Pune: A group of Shiv Sainiks along with Vilas Sonawane, the Shivaji Nagar Shakha Pramukh, stormed into the Vaishali restaurant on Fergusson College Road and vandalised their property on Tuesday afternoon. The unruly mob pelted stones on the property and disrupted the office crowd, which had come to Vaishali for their usual lunch.
The Shiv Sainiks came along with the party's flags mouthing slogans: 'Balasaheb Thackeray cha vijay aso' (victory for Balasaheb Thackeray) and started pelting stones at the restaurant, which left the customers shocked and the atmosphere tense. This strong reaction came from the party workers after an objectionable remark was made against Sena supremo Bal Thackeray by one Pravin Shetty, a resident of Karnataka, on a social networking site.
A poster of Bal Thackeray was also defaced in Karnataka a couple of days ago regarding the claim over Belgaum. In retaliation to this episode, Shiv Sena workers targetted Vaishali, owned by Jagannath Shetty, who hails from Karnataka. Most eateries and restaurants in the city are owned by the Shetty community, which hail from Karnataka.
The other party workers who accompanied Sonawane were identified as Suryakant Aru, Vinod Vitkar, Vishwadeep Pendhari and Ashok Kakde. Sena city chief Nana Wadekar also supported the Shiv Sainiks saying the party workers would not tolerate any objectionable statement against Thackeray.
"Party leaders never ordered Sonawane and his team to indulge in such acts and it was their spontaneous reaction. Being a true Shiv Sainik, not a single party worker can tolerate any obnoxious comment against our senior leader, therefore there is no question of removing them from party," said Wadekar. "Senior leaders will discuss the issue with those party workers who have attacked the restaurants and after that the party will think over what action should be taken against them."
Asked why only Vaishali was targetted when there were many other restaurants owned by Shettys in the city, Wadekar said the eatery was closest to the area of the party workers. Ganesh Shetty, president of Restaurants and Hoteliers Association, said: "Like any other citizen of the state, we were also born and brought up here in the last 40 to 50 years, so why are they (Shiv Sainiks) targetting only us?"
Shetty said his community also condemned such personal attacks on the Sena supremo and because of some fanatics, the community should not be punished and their business attacked.
Sonawane under whose leadership the restaurant was attacked said he did not regret the act and would continue to do so if anyone made snide comments on the Sena supremo. "Thackeray's poster was defaced in Karnataka and these people (hotel owners) hail from Karnataka; so we attacked them. We have warned them to close their restaurants to denounce the act of burning of Thackeray statue in Karnataka but the owner of Vaishali restaurant didn't do it, so we attacked them," said Sonawane.
Police Inspector Manohar Joshi from the Deccan police station said five people, including Sonawane, were arrested under several sections of the IPC for rioting and threatening. The five Shivsainiks were produced in Shivajinagar court and were remanded in police custody for a day.