Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray addressed a mammoth rally at Mumbai's Azad Maidan on Tuesday and came down heavily on Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil and Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik for what he called was their failure to control the August 11 violence in India's financial capital.
Defying the police, Thackeray led thousands of his supporters from Girgaum Chowpatty to Mumbai's Azad Maidan, the scene of August 11 violence in which two people were killed and over 50 others injured, and blamed the state government and Patnaik for handling the protesters on August 11 with soft hands.
Mumbai Police had denied Thackeray the permission for the march, and only asked them to hold a protest rally at Azad Maidan. He, however, undertook the protest march after a brief stopover at Siddhivinayak temple.
Several thousand MNS supporters beating drums and carrying the party's blue, saffron and green flags with its election symbol train engine in the middle gathered at Girgaum Chowpatty and also at Azad Maidan.
Thackeray demanded that Patil and Patnaik should resign immediately while addressing his supporters at Azad Maidan and claimed that the duo was aware that those who had gathered at the venue of August 11 to protest against the Assam riots were planning to indulge in violence, but neither of them took the necessary action to stop it.
He also paid homage at the Amar Jawan Jyoti which rioters attempted to desecrate.
While MNS had been granted permission only for a public rally at Azad Maidan and not for a march, the police did not stop Thackeray from leading his supporters from Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan, a distance of about five km. There was massive police presence along the route and at Azad Maidan, the venue of the rally.
Senior police officers said proper crowd management mechanism was in place and traffic regulation had been activated on the Girgaum-Azad Maidan route in South Mumbai.
The MNS had asked its district units to send at least 1000 persons each for the rally and the crowd at the venue was more than 40,000. The party is seeking to upstage the Shiv Sena by holding the public rally and the protest march.
Shiv Sen's Executive President Uddhav Thackeray had held a march to the Amar Jawan Jyoti and had threatened that the Sena would take to the streets if the rioters are not brought to book.
The march had been organised to denounce the rioting at Azad Maidan, where two persons were killed and 52 others, including 44 policemen and media persons, injured when a protest over Assam clashes turned violent.