The Hanuman Chalisa-Azan row has turned into a full-blown political battle in Maharashtra. The arrest of independent MP and MLA from Amravati, the wife-husband duo of Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana, respectively, on Saturday and the face-off between the ruling Shiv Sena and the breakaway Maharashtra Nirman Sena (MNS) almost on a daily basis has turned the political climate aggressive in the state.
The arrest of Rana couple was the latest in a chain of events that started with MNS chief and Uddhav’s estranged cousin Raj Thackeray’s speech on Gudi Parva. Raj Thackeray had demanded that the state government should remove loudspeakers from mosques by May 3. He had said that if mosques continued to use loudspeakers for azan, MNS workers would recite Hanuman Chalisa in front of mosques on loudspeakers. The Ranas had scaled this up by threatening to do so in front of Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s private residence Matoshree.
The Rana couple was arrested on Saturday evening after they threatened to recite Hanuman Chalisa in front of Matoshree, state chief minister and Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray’s residence in Mumbai.
Cases registered from both sides
The Ranas were booked under IPC section 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), and section 135 of the Mumbai Police Act (violation of prohibitory orders of police), the police said.
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Police registered a case against several Shiv Sena workers based on the complaint by the Ranas seeking to register a case against Uddhav Thackeray, and Sena leaders Anil Parab, Sanjay Raut apart from 500 other Sena workers for allegedly attacking their house at Khar and Amravati. They claimed there was a plan to “eliminate” them.
Belligerent Shiv Sainiks had gathered in front of couple’s house in Mumbai’s Khar area in a bid to stop the two to leave for Matoshree. This despite the couple saying earlier in the day that they had withdrawn their plan in view of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mumbai on Sunday. The Bandra court sent Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana to 14-day judicial custody.
‘Childish act’, says Fadnavis
The Shiv Sena workers celebrated their ‘victory’ by distributing sweets, which former chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said was a “childish act”. “With permission, the Rana couple would have gone to Matoshree, recited Hanuman Chalisa and returned without a buzz. I don’t understand why so many people had gathered at several places as if they (Rana couple) were planning some attack?” he said.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya – who is an accused in misappropriation of funds collected to save the decommissioned aircraft carrier Vikrant from getting scrapped being probed by the Mumbai Police — late on Saturday jumped into the fray when he went to visit the arrested Rana couple at Khar police station. He then alleged that Shiv Sena workers hurled footwear and water bottles at his SUV when he was the police station. He tweeted he was injured in the attack by “Shiv Sena goons” and was going to the Bandra police station to file a complaint. On the other hand, Sena supporters claimed that Somaiya’s driver tried to knock them down after leaving the police station.
Sanjay Raut defends police action
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who has been quite vocal on the Hanuman Chalisa issue, while referring to the attack on Somaiya’s car, said that “some traitors do get pelted with stones”. “What business does Somaiya have into an ongoing investigation by Mumbai police against Ravi Rana and Navneet Rana? If police have taken some action against them, there must be some reason,” he said.
Congress Legislature Party leader Balasaheb Thorat, while talking to reporters, said, the law and order situation in Maharashtra is fine but some people are trying to disturb the peace by playing politics over Hanuman Chalisa. The Central government has “failed” on all fronts and people are suffering due to the hike in prices of fuel and unemployment. “To divert attention from all these issues, some people are deliberately stoking political controversy by announcing to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the residence of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray,” Thorat alleged.