Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray issued a warning to anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protestors on Sunday as he held a rally in support of the contentious law, reported NDTV. He threatened those opposing the citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens with retaliation through stones and swords.
“I want to tell people who took out rallies,” said Thackeray at his rally in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, reported Hindustan Times. “For a rally, I have given you the answer with rally. If tomorrow you pick up a stone or sword, the answer will be with a stone or sword. To whom are you showing your strength?” He asked the protestors not to do “further drama” after getting “so much freedom in this country”.
Thackeray said he never understood the rallies held by Muslims across the country. He added that he has nothing against Indian Muslims. “Who was going to throw you out if you have been staying here since birth?” he asked. “Pakistanis and Bangladeshis should be thrown out of the country. There should be no compromise on it.”
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it. At least 29 people have died during the protests with 19 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Assam, two in Karnataka – all ruled by the BJP. Two people were killed in West Bengal last month.
Last month, Thackeray had announced his support to Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens. While unveiling a new saffron flag for the MNS on January 23, Thackeray had said that Pakistani and Bangladeshi “infiltrators” should be evicted from the country, and that he supported the Narendra Modi government on this.
The MNS chief on Sunday reiterated his support to NRC. The NRC is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented migrants and differentiate them from citizens of India. “Is humanity something that only India needs to show?” he asked. “Even in other countries, if you don’t have passport, there are two options – go back, or go in jail. Then why should we only care about humanity?” Scores of MNS workers shouted slogans in the favour of NRC at the march.
For Sunday’s rally, the Maharashtra Police had deployed an additional force of 600 personnel, according to The Hindu. Besides, Rapid Action Force and Riot Control Police personnel were also on duty. The MNS was reportedly denied permission for a route that cuts through the ‘Mumbai Bagh’ protest. Women across India are leading their own versions of “Shaheen Bagh” in solidarity with those protesting in Delhi where a large protest has been underway for more than 50 days. The protest in Nagpada, also referred to as “Mumbai Bagh”, has been underway since Republic Day led by local Muslim women against the amended citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens.
Thackeray had been one of the most prominent critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the Lok Sabha elections, which the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena did not contest. The Bharatiya Janata Party is keen to prop up the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as a counter to the Shiv Sena. Several BJP leaders, including former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, have reportedly held meetings with Raj Thackeray in recent past.