The past month has seen heated debate over what constitutes sedition, anti-nationalism, dissent, patriotism and hate speech. Now, Raj Thackeray has added to the noise. On Wednesday night, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief urged his party workers to burn autorickshaws that do not belong to Maharashtrians.
"When you see any new rickshaws with new number plates, stop them, take the passenger and driver out of the vehicle and burn the rickshaws,” Thackeray said at a function to mark the party's 10th anniversary.
Thackeray's appeal came after he alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Maharashtra had favoured a particular company that manufactures autorickshaws, claiming that that was corruption in the purchase of 70,000 of these three-wheelers. He said more than 70% of the recipients of new autorickshaw permits are from outside Maharashtra.
His comments drew sharp reactions from opposition parties in the state, with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party condemning Thackeray's "hate politics".
The nephew of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray is well-known for his rhetoric against non-Maharashtrians. Raj Thackeray has hate speech-related cases pending against him for branding migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as "infiltrators" in 2012. He had also been arrested in 2008 riot case in which North Indians appearing for railway recruitment examination were assaulted. Earlier that year, he had criticised North Indians observing Chhath Puja.
Thackeray's latest slight against outsiders caused an uproar in the Bihar assembly as legislators raised slogans against him. Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejwasi Yadav told Thackeray that Maharashtra was "not his father's property".
The MNS chief's remarks were criticised on social media, too. But some thought it was better to take Thackeray's threats with a pinch of salt and resort to humour instead. Here' s a selection: