Beat up outsiders who play Holi with water: Raj Thackeray

MUMBAI(PTI): After continuously threatening migrants over auto rickshaw permits, the Marathi language and other issues, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray found a new avenue to issue a threat on Saturday — he asked his party workers to beat up ‘north Indians’ who play Holi with water despite being warned against doing so.

Raj was in Thane to meet party workers and during a one-and-a-half-hour interaction at Gadkari Rangayatan auditorium, he asked them to ensure that ‘outsiders’ celebrate a waterless Holi. A party worker who was present at the meeting said: “He (Raj) said that during Holi celebrations, if any north Indian is found using water, then ‘aadhi haath jodun sanga’ (issue a first request). He then said, ‘Nahitar haath sodun sanga’ (if they do not listen, then beat them up).”

Raj also gave a list of the Marathi festivals and programmes to the activists, asking them to engage the public ahead of the Thane civic polls. “According to him, all Marathi festivals, such as Gudhi Padwa and the anniversary celebrations of freedom fighters such as Balgangadhar Tilak and Savitribai Phule, should be celebrated. He said that outsiders come here and celebrate Chhat puja, Garba, etc, so why should we not go ahead with Marathi festivals?” the party worker said.

Observers say that Raj’s statements are an attempt to cheer his party workers up and boost their enthusiasm. Following the party’s humiliating defeat in the Assembly elections, MNS leaders and activists have been lying low in Thane, not taking up any prominent issues. The morale of the party activists is low and they don’t have any agenda to go with, the observers add.

A few days ago, Raj had threatened north Indians over the issue of auto rickshaw permits, claiming that 70% of the new permits were being given to north Indians. He asked his party workers to set the auto rickshaws run by north Indians on fire and one rickshaw was indeed burnt in Andheri. But, he was forced to withdrew this agitation following flak from across the country.