is a sacred word and should not have been used in a film’s title.Haj Officer Gains Acceptance: …. opposed by the Raza Academy, a Sunni Muslim group. The group’s objection is to a woman being a senior officer at a body that deals with a purely religious matter.  Preacher’s Visit to Mumbai Draws Flak: Pakistani Islamic preacher and Sufi scholar Tahirul Qadri next week. Qadri, who is on the hit list of the terrorist outfit al-Qaida for his anti-terrorism fatwa in 2010, now lives in Canada and is currently touring India. However, Raza Academy, a Sunni Muslim group, calling Qadri a “threat to peace”, has asked the state government and the Union home ministry to prevent him from visiting Mumbai^^. The EPW commentary by Jyoti Punwani has more scathing indictment, which bears quoting at lenght: ^^Among the biggest benefactors of this policy is the Raza Academy, a Barelvi group known for its ability to rouse slum-dwellers by its religious rhetoric; for its violent clashes with the Deobandis, including evicting them from Barelvi mosques; its threats to the government of Muslim “ire” if Taslima Nasreen was granted citizenship and its demand that she be “kicked out” of the country; and recently, its announcement of a reward of Rs 1 lakh to anyone who threw a slipper at Salman Rushdie who was scheduled to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival. The media gives this fanatic bunch generous coverage because it provides good sound and visual bytes – always threatening something or to burn someone’s effigy or perform namaz on the roads on 6 December every year (the day the Babri Masjid was brought down). All this should have been enough to reject any request for a rally called by this group, or at least to lay down stringent conditions, as recommended in the Srikrishna report…Given the record of the Raza Academy, should the police have been taken by surprise? Muslims angered by the violence wonder why permission was given at all to such a body to hold the rally on such a sensitive issue. The answer of course must lie in the high-profile patrons of the Raza Academy – among them Congress minister Naseem Khan. The other organiser of the rally was Maulana Moinuddin Miya, reportedly very close to Chhagan Bhujbal and R R Patil. Denial of permission to both these groups by the police may have been tough anyway, given their political patronage^^
Thackeray (his outfit is called Maharashtra Navnirman Sena or MNS) probably knows Raza Academy like the back of his hand because it is like his mirror image. Thackerayshahi always talks of teaching its opponent lessons in direct action and of giving reply in its own style, both barely concealed threats of violence. His political outfit had launched an agitation against the *outsiders* coming from UP & Bihar, who are *usurping* the jobs of locals and *wiping out* the indigenous culture. Both appealed to sections of Marathi population, especially the unemployed or semi-employed urban youth. 2008, In Nashik, ThaIndian reported: ^^Rampaging activists of the MNS attacked fruits and vegetable vendors as well as taxi drivers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. After almost ten days of arson unleashed by activists of Thackeray’s outfit when migrants started fleeing from Maharashtra to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Mumbai Police arrested Thackeray for fomenting Enmity between communities, and the clashes that followed his arrest resulted in the death of Dharrao^^. The direct fallout of this mobocracy was the death of Dharrao: ^^People from all walks of life today mourned the death of 55-year-old Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) staffer, Ambadas Haribhau Dharrao, in a stone-pelting incident on Wednesday^^. Another report of the same anti-migrant stir gave this horrifying account: ^^….when the leader of a small right-wing regionalist party, Raj Thackeray, accused migrants of swamping Maharashtra,…his supporters attacked north Indian migrants like Srikishun in Mumbai (Bombay) and other towns in the state and damaged property associated with them….Lying on a bed in a dingy ward of a government hospital in India’s eastern state of Bihar, 37-year-old Srikishun Singh tries to cover what remains of his hands with a blanket^^.
Same year in October he targeted out of state candidates, who had come to Mumbai to appear for Railway Recruitment Board examination. Candidates ^^were beaten by Raj Thackeray’s supporters and hounded out of the examination centers. Some were not even allowed to reach the test venue. Raj’s supporters ensured they were terrorised enough to flee Mumbai in haste huddled in a general compartment^^.
MNS penchant for *direct action* and being law unto itself has triggered many acts of vandalism & hooliganism such as agitations at the Toll Gates in Maharashtra, or attack on Bollywood studios or on city multiplexes. Therefore it is quite obvious that such outfits justify the existence of and thus sustain & provide nourishment for each other.
It appears that Mumbai Police Commissioner, Arup Patnaik, attracted the ire of Raj Thackeray much before the 11 August Mumbai violence at the meeting called by Raza Academy. According to the police sources who spoke to Times of India, the 11 August violence simply provided an opportunity for the premeditated targeting: ^^that police action during the protests (against toll naka collections) could be “the obvious reason” why Patnaik was targeted. The police had issued a strict warning to MNS leaders and even threatened to book them under “robbery offences” in case they tried to create any disturbance…. MNS legislator Pravin Darekar’s corporator brother Prakash and bodyguard were arrested in a dacoity case after they allegedly barged into a film shoot at Borivli and destroyed vehicles. Patnaik had ordered strict action against them and additional commissioner of police (north region) Sunil Paraskar ensured that all the accused would be caught….Then in April, Thackeray had threatened to stage a protest during the centenary celebrations of Bihar Diwas, which were to be presided over by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. However, he later withdrew the plan. It was reported that Patnaik had warned MNS seniors of ‘strict’ action in case they tried to disturb Kumar’s visit to the city^^.
All this posturing by MNS may look like sheer madness, but there is a method in it too as reported in the Tribune: ^^In fact, this reporter saw scores of North Indian migrants working in business establishments owned by MNS activists in suburban Mumbai. A well-known luxury bus company with links to Raj Thackeray continued with its services while vehicles belonging to rivals were damaged following his arrest. All the bus drivers employed by the company are North Indians and they continue to work unhindered^^.
Rounding up this survey of the *Mirror Images*, I would like to refer to a very interesting generic article engendered by the same subject, but with all together different take on the issue. The caption of the  article in Marathi by Prashant Dixit could be roughly translated as Understanding: Arithmetic of Riots and Science of History. Those who know Marathi are urged to read it.

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